Hi there, I blog over at Welsh Girl Eats and, like Elise, am an IBS veteran. Elise asked me a little while back to share my experiences with IBS and diet, especially the FODMAPs diet. First, I’ll give you a little IBS history.
I guess I should preface this by saying that I am only going to speak about the relationship between IBS and food. As I’m sure you guys know, IBS is a complex condition and there are many factors which can influence its occurrence (such as stress, change in routine, illness etc).
As a child I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance and in 2002, at the age of 21 I was diagnosed with IBS (constipation type). However, it was only in 2005 that it really started interfering with my daily life and getting me down. So I began my long journey of learning ways to manage it. I tried all sorts of diets, supplements, herbal teas etc but the one thing that really worked for me was cutting out gluten.
At the end of 2010 I was thoroughly disillusioned with my diet and IBS so decided to just eat what I wanted (gluten, dairy, etc). I know this sounds crazy but there were many reasons for my trying to go with a more laidback approach to food that I won’t go into here, and I was confused about the role of food and IBS and bought into the “IBS is only caused by stress” line. At first eating whatever I liked was fine but then the symptoms returned but they weren’t always obviously related to eating gluten or dairy. During a visit to my GI Specialist Dietician (who was responsible for discovering I had problems with gluten) she mentioned this new diet that in scientific studies had been found to help with IBS; the FODMAPs diet. Desperate to feel better again and suspecting that the link between IBS and food was, for me, not a clear cut case of gluten and lactose intolerance I decided to look into the FODMAPs diet. I read all I could about and found that it made such sense in my mind. I’d always known that I couldn’t handle too much of certain fruits or hummus for example. It also illustrated why sometimes I could be ok with a slice of wheat bread and other times I’d react badly. It connected all the dots that I just couldn’t!
When trying to figure out what FODMAPs are most problematic for you, it’s recommended to do a complete elimination diet, like Elise did. However, at the time (early 2011) that wasn’t really an option for me. I did eliminate the FODMAPs for 2 weeks or so but I didn’t reintroduce each group back into my diet in as structured or thorough a manner as Elise did (in hindsight I wish I had). However, it helped that I had already identified problem foods for me from previous experience. I focussed, but not in a very scientific manner, on experimenting with how much I could tolerate and which FODMAPs group(s) were most problematic.
To be honest, because I didn’t do the strict elimination and reintroduction diet it’s difficult to say for sure which FODMAP groups are my most problematic. However, I suspect that they may be the lactose and fructans/galactans groups. I can handle foods from these groups to a degree but not too much. When I go over the limit I experience nausea, bloating, constipation and indigestion. The polyols group seems the easiest going on my system; I’d even go so far as to say they’re generally not a problem for me.
Despite not knowing the ins and outs of FODMAPs and their effects on my body, the FODMAPs approach has massively helped with managing the pain, bloating and constipation caused by IBS. It’s essentially given me a greater flexibility and control over food and my symptoms. And I’m happier (relatively speaking) to suffer bloating etc from eating certain FODMAPs because I know what the remedy is: to eliminate FODMAPs for a few days or so until my symptoms abate. Knowing the main causes of my IBS symptoms has provided me with a greater freedom with food, thus the FODMAPs approach has helped me in both body and mind.
And now some FODMAP friendly meal photos…
Thank you for sharing Sarah! It’s really all because of you that I even learned about FODMAPs in the first place. I wish the US was as up to speed on this diet, but we are slowly getting there.
If anyone else wants to share their own dietary history, feel free to contact me. I think the more we all share, the more we can learn. Personally, I have found hearing about others’ experiences incredibly helpful as I go through the trials of cooking FODMAPs friendly food.