Adventures in FODMAPs part two

Continuing from my last post, in the middle of an IBS flare-up due to stress from being laid off from my job at the beginning of November, I decided that now was the perfect time to get this stuff under control and hopefully beat the fatigue once and for all. I read everything I could, I was already suspecting that I had fructose malabsorption, and I decided to do a FODMAPs elimination. FODMAPS if you are not familiar, are basically carbs and sugars found in healthy foods that actually work the opposite way in the GI tract of people who have IBS/IBD. You can find tons of information on FODMAPs all over the internet, many of it good but some of it conflicting. Nearly every legit site says that you should attempt the elimination under the care of a dietician but I figured I could handle it on my own. After all, I am once again without insurance and I’m only working very little on a contract basis so I don’t have a lot of money coming in to pay to see a dietician. I bought the Monash University FODMAP app which I highly recommend, even at $8, and started off my elimination. I decided to do it for 14 days since a lot of what I read said it wasn’t necessary to do it for 6 weeks as some other sources advised. Since I am a pescatarian, eating all the meat you want wasn’t going to be much of a help for me. The vast majority of healthy foods that I eat – black beans, cauliflower, apples, edamame, sweet potatoes, everything cooked with garlic, are all high FODMAP foods.

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Left, bloated. Right, the brief two days I was less bloated.

So I bought a couple bags of potatoes, and set off on 14 days (planned) eating nothing but oats, zucchini, potatoes, yellow squash, shrimp, salmon, eggs, spinach, and carrots. I figured an added benefit would be to get my raging sugar addiction under control. Monday, I felt great. Tons of energy, It definitely seemed like I was less bloated, and I was feel really hopeful about the process. I kept my food log, recorded symptoms, and for the first two days, everything seemed to be going really well. Then, it all went to shit, no pun intended. For some reason, I had diarrhea after breakfast, which was exactly the same breakfast I had Monday and Tuesday. It didn’t make sense but I figured maybe it was just residual FODMAPs in my system since the elimination phase is to “heal your gut” and get your GI in good working order to try adding back in potential irritating foods. Things started getting worse as Wednesday went on. I put Paprika on my potatoes at dinner and reacted after eating it for dinner and brunch the next day so I decided perhaps the paprika had hidden onion or garlic even though the container said it was just paprika. By Wednesday I felt even more bloated than I had before starting the diet and by Thursday, I couldn’t make it through my regular morning workout. I felt so exhausted, I could barely lift my legs to work out. Frustrated, I sat on the couch and cried. I felt defeated. I felt like of course this diet that was almost magical for other IBS/IBD sufferers wouldn’t work for me, I was doomed to be tired and bloated for the rest of my life. I cut out the paprika but the symptoms didn’t go away. Friday, I was tired plus depressed as I went about my day. I bought more FODMAP approved items, having plowed through my bags of potatoes which still somewhat triggers me, since they aren’t “good carbs.” I felt a rumble in my stomach while shopping at DSW and wondered in horror if I was going to have to run to the bathroom while standing in line waiting to check out. Still I went on, reading the ingredients of all the gluten free breads, trying to find even more bland foods, wondering why every single gluten free bread contains corn syrup, agave, or pear juice, all high-FODMAP. I told my boyfriend we were going to have to move to Australia, since the US hasn’t caught up with them on FODMAPS. In the end I bought exactly what I had been eating plus a pint of vegan gluten free ben & jerrys.

15194455_10157877402780327_2465925602768258538_oMy boyfriend sent me an article about egg intolerance, which has the exact same symptoms of everything else intolerance: bloating, fatigue, GI issues. How are you ever supposed to figure out what is making you sick? I cried again. I decided that I was going to have testing done to try to narrow down what I shouldn’t be eating, only to read dozens of legit internet sites saying they are all just rip-offs, there’s no blood or hair test that can definitively tell you and allergists have you do just what I was doing – eliminate and then test to see if you react. My best friend said maybe it is coffee, I’ve been eating so little the last week there’s not a lot the could be making me sick. I told her that we will never know because if I had to stop drinking coffee and I can’t have soda, a caffeine headache on top of everything else would definitely make me do nothing but lie in bed and cry. Saturday I woke up feeling like I didn’t have enough energy to make it through even a couple hours. I gave up on everything and emotionally ate a Cinnabon which let me tell you was a horrible idea after a week of no gluten, dairy, soy, or sugar. My body freaked the f*** out. So now, I’ve decided that maybe it is an egg intolerance so I’m giving up eggs for a week too. It’s really clear to me that I was not qualified to do this on my own and really should have believed everything when it said to work with a dietician. However, I feel better Saturday and Sunday than I did Wednesday – Friday. I don’t see how that’s even possible. My new plan is rather than giving up everything to eliminate FODMAPS one category at a time. Fructose, then fructans, then oligosaccarides, etc etc etc. I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last two months and if I have to stop working out, plus eating potatoes, I’m terrified that I will gain it all back which I am so frustrated with. I have vowed to never regain this weight again. I’m tired of yo-yoing. I’ve yo-yoed my whole life and I refuse to continue. So yeah. That’s where I am.

If you’re thinking that you need to eliminate FODMAPs, don’t try to do it on your own. Work with a dietician and/or doctor. This has been an exhausting – both physically and emotionally – week. I’m really not sure that I’m moving in the right direction but the elimination was SO restrictive and I felt so deprived that I know that I can’t continue it, especially when I’m still having symptoms. My boyfriend agreed that they actually got worse as the week progressed. I’m moving in the wrong direction. I’m at a loss. 😦

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Adventures in FODMAPs

This week, I started a FODMAP elimination diet. It has been quite an adventure, not in a good way. I want to start out with a little information on how I got to this point, but if you don’t care, skip to part two, I decided to make it a separate entry. 🙂

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Left – summer of 2009, Right – fall 2016

My current weight loss journey really began in late 2008 when I had what I now call “a nervous breakdown.” I was working full time, 8-5 monday through friday, and I was a full time undergraduate student, taking classes at night. I also started volunteering so my life was beyond full, every minute was taken up by something. It became rather stressful, but I was holding it together until my parents announced that they were getting a divorce. It also is important to note that I was dating a person who was emotionally and psychologically abusive. About three weeks after my parents announced their divorce, right before Christmas, I just didn’t get out of bed one morning. I didn’t call in sick to work, I just didn’t go. I turned off my cell phone and went back to sleep and didn’t listen to my voicemails for about 4 days. I felt like I had lost the ability to function. After a day or two of not calling anyone back, I obviously couldn’t go back to my job, although I did go back to pick up my personal items from my desk and I gave the owner a card of apology. I decided that I would live on student loans and focus on school and as it turned out taking care of both of my parents. My mother was an emotional mess, since she didn’t want a divorce, and my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer a few months after they split. Emotionally and mentally, this was the lowest low of my life, I was giving everything to my parents and had hardly any emotional energy left for myself. I spent a LOT of time lying in bed eating fried chicken. I told myself “I deserve this fried chicken because I feel so bad right now.” I made it to the heaviest I have ever been in 2009. I never weighed myself but my guess is it was around 215-225. fatpic

It was during that time, in the spring of 2009 that I started developing really upsetting GI issues. I was under a lot of stress with school and my parents, my dad started dating AND had kidney cancer. I remember distinctly a lunch with my dad and his girlfriend where I felt like my stomach was tied up in really painful knots so all I could order was a green salad with grilled chicken and I just picked at it with barely any appetite. Then, near the end of the meal, I had to run to the bathroom. I have never been a “use the bathroom for more than  peeing” type of person but I had the urgent need to go. That was the beginning of my Irritable Bowel Syndrome type symptoms. I have never actually been diagnosed with IBS/IBD because 2009 was also the beginning of a long period where I had no type of health insurance, so I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. If you have IBS/IBD, or any GI issues, you understand the hyper-vigilance that comes with never being sure when you might desperately need to use the bathroom. You have to always know where a bathroom is, anyplace that you go you are constantly making sure that you know where a restroom is. That same year I went on a trip to New Orleans with friends and I remember sitting outside, on the steps across from Jackson Square eating beignets from Cafe du Monde and saying “I am going to the bathroom, I’ll be right back” and desperately searching for a restroom in a town full of places with no public restrooms.

When I started trying to get healthier and lose the weight in 2010, I was pretty successful but I noticed that I was tired ALL THE TIME. Fatigue became a permanent part of my life. Even though I eventually lost a total of 40 pounds, my life was ruled by the fatigue – I would get up, work out, and then have to go take a nap because I was so tired. Friends that have fibromyalgia told me that this was similar to what they went through, but I’ve never had any other symptoms of fibro. I googled and read everything that I suspected it could be I didn’t meet the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome, or anything else I could find. I was just someone with IBS who was tired all the freaking time. Weight loss and healthier eating helped some, but I have never managed to shake at least mild fatigue for the last seven years. During the last 6-7 years I have lost and gained and re-lost dozens of pounds, managing to stay under 200 (for the most part) but never getting any lower than about 182. My IBS symptoms are mostly managed by healthy living and stress reduction but they resurface when I am under severe stress, like recently when I was laid off from my job. I experienced a surge in symptoms after I was laid off, which is very frustrating because the year and a half out of the last decade that I DID have insurance, I didn’t use it to go to a GI doctor because my symptoms were pretty well managed. Frustrated, I decided now is the best time to get my symptoms under control and hopefully conquer this fatigue which it’s hard now to remember a time that I wasn’t tired all the time. I decided to try the FODMAP elimination to identify which foods cause me trouble. For more about the details of FODMAP, read part two.