I thought everyone hurt after they ate.
No one talked about the condition of one’s internal organs when I was growing up, so I didn’t realize that the pain I felt after each meal wasn’t normal.
I’m so grateful that finally, the puzzle pieces started falling into place a few years ago when I discovered a surprising diet that would eventually make me feel as though I could dance on water.
My job now is to share information, to help others like me who are suffering and have suffered all their lives.
How IBS was Ruining my Life
I have had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) all my life, but it kicked up a notch nine years ago when my father became ill and consequently died.
A period of traumatic stress or prolonged stress can have this effect, and it can also be the start of a lifetime of suffering from IBS even if you have never had it before.
Though there is no cure for IBS and the mechanism that causes it is not completely understood yet, there are certain factors besides stress that can cause IBS – too many antibiotics, an operation (particularly in the abdominal area), a radical change of diet, a gut infection, or it might even be hereditary.
The main symptoms of IBS are bloating, pain from trapped gas, incomplete evacuation, irregular bowel habits with constipation, diarrhea or a combination of both. These symptoms will fluctuate in severity and can be aggravated by a variety of stimuli like stress, lack of sleep and diet.
In my attempt to find an answer for my IBS symptoms which were dominating my life, I tried various different diets including the Paleo diet which cuts out all grains and hence gluten.
Why are “Healthy” Meat and Vegetables Still Making me Hurt!?!
I started to feel worse than ever and, in desperation, scoured the internet for an answer after a particularly bad episode following a “healthy” dinner of meat and vegetables.
A complicated-sounding diet kept flitting across my radar but I ignored it because it was blaming the many fruits and vegetables I ate for my problems.
How could that be possible?
They were healthy.
It had to be just another invented eating regime with no scientific basis.
So, I kept searching and then I hit a site where the blogger described her symptoms, and I felt like she was describing me. She went on to explain that her savior was the low FODMAP diet.
There it was again – the diet that blamed fruit and vegetables.
I heaved a sigh and almost turned away but, after all, this blogger had my symptoms and was saying there was a solution. As stubborn as I felt about it, I had to give this diet a little time.
I found out that a test existed, the Hydrogen Breath test, to see if I was mal-absorbing a couple of the FODMAP groups (there are four) – lactose and fructose.
I thought that was a good place to start and had soon booked in for the test. And, yes, I malabsorbed fructose — but had no problem with lactose.
In fact, it is very unusual for a person to have a problem with all the FODMAP groups.
But that left the other two groups, the polyols and the oligosaccharides, and the only way to see how I dealt with them was to do the elimination diet – the first stage of the low FODMAP diet. (So I could really have saved myself the time and expense of the Hydrogen Breath test and gone straight to the elimination diet.)
What’s a FODMAP?
Let’s clarify what these FODMAPs are.
FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.
The low FODMAP diet was developed at Monash University in Melbourne by Dr. Peter Gibson and Dr. Sue Shepherd and has been scientifically proven to significantly help 75% of people with IBS.
This is not a fad diet but an incredible scientific breakthrough in the treatment of IBS. Research into the FODMAP levels in individual foods is ongoing at the research centre of the Monash University.
Let’s break down the word FODMAP
- Fermentable: the process through which gut bacteria break down undigested carbohydrate to produce gases (hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide).
a) fructo-oligosaccharides found in wheat, barley, rye, onions and garlic etc.
b) galacto-oligosaccharides found in legumes/pulses.
- Disaccharides: lactose found in milk, soft cheese, yoghurts etc.
- Mono-saccharide: fructose (in excess of glucose) found in honey, many fruits and vegetables, high fructose corn syrups etc.
- Polyols: sugar polyols (eg. sorbitol, mannitol) found in some fruit and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners.
So, yes, certain grains – wheat, barley and rye – are a problem for us and should be eliminated, but eliminating only some of the FODMAPs from the diet will have little effect because only one high FODMAP food in the diet will cause symptoms.
It is an all or nothing diet.
The Paleo diet should have helped but, with the lack of grains, one tends to eat more meat and vegetables and therein lay the problem. I was actually increasing my FODMAP intake.
So I’m FODMAP Intolerant?
Let’s be clear. We are not intolerant to FODMAPs but we malabsorb them.
The high FODMAP carbohydrates in our food don’t get well absorbed in the small intestine and travel down into the large intestine where they get fermented by the bacteria there, resulting in uncomfortable bloating along with either diarrhea, constipation or a mix of the two.
If you don’t send excess FODMAPs down into the large intestine, in the face of no other underlying problem, there will be no bloating or embarrassing elimination problems. You can live a happy, healthy life like everyone else.
While we are clarifying matters, I want to address the gluten issue. Gluten is the protein part of grains like wheat, barley and rye while the fructans (fructo-oligosaccharides) are the carbohydrate part. Those with IBS have a problem with carbohydrates and not proteins, so gluten is not an issue (but wheat is).
However, those on a low FODMAP diet may use the term gluten-free because it is widely understood by the public while, if we said fructan-free, people would look sideways at us.
Meal Planning Help from Suzanne
Will a Low-FODMAP Diet Cure my IBS?
And the very last matter to clarify – there is no cure for IBS. But the low Fodmap diet together with lifestyle changes to control stress, will eliminate your symptoms.
I now live a symptom-free, joyful life which is so different from the decades of bloating, pain and bowel issues that preceded my discovery of this miraculous diet.
I can eat any grain that doesn’t contain fructans, and gluten is not my problem.
Just a warning: this diet is complex and not just a list of good foods and bad foods, and you will need guidance where the amounts, combinations and accumulation of FODMAPs are concerned.
If you have IBS, it is your answer, but do get help.
The news of this diet is spreading throughout the world, changing lives. If your health practitioner hasn’t heard of it, don’t give up – find someone who has both the knowledge and personal experience of the diet to help you implement it correctly and integrate it into your life.
Get the “Low FODMAP Permitted Foods List” download immediately:If you’d like to learn more about how Suzanne is helping people like you cook and eat low FODMAP foods, you can jump right to an application form for a complimentary, obligation-free conversation with Suzanne about your issues and her coaching program:
IBS Webinar Replay: You’re Not Alone
Watch Suzanne and Katie on a webinar for IBS sufferers and their loved ones – find out more about how to squash your IBS symptoms like a bug instead of letting them make you feel like crawling under a rock. She covers a TON of information, and the Q&A at the last 20 minutes might even be some of the best parts:
Katie here – I’m so grateful to Suzanne for this guest post about an important and under-discussed solution that I know will help many people!! Who knows, maybe even my husband, who has had wildly mixed results as he slowly comes down off his Whole30 and tries to learn what foods hurt his system and which ones are benign. I really enjoyed hosting her for the IBS webinar and probably learned as much as anyone!
Guest author: Suzanne Perazzini lives in Auckland, New Zealand. She is a nutritional therapist specializing in irritable bowel syndrome and the low Fodmap diet (certified by the Monash University on the low Fodmap diet), qualified teacher, award-winning author and fulltime low Fodmap diet coach. Her website, Strands of my Life features low Fodmap recipes, videos and articles on IBS and the diet. She has been featured on numerous podcasts, has had articles on several large health websites and had many of her recipes published in hard copy magazines. She has suffered from IBS forever and after having her life transformed by the low Fodmap diet, she now dedicates her days to coaching others on how to eliminate their IBS symptoms once and for all.
Suzanne’s latest book, The Low FODMAP 6-Week Plan & Cookbook is now available online and in all good book stores.
You can jump on a phone call with her by applying HERE.
Disclosure: Kitchen Stewardship will get a little kickback from any private coaching that Suzanne schedules, but the webinar is completely free, no obligation, and packed with information.