FODMAP Week 4: UGI, UGH

Not much has changed since my last post; diet is still going well.  However, I did have an episode while on the treadmill the other day where I almost got sick multiple times just while doing an easy to moderate pace.  Although this has happened to me before, it usually only happens after I run up a steep hill and it happens once and I can continue my run.  This time, it kept happening, so I had to stop 1 mile short of my goal for that day. Coincidentally, my follow-up GI appointment was that same afternoon, so I mentioned it to my doctor.  As I expected, my GI Dr. assumed it was most likely from exertion, but recommended that I get an Upper Gastrointestinal Exam (UGI) to see if I had any abnormalities.  The test involves drinking a barium mixture and then taking x-rays at 30 minute intervals.  The whole procedure could take up to 5 hours depending on how long it takes the drink mixture to reach the small intestine.  As part of the exam prep, I have to fast 12 hours before the test.  Lucky, I have an early AM test, but I am still thinking about how hungry I will be that morning and how my whole eating schedule will be mixed up.  I am a creature of habit and like to eat my three meals and snacks each day at around the same time.  I think I decided that I will have a small snack after the test and then go about my regular meals for the rest of the day.

I know this is ridiculous to be worrying about such a minor adjustment and that it is just one day, but, unfortunately that is the way my mind operates.  I like to think of it in terms my father uses: My mind is constantly in 2nd gear and I need to downshift.  Although it would be amazing to downshift all the way to Park for a temporary period, I am pretty confident that is impossible for me.  I know I need to stop worrying about things that do not matter, but I honestly do not know how.  There is something called mindfulness that has been proven to help people with IBS because it helps ease anxiety and lower stress.  Taking the time to research and practice mindfulness is going to be much more challenging than implementing the FODMAP diet was.  I have an interest in food and healthy eating, so that meant I got to bust out some of my cookbooks and experiment with recipes.  However, when I think of incorporating mindfulness into my life, I can’t help but think of a spaced out hippie.  I like to think deeply, but in the form of solving puzzles or math equations, not in the form of thinking about my inner soul and my feelings.  I have no idea if this is what mindfulness is even about, but I think it is my way of procrastinating, because I know I should at least try it since it may be to my benefit.  Hopefully by my next post, I will have motivated myself enough to at least research mindfulness and determine what it involves.  Stay tuned…

FODMAP Diet Weeks 2 & 3 – Is Collagen the Answer?

In my last post , I mentioned that I believed gluten was the main problem.  However, after reading “The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders” by Sue Shepherd PhD (founder of FODMAP diet) and Peter Gibson MD, I realized that it is not the gluten in wheat products that irritates those with IBS, but the fructans.  Fructans are carbohydrates that are completely malabsorbed because the intestine lacks an enzyme to break their fructose bond – who knew.  I also learned from the book that certain foods that I thought were completely out are actually okay in moderation.  Foods are constantly being tested, so the FODMAP diet may expand over time to allow small portions of certain foods.  For example, pumpkin was originally naughty, but the book states that it is FODMAP friendly in small portions, so I can add it to a baking recipe, but I wouldn’t be able to eat pumpkin soup, which I don’t think I’d eat anyway.  I’m glad I bought the book for this reason and I have a few more options than I thought I had previously, which is encouraging.

I am still struggling to eliminate polyols completely.  Polyols are found in the sugar alcohols in gum, like sorbitol.  I’ve been pretty good this week and only had one piece of non-FODMAP gum.  I did try a FODMAP friendly gum from Whole Foods, but it tasted like I was chewing on my shoe, so that just won’t work.  I’m pretty sure Bazooka gum is FODMAP friendly, but it’s only good for about 5 minutes and I hate the feeling of sugar being on my teeth, so it’s not the greatest substitute, but better than shoe chew.

 

As I said in an earlier post, I’m putting my America’s Test Kitchen Gluten Free Cookbook to good use.  I made a carrot cake and pizza dough so far.  I was pretty doubtful that the pizza dough would cook properly as it was such a wet dough, more like a thick cake batter – no tossing this in the air and singing in Italian.  But, I followed through with the recipe directions and it tasted great and was surprisingly chewy.  This will definitely be my new go-to pizza dough recipe.  I also learned some helpful tips about altering existing recipes I have that contain gluten.  Depending on the recipe, additional liquid may be needed, a portion of liquid fat may need to be replaced with almond flour and cooking times may need to be adjusted.  I love America’s Test Kitchen for these tips so that I do not have to get a whole new recipe rolodex; I just need to make a few tweaks to my existing recipes, which is a relief.  I’m excited to keep experimenting.

 

This third week seems to be the turning point.  I have not had any stomach pains, bloating or nausea all week.  I’m not sure if it’s because the FODMAP diet is finally starting to take effect, or if it’s because of a new supplement I started taking at the beginning of this week – collagen.  I happened to read an article that collagen is proven to improve joints (my left knee has been creaking louder than some of my floorboards lately).  Although not proven scientifically yet, many people also report that collagen helps regulate stomach issues, so I figured that was two reasons to give this a try.  The first day I took it, I wasn’t sure I could go through with it because it is a powder that gets dissolved in about a cup of water and it makes the water pretty cloudy and has a slight odor.  Surprisingly, the powder has no taste, so as long as I don’t look at it or sniff it while I’m drinking it, it’s as if I were drinking a plain glass of water.  The other benefits of collagen include healthier looking skin and thicker hair.  Not quite sure I need help in the thicker hair department as my hair is about as thick as a lion’s main, but if it is helping ease my IBS symptoms, bring it on.

FODMAP Diet Week 1

I’ve just about hit the 1 week mark of the exclusion phase of the FODMAP diet.  So far, I’m still experiencing some symptoms, mostly nausea, but since I have been on the diet, I have not had the severe stomach pains or bloating that I used to have just about every day.  After doing some pondering, I think my biggest problem food may be gluten.  I used to feel the worst after eating lunch and I thought it was just from the stress of eating in work.  However, just about every meal I eat at lunch has some or multiple forms of gluten.  Most days I had dry rye bread with either scrambled egg whites or chicken noodle soup.  Some days I had frozen pot stickers or egg rolls, which both contain wheat.  I remember one day my stomach started gurgling when I ate plain egg noodles and chicken broth.  The only thing I’m confused about if gluten is the main problem is why I was able to eat bagels at night time without any immediate side effects.   During the time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my nerves were acting up so I switched from my homemade oat waffles to plain bagels thinking the plainer the better.  However, during that time period, I was in the bathroom like clockwork every morning when I woke up, so maybe because I was under less stress at home the side effects took longer to show themselves.  It’s very hard to be sure exactly what is causing the IBS symptoms since stress plays such a huge role in it as well.  I’m happy that some of my symptoms seem to have diminished and I’m hopeful that by the end of next week I will be feeling even better.

 

I’m usually pretty good about committing to a plan and motivating myself, but I did crack one night and had a half a piece of gum, oops.  It was delicious though and I savored it to the last chew.  I’m hoping that glycols are not one of my FODMAPS so that I can go back to chewing sugar free gum again.   I did learn from this very helpful blog  –  http://fodmaplife.com/  – that there is a FODMAP friendly brand called Simply Gum that I may try.  The details on the brand will be posted tomorrow; I can’t wait to learn more about it.  Although it’s a bit difficult to adjust to this new diet, I know it is only temporary.  Eventually, I will be at the reintroduction phase and will experiment with incorporating high FODMAP foods into my diet.  This will help me determine which foods are triggers for me, although I am almost certain that gluten is a trigger and know for sure that lactose is a trigger.  I am praying that chocolate is not one of my trigger foods because the measly 1 tbsp of cocoa powder per serving and 1oz of dark chocolate bar per serving is much lower than what I would typically have in my favorite chocolate cake recipe.   I’m planning to create an adjusted recipe for my chocolate cake and do some experimenting until I get a good FODMAP chocolate cake, because that is something I don’t think I can live without.

 

I also invested in “The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders” by Sue Shepherd PhD  and Peter Gibson MD.  Sue Shepherd is the founder of the FODMAP diet.  There is also a great blog  –  http://fodmapmonash.blogspot.com/  –  associated with Monash University, where Sue Shepherd completes her research.  I just learned about this new diet, but there are so many resources available for people like me who are new to the diet.  I’m having fun learning the science behind this diet and I am confident that it is something that I will continue to follow since it already seems to have helped me.

New FODMAP Diet, New Goals

After numerous doctor’s appointments and various tests over the past few months, it is more than likely that I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Although it may sound strange, I was disappointed each time a different test result came back negative.  I was hoping for a clear solution like taking an antibiotic or having some type of one-time procedure.  Nonetheless, there is a diet that supposedly works for most people with IBS called the FODMAP diet.  The letters stand for really long scientific words, but stand for foods that are highly fermentable and poorly digested.  The FODMAP diet is a diet that reduces high FODMAP foods.  The first phase of the diet is the elimination phase, which lasts about 6-8 weeks or until symptom-free.  After that phase, foods high in FODMAPS are gradually introduced to determine which foods are trigger foods.  The naughty list (high FODMAP) includes certain fruits and vegetables, dairy that is high in lactose, soy, beans, gluten, sugar free gum, and certain types of sugars.  The diet also limits any sweetener to very small quantities.  For the past few days I have been struggling to find a substitute for soymilk.  No other non-dairy milks have any where near as much protein as soymilk so I opted for mixing a hemp-based protein powder into almond milk – NASTY.  The hemp powder mixed into the almond milk at first, but as I was eating my infamous bowl of Cheerios, it started to get all clumpy and I was eating chunks of hemp (and hemp powder is green by the way – DOUBLE GROSS).  Then I tried fortified almond milk that has a little bit more protein – EVEN NASTIER.  I didn’t realize that it has added sugar in it so it tasted like I was eating Cheerios with watery corn syrup – YUCK.  So, I thought I might try another non-dairy milk that was higher in fat content, praying that the milk would be a little thicker and absorb the hemp powder better.  No such luck, coconut milk has higher fat content, but that is on the naughty list.  Then, I did some research and realized that I could drink lactaid milk.  It is dairy milk, but does not have lactose and has even more protein than soymilk.  Success!  It will take me a while to get used to the flavor, but by far the best substitute to complement by precious Cheerios.  I was also instructed to give up tea.  I haven’t found a substitute for that yet, hot water and hot water with lemon added are both quite unpleasant.  I also had to give up dried apricots, which I ate for potassium since I read that potassium is important for those who run.  I’m trying cantaloupe, which is not as high in potassium, but it’ll do the trick for now.  The sugar will be tough too.  I usually eat pretty healthy during the week, but I love having cake on the weekend (especially chocolate cake and chocolate is on the naughty list too, ugh).  So far, corn bread will be my substitute since it does not call for much sugar.  I don’t think the gluten elimination will be a big deal and I can finally put my gluten free cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen to good use.  Overall, I am just glad I don’t have to give up Cheerios and waffles.  I do have to alter my waffle recipe slightly, but I’m having fun experimenting with different ingredients.

This is quite a long post and if you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back!  As you can see above, this new FODMAP diet is now my main priority.  Because of this, I have decided to alter my goal of running to Nana’s house in Southie.  Instead of focusing my energy on increasing my mileage, I need to focus it on eating according to these new guidelines and possibly adding other exercises like yoga and pilates.  I still need to do more research on this FODMAP diet and other techniques that people with IBS have found helpful.  There are quite a few Facebook pages dedicated to this diet, which is great.  I’m looking forward to reading about other people’s experiences with both the FODMAP diet and IBS in general.  I still plan to keep running, but not at the intensity of training for a half marathon.  I did reach a speed goal last week by breaking 8 min/mile last week!  I may still run to my Nana’s house someday, but for now its FODMAP, FODMAP, FODMAP 🙂