You know my proper bra size and how I deal with menstrual cramps, and *I* know that you like to read about those things sometimes. Weirdo.
So anyhoo, I figure you may as well know this, too, since I've stumbled across something again I think could help my fellow sufferers out there:
Hi, I'm Jen, and my stomach has hurt since the second grade.
Over the last 6 weeks or so, though, I've been on something called the Low FODMAP diet, and wow. Wow. I think this could be the answer to most of my life-long stomach problems... which is huge.
A little background: You name the gut problem, and I've probably had or have it. GERD, IBS-C, IC - really I just like collecting acronyms. School was agony (the trend of skin-tight jeans didn't help), on my first-ever date with John I had to excuse myself to go cry in the bathroom from the pain, and since then I've been to the ER with chest spasms, spent more nights than I can count pacing the house, sleeping sitting up, guzzling pills and supplements, and just generally whining and feeling helpless.
Over those early years I was tested for everything: I drank barium, got strapped to tilting tables - the works. All I was ever diagnosed with was reflux and a "nervous stomach," though, so I stopped seeing doctors and resigned myself to a life of pain.
Giving up milk and ice cream last year helped immensely with the reflux (go figure, right?), but even after the chest spasms were gone I had a near-constant aching, along with the more embarrassing aspects of IBS-C. (My fellow 'BSers know my pain, amirite?) It all felt so normal, though - just part of being me - so I often forgot anything was wrong, or could ever change. I still vividly recall the rerun of Scrubs where Elliot jokes about not having "poo'd" in 4 days, because I was like, "Wait... that's bad?" Ha!
It's all been getting worse, though - plus some new pains, which were spiking my anxiety - so out of desperation I convinced John to try the AIP with me in May. The AIP is an insanely restrictive diet meant to reduce inflammation for people with autoimmune diseases, and since I have Hashi's, I figured it would help.
A week later I was more miserable than ever; the pain was somehow worse, plus now I was queasy all the time. Bleh.
We went to another GI doctor, who wasn't all that concerned, but offered to run a bunch of tests. When I balked at the dual endoscopy/colonoscopy, saying I thought it was food-related, she said she'd heard of something called FODMAP I could try. It's a special diet, pretty new, meant to help folks with IBS. She didn't know anything more about it, though - and she'd never heard of AIP.
I went home and looked it up, and discovered most of the things we'd been eating on AIP - things like apples, sweet potatoes, avocados, cassava flour, honey, almonds, garlic, and so on - are all big no-nos on Low FODMAP. I'd been eating the worst possible stuff, which is funny now, but was super disheartening at the time. (Our pantry was full of expensive AIP foods and flours, dangit!) I moped it out, though, and with John's help took a breath, switched gears, and started all over again.
Just one day on Low FODMAP, and the queasy pain went away.
Since then I've been living my best FODMAP life, and even with several slip-ups, I feel so much better. I remember what it's like to not have a stomach ache again! And the constant whale song gut-gurgling? Gone. AHH SWEET SILENCE. I even switched from my $50 probiotic to a $10 one, and don't need my other "moving" supplements either, thank goodness.
I still hurt sometimes, which could be my missing something in what I'm eating (I'm not great at checking ingredients), or maybe my gut is still irritated. Overall, though, I really think this is a root cause to my pain for all these years. Again, this is huge.
If you're unfamiliar with Low FODMAP, as I was, it has to do with the carbohydrates in food and how they're broken down in your gut. Certain sugars don't digest properly, and while those sugars are in some obvious things, like beans, they're also in things I'd never have suspected, like mushrooms or beets. Plus, who ever heard of a diet where you can't eat apples?
This explains why my own attempts to fix my diet never worked; I was missing all the non-obvious FODMAPs. Not to mention eating apples every day with lunch. (Arg.)
To give you an idea, here are some of the things you can't have on Low FODMAP:
The one good thing about transitioning from AIP to Low FODMAP? You suddenly have waaaaay more food options, so Low FODMAP doesn't feel all that restrictive. Don't get me wrong; it still sucks. Just not nearly as much as AIP.
The biggest challenges for me on Low FODMAP are avoiding onion, garlic, and wheat. There are lots more restrictions, but those seem to be the hardest to avoid when ordering take-out, which we do a lot. (Try ordering anything in a restaurant without onion in the seasoning, oof.) I can have most gluten-free breads, though, and even regular sugar is OK, so helloooooo, gluten-free cookies!
I should note this isn't a diet to lose weight, it's to feel better. It's also technically an elimination diet, though I don't plan to add anything back in anytime soon. Since I can't eat most things at restaurants I'm definitely eating healthier, though: lots of homemade soup and chicken and rice. The gluten-free bread and bagels at Aldi are fantastic - better & cheaper than Udi's - plus they have some little boxed cookies I like:
Don't get the Snickerdoodle ones, though; they made me gag. Urk.
While you're at Aldi (which I *highly* recommend for slashing your grocery bill in half, but that's another post), pick up these sesame chips, too:
Because Low FODMAP isn't low-carb I don't feel deprived, and being pain-free this long has me way too happy to miss my favorite forbidden foods. (Though in time I'm sure I will. Guacamole, I hardly knew you.)
Anyway, I'm no expert, and I'm not trying to give you a guide for starting Low FODMAP yourself; that's what Google is for. I just wanted you to know this option is out there. If you're like me and have life-long stomach problems, and you're fed up with feeling rotten, maybe give it a try!
Oh! And if any of you are already on Low FODMAP, what do you think? Any tips? Favorite recipes? Favorite take-out options? Please, hit me up in the comments; I'm getting tired of chicken and rice every night!