~ by Kate Watson
Now seriously, our digestive and bowel habits aren’t issues that we bring up too often in every day conversation. And I’m not suggesting you necessarily start doing that. But I’ve come to find that so many people, in particular women, live with ongoing digestive issues, which they tend to ignore or just accept as normal. If you’ve spent any time in a grocery store lately, you may have observed that there is a definite trend out in the marketplace promoting products to improve digestive health. I think that is both because there is an increased incidence in gastrointestinal problems as well as an increased awareness of the important relationship between our gut health and our overall health.
Did you know that healthy women fart an average of 7 times a day and men 14 times a day? Good to know, isn’t it?! I do believe it is important to know what is considered normal as well as what is normal for you. I myself lived for years unaware that it was not normal to have abdominal pain, bloating, and gas immediately after eating. By the end of most work days, I needed to change into stretch pants to accommodate my expanding, bloated belly! I had frequent diarrhea, accompanied by urgency, so I never traveled too far from a bathroom and always had my Immodium on hand. Sometimes, I think we gradually adapt to feeling bad and forget what feeling good is like! But eventually, things kept getting worse, and the impact on my daily life was severe enough that I went to see my doctor to find out what was wrong.
Enter my long and frustrating journey with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I ended up seeing various doctors throughout the years for it and had many medical procedures done to rule out any other serious illnesses, but the consensus was IBS. I was told it is not harmful, in that it wouldn’t cause any damage to my intestines the way something like Celiac disease would, and that was merely “inconvenient and annoying.” Most suggestions I received from doctors were trial and error- to find my food triggers, try medications, and to get my stress under control. I was finding out there is no single remedy that works for every individual with IBS. I tried everything I could over a period of years- I learned stress reduction techniques, used herbs, tried acupuncture, went to therapists, exercised, tried cutting out dairy, gluten, tried low fiber, high fiber, high carb, and low carb diets! But nothing made any significant or lasting improvement.
My symptoms would get better and worse seemingly with no rhyme or reason. I could find no link to any common food. A few years ago, a new GI doctor I started going to had the wisdom to test me for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), which I tested positive for. The treatment for it was an antibiotic, which provided me with a great deal of relief, for a while. I had another episode of SIBO after the first time, but was not able to tolerate the medications the second time around.
I found myself often becoming discouraged and depressed about my GI issues because I felt that no matter what I ate, I was going to pay for it afterwards with stomach pain. I could find no long term or sustainable solution. I was disappointed in myself because I am a dietitian for crying out loud, and I felt I should be able to help myself! And I became a dietitian in large part because I believed food was meant to heal, so it was quite disheartening to feel that all food seemed to be causing me pain!
About a year ago, I had an episode of abdominal pain that put me on the floor writhing in pain. I went to the doctor, fearing it was something serious. He thought it may be an ulcer so I started on proton pump inhibitors. I knew that something had to change drastically for me at this point because I didn’twant to merely put a band-aid on the issue with more medication again but I wanted to find a lasting solution! In my desperation, I started researching again and came upon the low FODMAPS diet. I had no idea what in the world FODMAPs meant and it certainly wasn’t something we were taught in college. Turns out it stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disacccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols (hence the need for an acronym)! The FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed, which provides food for intestinal bacteria, leading to digestive discomforts. Too many FODMAPS in my diet very likely explained my episodes of SIBO and chronic abdominal pain. And so it made sense that a diet low in FODMAPs might help reverse the symptoms. According to all of the data I found, the low FODMAPs diet is the only scientifically proven diet to help relieve the symptoms of IBS, with almost 75% of patients showing improvement. That was the most promising information I’d ever heard for IBS sufferers and encouraging enough to make me want to try it!
I bought myself a great FODMAPs app for my Iphone, did a lot internet research for recipes and support, and completed a continuing education course on it to learn as much as I could. After just a week on the diet, my symptoms were drastically reduced and after a month on it, I felt like what a “normal” person must feel like. It seemed like nothing short of a miracle after nearly 15 years of stomach issues!
Although the low FODMAPs diet is not meant to be long term and is not exactly easy to follow, I learned a ton from it about what foods my body tolerates and I finally feel in control of my digestive health. I no longer need to be tethered to my toilet! I’m so excited that the discovery of FODMAPs offers real hope and I love empowering fellow IBS sufferers with this new and powerful tool!
To learn more about a low FODMAPS diet or to address your own digestive concerns, contact VIBRANCE at 206-227-1231 to schedule an initial consultation with Kate!