FODMAP Diet: A Blanket Update

I realize that I have not been keeping up to date with my journey through the FODMAP diet.  The reasons for my break from writing can be found in other articles, 5 Miles Today; I’m Back and Quarter Life Crisis.  A lot has changed since I last posted about this diet designed to help those with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).  The post I wrote, New FODMAP Diet, New Goals, explains the FODMAP diet in detail.  I also spoke a lot about eliminating sugars that are high in FODMAPs in this post.  I have used several high FODMAP sugars in recipes including coconut sugar, agave nectar and corn syrup and have had no negative side effects.  However, I typically put in far less sweetener than most baking recipes call for, so the amount of the high FODMAP sweetener in the recipe is not usually that great.  Also, I do not sweeten any of my drinks, either green tea or hot chocolate.  Tea I usually drink black and when I make hot chocolate, I just use a tablespoon of cocoa powder, enough hot water to fill the cup about 3/4 full and then top it off with almond milk.  It is super chocolatey and very low in calories.  1 tablespoon of cocoa powder is only 10 calories and the amount of unsweetened almond milk I use is probably less than 10 calories considering 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk is 30 calories.  One downside is that towards the end it gets a bit clumpy, so I usually skip the last sip or two.  If you do need it to be a bit sweeter, a teaspoon or two of powdered sugar works great because it provides sweetness and also helps dissolve the cocoa powder in the water since it contains corn starch.  However, each teaspoon will add 15 calories to the drink.  In addition, I also had given up dried apricots, but I went back to eating them on days that I run since they are higher in potassium than cantaloupes and can be bought in bulk at BJ’s and stored in the fridge for much longer than cantaloupes can.

In the post, FODMAP Diet: Weeks 2 & 3, I talked about giving up sugar free gum.  I eat sugar free gum now on a regular basis and apart from some very mild bloating on occasion, it does not have much of a negative effect on me.  I also continue to take the collagen supplement I wrote about in this post with no negative side effects.  Referring back to FODMAP Diet: Reintroducing Chocolate, I have several chocolate cake recipes that use mostly cocoa powder and little or no chocolate baking bars.  Using recipes that get the chocolate flavor from cocoa powder as opposed to baking chocolate seem to work much better for me.  I also stopped having the feelings of shakiness after I replaced any recipe that called for white rice flour with brown rice flour.

In these two posts, FODMAP Diet: Mindfulness and FODMAP Week 4: UGI, UGH, I talk about Mindfulness.  Although, I’m sure it’s helpful for some, I just don’t have the patience to sit down and close my eyes and think about thinking or whatever it requires.  I do my own form of mindfulness when I go for walks or drive somewhere by myself.  I like peace and quiet, so I think I unintentionally practice mindfulness, which is enough deep thought for me.  Also, the UGI results came back normal apart from the fact that my intestines are all coiled up on one side or something, I guess I forgot to take notes.  Whatever it was, I was told it is a bit uncommon, but does not have any negative side effects, so it has nothing to do with my IBS.  Just a fun fact that makes me unique I suppose.

My latest revelation with the diet is that I do not have sensitivity to all wheat products.  I got extremely frustrated with the diet recently and had a bowl of regular angel hair pasta.  I honestly could care less about pasta normally, but because I felt like I was breaking the rules, it was the most delicious bowl of pasta I have ever had.  Normally, if I eat something that I shouldn’t, I know almost instantly.  10 minutes went by, then 30 minutes, then a full hour and no side effects.  No bloating, no nausea, no running to the bathroom.  It was fantastic, I felt like I outsmarted the diet even though I know part of the diet is reintroducing certain foods to test for sensitivity.  I was so sure I had sensitivity to wheat products because before I was introduced to the FODMAP diet, I had been getting extreme stomach pains after eating meals like egg whites with rye bread or egg noodles in chicken broth.  However, looking back, I was able to eat waffles and bagels which were made of wheat without any problem.  So, I did some research and found out that rye may have a higher fructan content than other wheat products, which would explain the discomfort after the egg whites and rye toast.  I’m still not sure what may have caused the egg noodles in chicken broth discomfort, but one possibility is that the fructans in the noodles combined with the onion and garlic seasoning in the chicken broth caused the issue.  (By the way, if you are looking for chicken broth that does not contain onion or garlic seasoning, I have used these concentrated liquid flavoring packets found on Amazon –  Savory Choice Chicken Broth Concentrate.  I don’t seem to have an issue using the regular cartons of chicken broth that do contain onion and garlic seasoning now, but for those who are very sensitive to these seasonings, these really do the trick.)  Another possibility is that I was under a great deal of stress during this time.  I had an upcoming trip to Disney and was nervous about eating out and trying to figure out foods that I could both bring on the plane and bring into the park for lunch and a snack in case of emergency.  In addition, I was worried about a roofing issue at my house and afraid the contractor I hired would not be able to repair it in time before winter came.  It’s also possible that I had some kind of lingering bug at the time, who knows.  What I do know is that for over a week I have been eating regular pasta and regular bread and have had absolutely no negative side effects.  I even bought all-purpose flour for the first time in over a year.  I think I got a little too excited because I bought a 12 pound BJ’s bag of it.  Oh well, it will get used, trust me.  I also bought a loaf of bread that was not frozen for the first time in over a year.  I am so glad that I can just buy one flour now instead of at least 4 different kinds that I blended together to make my own gluten free flour.  It will save cabinet space and money, considering how expensive gluten free products are.  After going through a period of such restriction, I now have a whole new empathy for those who have celiac disease.  Being gluten free is extremely difficult.  It is hard to find certain ingredients, it is expensive and it is frustrating.  Sometimes you just want to buy a package of crackers or something simple and it’s impossible.

Now that I know some wheat products do not bother me, I think the next test will be whole wheat products.  I am glad I can wheat white bread and regular pasta, but I do like to eat foods that are a bit more nutrient dense, so we will see what happens with that attempt.  I’m also curious if I can start using ingredients like bread flour and whole wheat flour.  I’m not going to try too many things at once though, plus I’ll be plenty busy with those 12 pounds of all-purpose flour for a while.

On another note, I tried to eat Bolognese sauce, since tomatoes are supposedly low-FODMAP.  WORST MISTAKE EVER!  I was so nauseous, bloated and just uncomfortable for almost an entire day that I would be perfectly fine never looking at a tomato again.  Regardless of what the Low-FODMAP Diet says, I am almost certain that I cannot handle anything highly acidic, including tomatoes and oranges.  I also know that anything fried is off limits.  In addition, I also found that I can eat fruits that I thought were going to be totally off limits, but as long I am sure to only eat certain fruits every other day, I am OK.  For example, it would be a disaster if I ate either grapes or bananas two days in a row.  (Fair warning, this next sentence may be TMI for some.)  The two days of grapes would mean being in the bathroom more than I would like and the two days of bananas would be a prescription for an enema to be quite frank.  But, if I eat grapes one day and then eat a banana the next, the two problems seem to offset each other.  Figuring this out was fabulous, because I love bananas and had not eaten them in quite some time.  Now that I know this new strategy, I can have my favorite fruit back in my diet again!

In conclusion, I am sorry if I bored you with this long post about my diet restrictions and eating habits, but I hope that others struggling with many food sensitivities find at least some portion of this helpful.  IBS is no fun, but when you find a way to outsmart it, it feels amazing.

 

The Daily Post: Blanket

 

 

 

FODMAP Diet: Reintroducing Chocolate

Chocolate is a FODMAP friendly ingredient as long as it is eaten in moderation.  Because the low FODMAP chocolate cake I have been making is just not the same as the regular version I had made alterations to, I decided to test my chocolate intolerance by using the original recipe again.  I ate a piece of this cake this past Friday afternoon and it was amazing – moist, dense and intense dark chocolate flavor- and did not seem to bother me.  The following afternoon my stomach started gurgling as I was eating my lunch: a hamburger on a gluten-free roll and a small serving of coleslaw.  The gurgling turned into a 30 minute bathroom visit followed by stomach pains.  I blamed either the fat content of the hamburger (even though I patted the grease off the burger with a few napkins) or the possibility of the roll not being gluten free as I was at a busy a restaurant.  The next morning, Easter, I was still feeling a bit off, but no bathroom episodes, so I felt positive about eating Easter lunch later in the day.  I ate lunch (roast beef, green beans and onion-free potato salad) and still no problems.  Feeling fine, I decided to eat another piece of the same chocolate cake I had Friday.  BIG MISTAKE!  I felt bloated and uncomfortable the rest of the afternoon; I woke up in the middle of the night feeling extremely nauseous and had another bathroom episode that morning (which is today).  Right now, I think I’m finally starting to feel back to myself, but I had to leave work a few hours early because I felt so uncomfortably bloated and nauseous.  Although I should be saying I’ll never eat chocolate again, that would just be a plain lie.  I suppose I’ll just go back to the drawing board and search for another FODMAP friendly recipe or keep experimenting with alterations to existing recipes I have in my massive rolodex.  Although this weekend was not the greatest of my FODMAP journey, at least I know that chocolate is a problem for me.

Another complication I have been experiencing lately is a feeling of shakiness and jitteriness.  After considering the various diet changes I have made, it is likely a cause of the higher carbohydrates in the gluten free products I am eating.  I haven’t felt this way in a while because I stopped eating foods high in sugar and made sure to eat a balanced meal with more protein and vegetables than carbs.  Also, when baking, I always reduced the sugar that the original recipe called for and opted for lower glycemic sugars like coconut sugar.  I haven’t been using coconut sugar because I’ve seen mixed opinions on including coconut sugar in the FODMAP diet.  I’m also unsure about incorporating coconut flour (a low carb alternative) into my diet.  I have had a lot of success so far with this diet as far as eliminating stomach pain, nausea, bloating and distension, but now that I am noticing this new side effect, I need to do more research to figure out how to make my tummy happy and my blood sugar levels happy at the same time.  Although I do not have diabetes, I have always been very sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels, so I think my plan now is to research FODMAP friendly options for people with diabetes.  It gets frustrating at times, to be so limited in food choices, but I know other people have worse problems than IBS.  So, with that, I will conduct some new research on diet alternatives and hopefully have some better luck in the weeks to come.

FODMAP Diet: Mindfulness

mindfullness

I finally managed to start a mindfulness plan this past week.  I downloaded an app called Headspace that is a guided meditation program meant to be completed for just 10 minutes each day.  So far, I am on day 2, so I can’t really say that it has completely changed my life, but after the 10 minute session is up, I do feel more relaxed.  The session is guided by an Australian named Andy.  I only have one minor complaint about the app.  There are times when the app is completely silent in order to focus on breathing and relaxing and then, out of nowhere, Andy speaks up again, which causes a brief second of terror and disrupts the mindfulness mojo.  Although, I think if I remember to turn my volume down before I start the session, it should solve the problem.    There are only 10 sessions with the free version of the app, but I believe the sessions can just be repeated over and over again.  I’m interested to see if over time this 10 minute session translates into a quieter mind throughout my entire day.  I’m sure increasing the time I allocate to mindfulness each day will help improve those chances, but for now I am going to take baby steps and see where it takes me.

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 🙂