I began having serious digestive issues about 14 years ago. I started noticing foods that I never had an issue with began giving me a lot of discomfort after eating. I spent about 5 years trying different eating programs (I very much dislike the word diet), supplements, and holistic cleanses. I never seemed to get relief for an extended period of time. I also kept a food journal, but despite this, I could not seem to narrow down what foods I was reacting to. It was a constant guessing game. Was it the chicken that didn’t agree with me or the spinach? I remember being very frustrated and thinking, these foods did not disagree with me 3 days ago, so why now!? Little did I know that the garlic marinade I added to the chicken that evening was upsetting my system. How would I know that? I would not have guessed in a million years.
I constantly dealt with cramping, nausea, and abdominal pain to name a few symptoms. When I went to see the nurse about my concern, I did not feel as though I was being taken very seriously. There was a shortage of doctor’s in my area, so I was seen by a nurse practitioner. She looked at me like I was delusional. I finally convinced her to refer me to the gastroenterology clinic. She didn’t think it was necessary and tried to deter me from following through with this by indicating it would be difficult for her to present a case for me to be seen by a specialist. This nurse insisted that because I seemed to be functioning “fairly” normally and I was not presenting serious symptoms that indicated I required urgent care, my request did not seem necessary at the time.
I insisted she put the referral through, even though presenting the case might be “difficult” for her. I did end up being seen by a gastric specialist without hesitation. Needless to say, I never went back to this nurse practitioner again. I filed a complaint, which I am hopeful was taken seriously. I have reached a point in my life, where I have zero tolerance for unprofessional health care providers. I may sound harsh, but I find if I don’t take this stance and be a fierce advocate for myself, who knows where I’d be?
The good news is I finally figured out what was wrong once I had my appointment with the specialist. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The gastroenterologist also referred me to a dietician. I was able to get an appointment quickly with a very helpful woman who taught me all about FODMAP’s.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. They are carbohydrates that are poorly digested in those of us with IBS. Rather than these carbs being absorbed in the bloodstream they reach the part of the intestines where bacteria live.
The common FODMAP groups are as follows:
1) Fructose – found in fruits, vegetables, and most added sugars
2) Lactose – found in dairy
3) Fructans – found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley
4) Galactans – found in legumes
5) Polyols – found in sugar alcohols (ex. sorbitol), fruits, vegetables, and are used as sweeteners
There are foods within each of these categories that are low, medium, and high in FODMAP. You may react to some groups and not others. For example, it may only be lactose and fructans you can not tolerate. Fortunately, not everyone is intolerant of each group. I am a person who is intolerant to high FODMAP foods in each category; however, there are still many foods I can enjoy. I had to give up watermelon because it is high in fructose, but I can still enjoy cantaloupe as it is lower in this category, and in my opinion, more flavourful than watermelon.
You definitely want to work with a dietician or other provider who specialises in this eating program. There is definitely a lot of information to absorb and having some professional guidance to help you learn about FODMAP planning will make life much easier for you. Facebook also has some great support groups that are overseen by registered dieticians. I think this fantastic because you know the information you are being given has been confirmed by a knowledgeable professional. The Monash app is also a helpful tool that tells you the FODMAP content of foods. You may want to download it on your phone.
I was so relieved after I learned about the FODMAP diet. It helped me significantly. Remember, although I may be ultra sensitive and intolerant to each carbohydrate group, this does not mean you will be. We are all very different and not everyone has a severe case of this syndrome. If you have fibromyalgia, chances are good you are extra sensitive and can relate to what I am saying. If you don’t have fibromyalgia or another chronic illness that affects your digestive system, your IBS may be less severe. I developed IBS about 12 years before I began having fibromyalgia symptoms and since my fibro diagnosis I have noticed a worsening of IBS symptoms. I belive there is a strong link.
IBS can seriously reduce the quality of your life; there is not doubt. With proper nutrition and education, the quality of your life does not have to be compromised. If you have recently learned you have IBS or suspect you may have IBS, please see your dietician or other HC provider for more information about the FODMAP diet and how it could help you. I am confident you will not regret it.
Until next time,