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WHY?? the low FODMAP diet

April 7, 2012

Thanksgiving 2009  (I was not pregnant)


Ever since I got married in May of 2009, I’ve had really strange GI issues: mostly, unexplained bloating after a meal that only goes away with time, and frequent urination.  I was finally diagnosed with mononucleosis in July of 2009 and the doctor explained that sometimes Mono can upset our whole system and even attack our GI, if it so chooses.  Little did I know that I was going to have GI issues from that point forward.  For those interested in comparing your symptoms to mine, here are some of the details.

  • “Unexplained” bloating.  Meaning:  trying a gluten free diet didn’t seem to help much, nor did a lactose-free one, nor did it help to avoid certain “IBS triggers” like spicy food or cabbage.
  • Even on days when I tried my hardest to eat right, I would end the day with a steel drum for a belly.  I often joked that I looked and felt 9 months pregnant after a meal.
  • Sometimes a glass of water would speed recovery, but mostly the only remedy was time.  I would go to bed bloated and wake up with a flat tummy.
  • The strange thing was that I didn’t seem to be passing gas more than any usual person does.  The gas would just sit in my belly and not go anywhere.  It was uncomfortable and embarrassing.  When I would go to a wedding or go out with my husband at night in a cute, tight outfit, I had to spend a lot of energy sucking in my stomach so that I didn’t look pregnant.
  • The frequent urination still puzzles me.  I think the mono is partially to blame, also hormones (I have a harder time “holding it” during the second half of my cycle when my hormones are a little stronger), and possibly starting sexual activity when I got married could also be a part of it.  I haven’t read anything about other people experiencing this symptom at the onset of GI issues… If you have insight, please let me know.

I went to a highly recommended GI doctor to get his opinion.  He was, frankly, puzzled.  Based off my symptoms and testimony, his guess was that the Mono damaged my vagus nerve and triggered Gastroparesis. (He said he could only guess because the only way to diagnose it was a highly invasive test that he didn’t want to do just yet.)  In Gastroparesis, the vagus nerve is damaged and no longer communicates properly to your brain and body about what your stomach should do.  The result is that your stomach gets full and your brain doesn’t know to empty it, so it stays full.  It stays full until at some point it just decides to empty, unfortunately at that point the food in the stomach has kind-of hardened from sitting in the stomach too long (this is how my GI doctor explained it to me, sorry I’m not a doctor myself, there might be some break down of understanding).  When that “hardened” food enters the rest of your GI, your GI kinda freaks out and is like, “What is this?  This isn’t normal?  What do you expect me to do with this?” And bloating ensues as your GI tries to digest the strange material.

For a while I thought my doctor was right.  When I ate, I felt full very quickly and my stomach would often be in pain/discomfort as it sat there full.  Sometimes I would ask my husband to massage my stomach so that my body would respond, relax, and pass the food on.  I started eating low fiber foods, lots of “mushy” foods that would pass easily (yogurt, smoothies, fruit, soft breads, lots of water), which seemed to help some.  But I would still OFTEN get my big bloated pregnant belly at the end of the day.  ESPECIALLY after a bag of popcorn.

In June of 2011, we were given the opportunity to travel to South Asia.  As you can imagine, I was terrified of what this might mean for my GI.  Spicy food, almost no access to yogurt, no control over food (no kitchen, no fridge)… I was scared that those 6 weeks in S. Asia would make my IBS worse.

Granted, while I was in South Asia I did go through the normal pattern of traveler’s issues.  The first week I “went” regularly (not quite diarrhea), the second week I got sick and had frequent diarrhea for about 4-5 days, the third week I was constipated, then the fourth through sixth weeks I regulated my constipation with a daily dose of Miralax which kept me feeling ok.  I went about once a day on Miralax.  (Everyone else on my trip, 30 of us, went through the same exact GI pattern.  But the last few weeks they were all constipated.  Thank you Miralax!  I’m glad I brought you.)  At the end of the 6th week there, I started to feel less constipated and starting feeling back to normal.  Just in time to leave!

When I got back from South Asia, I went through the normal jet lagg / travelor’s adjustment in which I experienced a lack of regularity BUT I started to notice over time that my previous GI issues were mostly gone!  No more major bloating! (Unless I ate a bag of popcorn)  No more nausea after a big meal!  I felt great!

How could it be that South Asia SOLVED my GI issues???

I started to wonder… hm… why isn’t my condition consistent?  For the most part, I enjoyed the break from IBS.  Until…

Fast forward to February 2012: I got a stomach bug.  After a 24 hour stomach bug worked it’s way through my system, at the end of it all- the BLOAT WAS BACK!  I joked that my stomach was playing “jump ball” with my condition.  I get Mono, I get the bloat.  I go to India and have a traveller’s issue, the bloat goes away.  I get a stomach bug, I get the bloat.  Maybe someone should give me another stomach bug so that I go back to normal?!

I was so annoyed.  I feel like I’ve tried everything and I don’t understand why I am bloated at the end of almost every day!

Fast forward to today…  A few weeks ago I was on pinterest and I came across a recipe so I clicked on the original link.  I was led to this blog.  The author starting talking about how she was on a low FODMAP diet.  She explained her symptoms and why she was doing it.  I thought, “Oh my gosh, those are my exact symptoms.  What is this diet?” (Read ahead for what it is).

So I decided to give it a try for a few days (3 days).  I felt a lot better at the end of each day.  Bitter-sweet.  I’m glad I found something that works for me, but I’m sad of what it’ll cost me — in more ways than one.

I’ve been following the low FODMAP diet for a while now and I’m starting to connect some dots.  It’s really working for me.  I have a call into the GI doctor to re-visit him, but not until August.  I’ll keep you posted.

So… all this is to say: if you notice a lot of low FODMAP recipes on my blog, or on my pinterest site… now you know why!  I’m going to give this a try and see how it goes.  More to come soon because it’s Saturday and Kyle has started cleaning without me (good man) and needs my help.  Happy Easter everyone!

More Info to come soon!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Tina permalink
    July 29, 2012 2:00 am

    Hi, came across your blog today when googling the Fodmap Diet. Wondering how you are feeling on the diet, still following it? I also have IBS and suffer from severe bloating, I also look pregnant some days! I recently discovered that I have gallbladder issues, not stones as many other people have, but rather a non working gallbladder. This issue causes bloat and alternating diarrhea and constipation. When the gallbladder is not working, essentially not secreting enzymes to breakdown food, you get constipated, then it starts to work and there is a surge the sends your food through your digestive track too quicly and then the diarrhea hits. You may want to talk to your GI doc about this at your next visit.

    Yesterday I had a CT Scan of my abdomen to see if there are other issues causing the “pregnant” bloat, I’m hoping for a lot more answers with the results of this test.

    Hang in there, hope you are feeling better. Cheers.

  2. July 31, 2012 1:10 am

    Hi Tina! Yes, I still follow the low FODMAP diet, and I feel great when I follow it. I say “when I follow it” because anyone who follows it knows that it’s almost impossible to do it perfectly. But, when I follow it, I feel great! I’m going to the GI doctor next week to talk to him about how great this diet is working for me, and to see if he can diagnose some of the fructose and lactose issues. It’s good to know about the gallbladder issue, thanks for the info! That will be helpful when talking to my doctor. Best of luck to you!

  3. Caroline permalink
    August 3, 2012 6:37 pm

    I’m so glad I found your blog! I can relate in so many ways. I have struggled with IBS for years ever since a GI infection I caught while traveling. I have seen several GI docs and tried all kinds of diets. I’m currently reading IBS: Free at Last! And starting the author’s FODMAP-free diet. Can’t wait to try your recipes and make your spice blends. (I love to cook!) I’m curious – have you been able to tolerate coconut milk or coconut butter?
    BTW, my family lived in Grosse Pointe for years, and I, too, went to U of M. Go
    Blue! 🙂

    • August 7, 2012 1:20 am

      That’s so funny, what a small world! How did you know I was from Grosse Pointe? GO BLUE! I’m glad you’ve found the FODMAP diet, I hope it works for you like it works for me! Yes, I can tolerate coconut milk and coconut oil just fine– although I have not tried coconut butter and when I consume coconut milk and coconut oil I don’t consume much. I also like almond milk and Kroger-brand Lactaid (it’s cheaper!).

      • Caroline permalink
        August 7, 2012 1:19 pm

        I didn’t know you were from GP- just saw that you said Metro Detroit. How funny! I live on the East Coast now, and so does the rest of my family, so I haven’t been back in years. One day! I LOVE coconut butter, even just straight out of the jar. Such a treat. But I have to stick to small amounts. Great blog! Keep it up!

  4. August 17, 2012 4:44 pm

    @caroline: Is coconut butter the same thing as Coconut Nectar? Or is it more like Coconut oil? Or peanut butter?

    • Caroline permalink
      August 17, 2012 4:55 pm

      No, coconut nectar is a sweetener to be used like honey or maple syrup, I believe. You don’t cook with coconut butter like you would the oil. It’s good for baking with, or as a frosting (can mix with cocoa – yum) or as a spread or straight-up. It’s really addictive, though! I have to be careful not to overindulge. My favorite is this one:

      I’ve also read that you can make your own just by putting 2 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut flakes in the food processor and letting it run til it becomes “butter”. Takes a while, and may not be quite as smooth as store bought, but still yummy!

  5. May 1, 2013 1:46 pm

    Just found your blog and am reading your story. THanks for your GI history. I was diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption and SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) with the breath testing at a GI doc’s office. Went on the low-FODMAP diet which I found very confusing and of course restrictive. After many months of trial and error and lots of weight loss I made an appt with Kate Scarlata, RD. She provided me with the latest, most up to date info on the diet do’s and dont’s. What a blessing she was. With her guidance and information, I finally started to feel better. Being on the low-FODMAP diet means really giving food a lot of thought and preparation in advance of eating or eating out. It’s had it’s challenges, but like you, I feel better now. If I stray from the diet by design or by accident, I suffer.
    I haven’t read everything on your blog yet…did you have the breath testing done? I was also tested for lactose which came out negative, BUT I have huge issues with lactose so I’m avoiding it as best I can. Not sure why the test came out negative.
    I’m about to check out some more of what you’ve written. I’m very glad to have stumbled on your site. I’ve listed some low-FODMAP categories on my Pinterest page if you want to take a look there. Best wishes! Karen (last name is Zaorski)

  6. Esther permalink
    April 12, 2015 8:35 pm

    I was wondering if your fodmap diet helped your not pregnant belly bloat flatten? I have had the exact same issue my whole life. My daughter has had it her whole life too, and we just started fodmap and my 8 yr old’s belly shrank 1 1/2 inches in a day. But we both still have a way to go to not have the belly. Wondering if this is as good as it gets or if it will be gradually batter. So comforting to find your pic and know we are not alone.

  7. natalie c. permalink
    September 2, 2015 3:38 pm

    Hello! Your article and picture describe me perfectly *sadly* …i just started the low FODMAP diet and i already lost 2 pounds and have a somewhat flatter belly. It’s amazing. I have a question for you though. ..did you need to take antibiotics for the mono? I’m wondering if that is what I may have too 😦

    • September 3, 2015 10:49 pm

      Hi natalie! I’m glad Low Fodmap is helping you so much! To answer your question: I did not, and should not have taken antibiotics for mono. Please do not take any!!! I was improperly prescribed antibiotics by a bad doctor who never bothered to test for mono, and I broke out in a miserable, 14 day rash. (Mono virus reacts with penicillin). Mono is a virus, no antibiotics!

  8. Sara permalink
    September 27, 2015 1:49 am

    I’m so glad I found your site! I just figured out a few months ago that I was FODMAP sensitive, just from desperation searching around on the internet. I can totally relate to the picture you have posted at the top! I think 100 times I wanted to take pictures like that. My problems came on after I had my first child. After you’ve been pregnant and gotten all stretched out, if you have FODMAP problems, the looking pregnant thing is an embarrassing and ever-present issue. I had so many people ask when I was due when I was not pregnant. Mortifying for everyone all around!! Once after a family get-together I got home and saw how pregnant I looked in the sweater dress I was wearing. I’m sure I swelled up after we ate. It was so bad I had to call family members and tell them I was not pregnant. My sister said that she and her husband had said after I left, “When is she going to tell us?” So its not that just I was noticing it. It really was that bad! The bloating was uncomfortable, but it was the always looking pregnant that was my biggest concern. I began to be constantly paranoid about going out and having someone ask. I tried every kind of belly-shirt, band, but they were so uncomfortable I couldn’t wear them all the time. Anyway, I think I’m just telling you all of this because you are the first person I have come across who has had this problem and understands! Still trying to figure out a lot of things, but I am looking forward to perusing your site to see what you have learned. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Clo permalink
    November 18, 2015 2:25 pm

    Hi Just wondering if 3 years on you are still following foodmap?

    • November 18, 2015 8:11 pm

      Hi Clo! Currently I am not following Low Fodmap very closely! I think this may show what some suspect, that Low Fodmap can help heal your gut! I follow it here and there when it is convenient, but I don’t find the need to do it like I used to! I still enjoy finding LF foods and recipes, though. I just haven’t updated this blog much since becoming a mom. ;o)

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