Ok, let’s try to get through this blog post without crying. I can do it, I can do it…
As some of you know I have battled chronic health issues for almost the past two years. It has not only taken a massive toll on me physically, but emotionally, that’s where it hits the hardest. Two years of scans, blood tests, providing samples, an exploratory procedure, ultrasounds, X-Rays, countless Doctor’s appointments, specialist appointments and different medications all to try to figure out what is wrong with me. I think unless you have physically gone through having a chronic health issue, it would be pretty hard to understand what I have been through. I have spent thousands of dollars just to rule out possibilities and in that process, I feel like barely any progress has been made. I’m finding out what it isn’t, rather than what it is. This whole process has been very emotional for me but on the majority I’ve kept it to myself and my loved ones just because I feel like people won’t or can’t understand. I’m writing this in the hope that I can find a community of people who have gone through this same issue because honestly, I need the support and knowledge of someone who has gone through this themselves.
Just under two years ago I started having abdominal discomfort, I was bloating and constantly on the toilet. I let it go for a while until I couldn’t deal with the constant pain and bloating anymore and I went and saw my GP. We started off with blood tests, I would try to list all the blood tests I have had but in all honesty, I can’t remember. There has been so many blood tests done on me, they’ve checked and re-checked and it’s now to the point they struggle finding my veins. Along with this I was tired and lethargic all the time. I would come home from work and be so tired that I would fall asleep within 5-10 minutes. I was at the point where I was genuinely concerned that I would fall asleep while driving and I would literally have to be on the phone to someone my whole drive home otherwise I would start drifting off. After a while they discovered I had a parasite (by the way, parasites are only contagious through contact with number 2’s so I wasn’t going to spread it to anyone). This parasite is most commonly found in children under 5 years old. Not surprising I caught it seeing as my job is working with children under 5… Anyway, when I found this out I was thinking, ‘Yep, sweet! It’s all sorted. I’m not going to be tired anymore, my health and digestion will improve.‘ Well that didn’t happen.
After two courses of antibiotics the parasite was gone but nothing else had changed. I was still tired, I was still bloating and getting constipated regularly. Not to mention I was sick all the time. We then moved on to scans to see if something physically was wrong. I had X-Rays, Ultrasounds and CT-Scans and all they found was I had very bad constipation and the start of Fatty Liver Disease. My GP told me in order to treat my Fatty Liver Disease I had to reduce my carbohydrate intake to 0-1 serves per day. By this point I had already discovered a list of foods that cause me to bloat more than usual. This list includes bread, rice, pasta and potato – carbs. Basically any starchy or wheat based food. This confused people a bit because I had done a blood test for Coeliac Disease and it came back negative. So I wasn’t allergic to wheat or gluten yet it caused and it still does cause the most upset and bloated stomach for me so I just don’t eat it. People have said, ‘Don’t you miss eating those foods?’ or ‘I couldn’t live without carbs!’ but in all honestly I choose not to eat it because of the pain it causes me. If you knew how much pain eating those foods cause me, you wouldn’t eat them either.
By this time a year had passed and we still hadn’t found the cause of my health issues. My GP referred me to a Gastroenterology Specialist who informed me I needed to have a colonoscopy and an endoscopy – wasn’t that a delightful experience… I guess you could say thankfully nothing sinister was found during those procedures but my stomach was slightly inflamed. This lead them to think my issues are diet related. Alongside with the fact that I have always struggled to lose weight, they figured I was either intolerant to certain foods or I had a malabsorbtion issue. My Gastroenterologist then requested for me to do the FODMAP diet to address the issues and intolerances.
So what is the FODMAP diet? FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. I know, I know, you probably have no idea what those words mean and because I’m no doctor, here’s a table from The Monash University to explain it better.
The Low FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at The Monash University. Now, I’m reminding you again, I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any extensive medical knowledge. I’m doing the FODMAP diet alongside my dietitian as I have been told it is very hard to do this diet without the support of a health professional. So basically, there are two phases. Phase 1 is where you restrict High FODMAP foods for 4-6 weeks. My dietitian has said 4 weeks for me. I think it’s basically to see if foods high in FODMAPs do affect me and to clear everything out of my system.
Basically my diet at the moment is gluten-free, wheat free, lactose free and fructose free, as much as possible. The thing that I am going to struggle with the most is no onion or garlic. My dietitian informed me that onion and garlic is actually from the same family as wheat and rye, so if I am struggling to eat wheat and other glutenous products, onion and garlic may be having the same effect. (insert sad face here). They all contain something called Fructans (a polymer – [a big molecule] made up of fructose molecules). I pretty much ate garlic every day and onion multiple times a week but my dietitian has said because FODMAPs are not soluble in oil, I can cook some whole garlic pieces in oil and then obviously discard the garlic if I’m struggling to incorporate enough flavour. Or, you know, I could just buy garlic oil as well… As for onions I am allowed to have the green part of a spring onion, just not the white part. I am refusing to look at this as what I can’t eat. I am actually thinking this is going to make me feel better and if I’m struggling I think what can I have instead. There are so many gluten-free and lactose free products out there these days, there’d have to be with around 1 in 7 Australians having IBS.
Ooops! Almost forgot the second phase. The second phase is most importantly done alongside the dietitian as it involves the re-introduction of High FODMAP foods. In this stage the dietitian will determine the type and amount of foods that I can tolerate so that I am not living with a restrictive diet forever. Basically the end result is a diet that is individually suitable for me with lower problematic foods than the amount originally consumed. Everyone’s diet after this stage will be slightly different as everyone is unique.
I’ve only been doing the Low FODMAP diet for 2 days so I can’t really say how it is affecting me yet as I’m sure I’ve got High FODMAP molecules floating around still. Has anyone gone through this before? Surely I’m not the only one! Also, tell me your experiences with the Low FODMAP diet. I’d love and appreciate some support and advice!
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