Thursday, August 29, 2013

When healthy foods attack

An apple a day keeps the doctor away 
- Proverb

We all know the difference between healthy foods and unhealthy foods, right? That's Nutrition 101 - bananas are good, donuts are not. Broccoli: good. Jelly snakes: nuh-uh. Meat is good. Unless you're vegetarian, in which case it's bad. Agave syrup or honey are good, cane sugar is unspeakably bad.

Mmm, nope. I only wish it was as simple as eating from a list of everyone knows they're healthy foods to achieve optimum health. I know I've said this before, but the problem with prescribing precise rules around what everyone should and shouldn't eat is that we're all individuals. We have different genetics, different lifestyles and exposure to different environmental factors, which can have an impact on how foods affect us.

As I'm fast discovering, food intolerances can turn "the rules" upside down. I've begun the reintroduction phase of my FODMAPs testing and one week in, let's just say I'm not particularly happy so far.

Back up a few days to last Friday. First FODMAPs cab off the rank for testing was polyols, which are a group of sugar alcohols including sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol, mostly found in fruits and some veggies. You might recognise some of those words from food packaging too, because they're regularly used as sweeteners in place of sugar. You know those warnings you see on the labels of sugar-free gum and lollies, warning that over-consumption can cause gastro-intestinal upsets? That's a well-known effect of sugar alcohols, which are poorly absorbed in the gut - which is partly why they work so well in "diet" foods. Sweetness with no calories? Awesome. Well, awesome unless you're intolerant to fricken polyols anyway...

So my mission was to eat half a cup of mushrooms and four dried apricots  on Friday, but to otherwise stick to my low-FODMAPs diet.* I was so excited - I've really missed mushrooms in my omelettes. I ate the prescribed foods and waited to see what would happen. Nothing. I was fine on Friday (as I expected) and still fine on Saturday. OK, then. On Sunday I had to repeat the dose. On Monday morning I had some tummy grumbles and was slightly uncomfortable all day. Hmm. Tuesday saw my third and final dose of mushrooms and apricots, and by late afternoon: Oh, HELLO! My familiar old IBS symptoms were back and reasonably severe. On a scale of one to ten, I'd rank that episode at around a 6 or 7.

I spent Tuesday night sulking because the list of foods high in polyols includes:

Snow peas
Sweet potato

Luckily there's nothing I like on THAT list. #sarcasm :(

No apples or pears in MY fruit bowl.

I'm (mostly) over the sulking phase now. It's likely that I have a level of tolerance for some of these foods, which means I'll have to do some further careful testing down the track. I might be able to tolerate a couple of apples a week if I space them out, for example. Or a small quantity of mushrooms once a week. And sweet potato isn't as high in polyols as some of the other foods, so that may be fine if I stick to half a cup or less at a time. And don't eat it every day.

Meanwhile, polyols are off the menu again, as I need to move onto the next FODMAPs group for testing - lactose. I'm pretty sure this one will have a negative result, but in scientific experiments, one should never assume the outcome. I guess I'm about to find out.

Looks like that old saying about apples and doctors was wrong, eh? All these years of replacing sugar in recipes with apple sauce...getting my sweet hit via fresh or dried fruit...upping my veggie serves to replace a lot of starchy carbs. Turns out I was making my gut problems worse. And sweeteners? Xylitol? Out. Sugar is actually better for my poor dysfunctional body than most sweeteners. Luckily I still have erythritol and stevia as an option, so my big (expensive) box of Natvia won't go to waste.

So remember, just because a food is known to be healthy, doesn't mean it's healthy for YOU.

*I know I don't usually use the word "diet" when talking about what I eat, but this IS a diet in the true sense of the word. I am So. Over. It.



Running Fan said...

Hi Kerryn
This is such an intersting topic for me as I suffer from IBS and fructos malabsorption. Therefore I am also in the category of no apples and pears for me, and definetly not dried fruit. The reaction is almost instant for me.I can handle small amounts of stone fruit and interestingly enough I can eat a bucket of cauliflower/broccoli with no ill effects at all. It has always amazed me how apples and pears can have such a severe reaction to me and yet it is one of the first foods we recommend to give to babies when they first start eating as it is meant to be gentle on the stomach. I have found if I stew the apples and pears I can tolerate a tablespoon on my oats in the morning without any dramas. Also when I grated an apple and ate it that way my IBS reaction was nowhere near as severe. This was good if I wanted to add some into a salad or again in cakes or muffins that I was baking. It is all experimental. Good luck to you and I am intersted in following your outcomes. Christine

Sara said...

XX aw. Sound like you can get away with most things on an irregular basis though. Probably you need to rotate foods.

Kek said...

Hi Christine. It's really interesting how the effects vary from person to person. I'm pretty sure I can still eat some of these foods and I'm quite prepared for the trial and error method of finding out which ones, how much and how often.

Thanks for leaving a comment. :)

Kek said...

Sara, I suspect that there are a few things I'm just better not to eat, but yes, I think I'll find I have a tolerance for some things. The cumulative effect seems to be the killer - combining these types of foods or eating them too often is probably a bad idea. I'm a bit bummed about apples because they're my favourite on-the-go fruit. Nothing else stands up to being chucked in a handbag AND doesn't require peeling, or make a mess when you eat it. Oh well, I guess that's why Tupperware and wet wipes were invented.

Annie ~ Red Roses and Crystal said...

I wish you well with the next round of testing and I'm sorry to hear you can't eat your beloved apples. I'll be watching with interest as you progress through these stages.
As I've only been following the fodmap for several weeks I am still getting my head around it and in particular the quantities allowed of certain allowable foods. One thing I have discovered the hard way Kerryn is that I must Read labels! My lactose test was negative but I thought, in for a pound as a penny, I would try a lactose free yogurt which just happened to contain inulin. After eating some every day for a week I paid for it! :((((
Oh and on a funny note...I've never met an apple that liked me :)
Good luck!
Annie / eclecticallyblack

Kek said...

Thanks Annie - yes, I've become an expert at reading labels. I don't eat a lot of packaged foods anyway, but we usually do tend to use a little bought curry paste or spice blends. Those are all out for now, as they contain onion and/or garlic. :/

The only yoghurt I've been eating is Jalna natural. The dietitian I consulted recommended it as the only one she was aware of with no lactose to speak of, and nothing else added. Thank goodness Brie is allowed...and hard cheeses....and feta. :)

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