How I discovered the low fodmap diet and how it fixed my stomach for good
A couple years ago I realized my stomach was a mess. Not to get all TMI’y on you but imagine all the bad things a stomach can do and that was my stomach. I looked six months pregnant at all times and was constantly in and out of restrooms. It was not cute.
I went to the doctor and was like “Hey, my stomach is doing this weird thing, can you fix it?” My regular practitioner gave me a blood test and decided the root of all my stomach unrest was because I had celiac disease or rather, my doctor said, “You tested positive for some of the celiac tests” and I was like “So, am I celiac?” and she was like “Well, kind of.” She handed me ten pages she printed off the Wikipedia page for celiac disease and said to stop eating bread. In hindsight, I’m wondering if I ever saw a real doctor that day or just like, two interns standing on each other’s shoulders inside a large lab coat.
I became strictly gluten-free for the next year and my stomach problems persisted! Finally, I realized this was getting out of hand and went to a real gastroenterologist.
The real gastroenterologist recommended I get an upper endoscopy, blood work, and a DNA test. The combination of the three procedures would rule out or determine if I actually had celiac disease. I did all three (thank you multiple credit cards!) and found out I did not have celiac disease. Hah, take that dumb Wikipedia-printing fake doctor!
Turns out I didn’t even have anything wrong with me. I just had a stomach that wouldn’t tolerate, well anything. You know how some people are lactose intolerant, I was a-lot-of-things intolerant.
The gastro referred me to a nutritionist colleague of hers and said I should ask her about the low fodmap diet
And that’s when everything changed.
*~*~The Low Fodmap Diet~*~*
I made an appointment with a nutritionist who specializes in treating patients who are intolerant to foods that are high in fodmaps (and I was about to find out that I was). If you are intolerant to foods that are high in fodmaps, most likely you’ll respond well to a diet that is low in fodmaps, thus the low fodmap diet.
“The low fodmap diet is an elimination diet used to aid in the relief of certain symptoms, mainly bloating, abdominal pain, flatus and loose stool.* The diet removes five specific sugars (lactose, excess fructose, fructans, galactans, polyols) for a short period of time (2-6 weeks) to help discover which sugars and at what amount are contributing to symptoms,” nutritionist Nancee Jaffee explains.
*Aren’t stomach problems cute?
This all sounds simple enough, until you find out which foods contain these five specific sugars because it’s basically ALL OF THE FOODS. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it will feel that way when you start. Here’s the list of foods you CAN’T eat.
When people ask me what I can’t eat, my elevator pitch is, no dairy, no wheat, no onion, no garlic, and none of the “popular” fruits and veggies. And that’s honestly JUST a sampling, but that’s just the easiest way to describe how I eat now. Goodbye BREAD, MILK, SOFT CHEESE, BROCCOLI, and APPLES! I really miss apples, you guys.
I had to eliminate ALL the above foods for six weeks. I ended up screwing up the diet and cheating A LOT, so my elimination period lasted for nearly six months. You have to read all labels to make sure that a bread doesn’t include inulin or a salad dressing doesn’t have high-fructose corn syrup. Seriously. Six months on a highly restrictive diet meant I wasn’t getting a lot of nutrients I needed, but my stomach was feeling GREAT! ISN’T GASTRO HEALTH COMPLICATED AND FUN!
So, if you, like me, have a host of gastro issues and nothing seems to be working and all your tests come back “normal,” should you look into the low fodmap diet?
“The low fodmap diet is not for everyone,” says Nancee, “It is very restrictive, tough to follow and only meant to be done for a short period of time. It is always a good idea to work with a doctor or dietitian first to ensure no other conditions are present that are contributing to digestive symptoms. Once a full workup has taken place and the issue is deemed functional (defined by symptoms instead of lab results, procedures or other medical tests), the low fodmap diet can be considered, but should be implemented with the help of a skilled dietitian.”
It’s really difficult to cook actual meals on this diet. A lot of the time I just eat gluten-free bread and peanut butter WHICH IS NOT NUTRITIOUS AT ALL (This is why you need a nutritionist to guide you through this diet so you DON’T eat bread and peanut butter every day). Kate Scarlata is one of the pioneers of this diet and she has great low fodmap recipes on her blog. There’s also an app that helps you shop for low fodmap foods, however, most of it is based on Australian brands so it’s not the MOST helpful here in the US.
A few parting words. The low fodmap diet is not a weight-loss diet. Find a dietician who is aware of and trained in fodmap research. Do not enlist the help of a *~*~*~hollywood~*~*~* nutritionist who will just give you smoothie recipes and tell you to eat kale. Do not read a magazine article claiming that lemon water will help you “de-bloat.” Google low fodmap, try some of the above recipes, but most importantly, ask your doctor if the low-fodmap diet is right for you.
Whoa, I sound like a drug commercial! Happy eating!