In the last few months I’ve notice problems with certain foods and drinks including apples, mangoes, mushrooms, honey, juice, cider, red wine and port. Of course these could all be FODMAPS, but as that previous diet didn’t give me many significant results, I’ve been on the hunt for more results.
Turning to trusty old Google led me to the Food Intolerance Network and an article on fructose malabsorption. It all got pretty complicated pretty quickly, with levels of glucose and fructose playing a big part in the digestion of some foods, but the list of foods to avoid really clicked with me. While I’ve never read too much into having had an upset stomach following a couple of ciders or glasses of red wine, being ill after a bottle of apple juice with a chocolate brownie has always made me think there is more to this IBS thing.
Fructose malabsorption can be diagnosed with a hydrogen breath test, but seeing as getting a hospital referral for IBS is harder than not eating garlic for the remainder of my life, I thought I’d test the theory at home with an elimintaion diet (yes, another one!).
My very basic understanding of fructose malabsorption is that in order to successfully digest fructose, the foodstuff must have an equal or greater amount of glucose. Although this seems almost to impossible to monitor in every food, I’m going to use this handy guide from http://www.food-intoleraance-network.co.uk to help me along and reduce my intake of:
- Nearly all fruit varieties
- All dry fruit varieties
- Foods or beverages with “High Fructose Corn Syrup” (HFCS) or sugar
- Fruit juices
- Wine (sweet wine, cider)
- Sodas (Softdrinks)
I’ve got a pretty sweet tooth so it’s going to be hard, but here’s hoping it will help me feel better! I’ll let you know how I get on.
Recently I have noticed my IBS and associated anxiety have been having a greater impact on my life at work. I work as an architectural assistant for a small architecture business, which sees me working on all aspects of a building project from initial concept design through to construction.
For the most part, my work is office-based and alongside my design work, I support the architects and directors by attending meetings, writing minutes, carrying out site surveys and running projects. When I joined the practice 3 years ago, I felt alot healthier and was probably out and about visiting sites, potential clients and surveying properties a few times a fortnight. About a year ago I started to feel uncomfortable doing this, and my anxiety meant I couldn’t just leave the office at the drop of the hat and I asked to always be given prior warning for such events. I used to be genuinely surprised how frequently I would get ill in the run up to these events, until I realised that my anxiety was triggering the IBS and making me too ill to leave the office.
Fast forward to today and I’m completely office-based. The thought of having to leave the office where I don’t know the location of the nearest toilet or what my bowel movements will be taunts the little ‘ibs-demon’ in my brain, which triggers an anxiety attack which triggers my IBS. It infuriates me that this happens and I have no control over the situation – I don’t want to sit in an office for the rest of my life and I really hope one day I’ll be able to cope with these normal day-to-day situations again. Visiting construction sites of buildings you’ve designed is one of the most exciting aspects of my job, and sadly it’s something I don’t get to do.
I’m incredibly lucky that my bosses have family members with my condition so they’re really understanding of my situation, and believe that it’s a real illness unlike a lot of people. I’m so grateful for their understanding as it’s made my life a less stressful and I don’t need to feel embarrassed whenever I feel ill at work. We only have 1 loo at work, which ordinarily would freak me out – but the public toilets are only across the road so I can always sneak over there if I feel like I need to get some fresh air. I’m hoping that my anxiety medication will soon allow me to cope with attending site visits and meeting outside of the office but until then I’m just taking things one day at a time and keeping my employees up to date with my health progress – I think it’s important for them to understand how I’m feeling otherwise how they can they be expected to cater for my requirements?
The latest change in my IBS-life is that I’ve started drinking a daily dose of Kefir. Blog post on that next time.
Sometimes you just have to accept it. I would say that I’m suffering from what everyone else in the IBS community (yes, that’s a thing) refers to as ‘a flare up’, however I do just appear to be living one long flare up at the moment. This post is something of a rant (whinge), but I need to get it out my system. Maybe some advice in the next post.
This weekend has been in my top 5 worst IBS experiences of my life, beaten only by events I now refer to as ‘The Irish Wedding‘ and ‘Spätzle-gate‘. On Friday night I ate a gluten free pizza. The same one I’ve eaten about 50 times before. Saturday morning was as if I had food poisoning – and I had to get on a train. Frankly, I was terrified, no amount of loperamide was helping me and I was adamant my stomach wouldn’t ruin another day out for me. I found myself a nice seat in the quiet carriage near one of those grotty train toilets and chowed down on some peppermints. I have no idea how I managed to make it to London without talking myself off the 2 hour journey at every stop, but it was such a relief to finally arrive.
My dear stomach lured me into a false sense of security for the rest of the day and I was able to enjoy my day in London and return trip with peaceful intestines. This continued into Sunday morning when I merrily took a trip to the garden centre. Surely some crisps and gf brownie with with an apple juice is safe to eat right? Wrong, so so wrong. I spent 30 minutes longer than we intended at the garden centre checking out their toilet facilities and questioning what I’ve done in a past life to deserve the IBS life. My poor mum had to get me home before the crisps caused me any more damage and/or I had an emotional breakdown. It was the longest half-hour journey ever.
All-in, not a fantastic weekend and it’s carried over into this week. It might be that I’ve actually got some sort of flu which has increased the IBS symptoms, but that doesn’t stop it being a truly boring/frustrating/embarrassing/exhausting/painful/uncontrollable illness that can really bring you down. On the plus side, I did buy this awesome succulent from the garden centre (not food related I know, but I figured we could do with some cheeriness..)
I apologise for the rant, but basically I’m trying to show that it’s normal to have these horrible few days, and even though sometimes it feels like you won’t survive, you’ll always get through it eventually. I don’t apologise for the graphic narration of this post, the aim of this blog is to beat that taboo after all.
I’m off to try eating food again. On a positive note, things can only get better from here!
At the end of August I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid for my big sister. As excited as I was, as the day got nearer I grew increasingly anxious about the wedding breakfast food. My sister had briefed the caterers with my extensive dietary requirements months beforehand, as outlined on my RSVP card, but she was still concerned they didn’t fully understand. However, on the day everything was brilliant. I have to fully praise Jenkinsons for doing such a good job – it was genuinely one of the best meals of my life!
I had a starter of Salmon and Cucumber salad, which was both beautifully presented and delicious. For my main, I was able to eat the same as everybody else – Barbeque Beef Brisket, Cajun Chicken Skewers (not sure if these were actually garlic free as they tasted way too good – but definitely a recipe I will try myself), a Baby Spinach, Pea & Feta Salad (this was amazing.. how can a salad taste so good?!) and new potatoes. Pudding was a summer Berry Pavlova, of which I was given my own version without the cream.
All courses were delicious and it was really lovely to eat the same as everybody else, with the exception of the starter, rather than feeling singled out! The staff were really attentive and made sure I was getting the correct food; when I asked for a slice of my mum’s special gluten-free cake I was presented with 5 slices – that’s more than even I can manage to eat in one go!
So, a huge thankyou to the Bride and Groom, Dodford Manor and Jenkinsons for looking after me. I wasn’t ill after eating which is an increasingly rare thing for me, and this allowed me to stay nice and relaxed so I was able to deliver my speech without my anxiety making me ill. Don’t be afraid to tell people about your dietary requirements; it’s much better to feel a bit fussy than to keep quiet and feel more than a bit ill later!
In July 2015 I was referred to a dietician who recommended I undertake an elimination diet to help find trigger foods which were making my IBS worse. I was advised to stick strictly to a ‘Low-FODMAP’ diet for 10 weeks and it begun with answering a quick self-assessment survey regarding my current health and welfare.
I’d never heard of a low-FODMAP diet, so naturally I turned to google as soon as I got home. The diet stands for consuming low amounts of
Nope, I didn’t know what any of those meant either. In essence, there are a few food items in each food group which have been found to cause problems in IBS sufferers, usually things that the body finds difficult to break down. These are avoided for 10 weeks, then re-introduced slowly, one item at a time, to find your trigger. Simple!
I’m not going to pretend that sticking to the low-FODMAP diet was easy, it was hard. Really hard. This list was the first thing I encountered upon researching the diet and I wasn’t the only member of my family who was wondering what on earth I was going to eat for the next 10 weeks. Two of the main foods to exclude which surprised me were onion and garlic. That includes onion and garlic powder, which is in everything. Team this with (what seemed like) the other 8000 ingredients I couldn’t eat and suddenly going food shopping was taking three times as long as I inspected the ingredient list on every product. After a few weeks I found a really useful app called Diet Radar, which allows you to scan the ingredient list with your phone and alerts you if it includes something you can’t eat. Despite this, it soon became a lot easier to cook everything from scratch – no jar sauces or packet mixes for me! This way, I knew everything that was going into my meal and it also taught me a lot of cooking skills and new meals to add to my repertoire.
I felt a bit guilty in those 10 weeks that it wasn’t only me doing the diet. It was easier just to make one meal with the foods excluded so my friends and family were eating the same as me. Some meals were a bit bland and I really struggled with not being able to add extra spices and sauces to them. Going for dinner was also difficult – not wishing to present the whole list of foods I was avoiding, I would often narrow it down to a few main groups. It was also easier to explain that in layman’s terms, low-FODMAP is essentially avoiding any foods which make you fart – if something makes the average person a bit windy, then it was a definite no-go for me.
I stuck really strictly to the low-FODMAP diet, so I was really disappointed when the survey on my return to the dietician showed that the diet had been unsuccessful. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everyone and I didn’t begin the re-introducing stage as I was still rating the same in health and welfare after eliminating so many foods. On a positive note, it has taught me what some of my food triggers are, if not all of them, so I still live fairly FODMAP free. The major foods I still tend to avoid are gluten, lactose, onion, garlic, beans & pulses and a handful of the most farty vegetables. It’s easy to cut these out at home, but quite a challenge when eating out!