Wednesday, June 12, 2013

FODMAPs - not a navigational device

It's been great to see so much of modern nutrition advice focus on returning to the way our grandparents ate. (If you're much younger than me, your great-grandparents might be better examples.) You know - eat whole foods, real foods; foods that came from animals or plants with no or minimal processing; that kind of thing.

If we all ate that way, we'd be far better off. Some of the things that pass for food in our shops scare the crap out of me. Ingredient lists longer than your arm and things included that don't even have names...and that our grandparents certainly wouldn't have added to anything they cooked.

Luckily I love to cook meals from scratch and actually dislike the texture - and often the taste - of overly processed foods. Supermarket cakes? Ugh. Ready-made frozen meals? Blah. Fake "chicken" flavour? Kill me now.

So 90% (ish) of my food is made at home from meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruit, veggies, nuts, whole grains, dairy, etc. I don't go so far as to press my own olive oil or ferment my own fish sauce. I don't want to LIVE like my great-grandparents, and die worn out at 55; I just want to eat like them. This IS the 21st century, after all and convenience is a wonderful thing - as long as you know what's in your food products.

Given my approach to healthy eating, you would think that I would enjoy nothing but robust good health, right? Well, not quite. Eating what's healthy is all very well, but it doesn't take into account how annoyingly individual human bodies are. Genetics, environmental factors, over-exposure to certain food components, past illnesses and all sorts of other things can upset the delicate balance of one or more of our systems. If only we were all identical clones, I reckon modern medicine would have nailed pretty much all of our problems by now.

Unfortunately, I have some dodgy genes that make me prone to digestive issues. My gut is apparently a sensitive little thing, with a whole heap of dislikes when it comes to food. I'm not talking about artificial colourings and flavourings or undesirable chemicals that might be added to manufactured food, either. I'm talking about actual, REAL food that humans generally eat.

I've dabbled in eliminating certain foods and am 90% certain that wheat is just nasty, nasty stuff in the opinion of my large intestine. I can tolerate a small amount, but on a regular basis? Nope. Alcohol isn't a great idea - and I'm not talking about overdoing it; just a glass or two sends my digestive system into overdrive the next day. But apart from those, I've come up against a dead end. I am absolutely certain that some of my problem foods are fruits and vegetables - but which ones?

So I'm calling in some expert help. My research suggests that FODMAPs is probably the key to solving all of my problems. If you haven't come across this acronym before, FODMAP stands for:


You can read more about it here, but essentially, some IBS sufferers cannot tolerate too much of one or more of the above substances. They can't be digested properly and so end up accumulating in the large intestine, where they sit around and then the natural gut bacteria goes crazy fermenting them - which results in an excess of gas, pain, bloating and other lovely symptoms. Yep, that sounds very familiar. I've spent countless evenings sipping peppermint tea or clutching a hot wheat pillow to my belly in an effort to ease the pain.

There's a whole lot of steps to arrive at a diagnosis - including hydrogen breath testing, blood tests, a detailed history and then an elimination diet. I'm frankly over the whole IBS thing, and am just not prepared to put up with it any more. Forty-odd years has been way too long.

So I have an appointment next month to see one of the dietitians at Shepherd Works and I cannot WAIT to get started on this. I'm eager to be free of the pain and other symptoms, but I'm also a little apprehensive about exactly what I might be reacting to. I can handle eating little or no wheat - I've been doing that for years and it doesn't really bother me. But some of the FODMAPs groups of foods include favourites of mine; things that feature daily in my meals. Like onions and garlic. Or apples and pears. Or broccoli, cabbage and asparagus. Or yoghurt.

Please don't let it be yoghurt. :( 

I know that there are alternatives to almost any food, and I've proven in the past that I'm pretty good at being creative with way more restrictive diets than any I'm likely to have to follow to deal with my health issues. But I have my fingers crossed that it's "just" something like galacto-oligosaccharides. Those include mainly beans, legumes etc, which are foods I rarely eat, don't really enjoy, and are definitely not something I'd miss.

I read somewhere recently that chocolate is potentially a FODMAPs food. O_O I'm pretending I didn't see that.

I guess I shall have to just trust the process and deal with whatever comes out of it. Anything has to be better than what I've experienced for most of my life.

I'm interested in hearing about the experiences of anyone who's been through the FODMAPs process - or anyone who has (or even suspects they have) a food intolerance. How do you handle it? What do you miss? I'd love to hear from you.



MTB Girl said...

Hey Kek, I went through the whole suite of breath tests - they showed nothing.

I then did the diet, which is boring, but not so hard. For me, it seems to be wheat and onions that are the main culprits, along with mushrooms. I tend to ignore my issues with garlic, as there is less in a dish, but still have issues with it. Most other things I can deal with in small quantities, though I do tend to have the same issues with alcohol. Good red wine seems to be the one that impacts on me least :)

Good luck with Shepherd works, the dietician I went to was great, and had me feeling that this is something I can solve or manage, rather than that ongoing drag of not knowing what makes you ill.

I've got a good cookbook by Shepherd that helped me when I was a bit stumped for what to eat early on. You'll be amazed how many things contain onion.....a real pain!

Kek said...

Oh, I know how ubiquitous onion is, Amanda - seems onion powder is in every processed food. We put fresh onion in everything ourselves, so that would be quite a challenge...Thai curry pastes without onion & garlic? Hmm.

Amy said...

I don't know a whole lot about it, but from people I know who follow it - Monash Uni has a really great app for it!

Kek said...

Thanks Amy. :) I have seen the app; must download it.

Charlotte Orr said...

Hi Kek, you might find the following article interesting.
My search for the food that loves me:

Kek said...

Thanks Charlotte, will read it while I eat my lunch. :)

Liz N said...

Interesting - I've only come up with wheat and mangoes - if I eat too much wheat, particularly the processed stuff, my tongue starts to swell. Mangoes...well TMI :)

Kek said...

Eeuw, swollen tongue. :/ Yeah, wheat is a bugger...Charlotte's article was interesting - flat breads may not affect some folks like soft fluffy bread. Bugger about the mangoes; one of my summer staples. Hope they test OK for me.

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