Week One on the Low-FODMAP Diet

Week One on the Low-FODMAP Diet

The reason I have not posted in a while is because my time was taken up with trying this new diet to relieve my symptoms of IBS. After a very expensive shopping trip to the supermarket and a lot of preparing each evening I simply did not have time and was overwhelmed with the information I was discovering. Best of all, I am in a lot less pain, less bloating and overall feel better in myself.

I have only completed one week on this restricting diet and no it isn’t miraculous, I’m still not 100% but to eat a meal and not feel like my insides are at war with each other is a very welcoming sense of relief.

For all those unfamiliar with FODMAPs please see my explanation here: What are FODMAPs?

I knew I wanted to try the diet and I knew I would also need some direction. Not being a dietician I wanted to make sure I was following the diet correctly(otherwise I wouldn’t know if it was effective) and getting all the nutrients I needed.

So I went to the next best thing, a book. I chose The Complete Low FODMAP Diet by Dr Sue Shepherd and Dr Peter Gibson to be my guide throughout my foodie journey. It was scientific, covering everything I personally wanted to know with a range of recipes. My favourite part being the Menu Plan.

I roughly followed this menu plan, swapping meals for different days to suit me but I knew I was still getting a healthy balanced diet with foods that would hopefully not cause me any problems.

It was hard shopping for the week, reading all the labels and realising onion and garlic – things to avoid – were simply in a lot of things we eat everyday. The hardest part was trying to find allowable spices and sauces (stock and gravy). Especially as I am already on a gluten-free diet to reduce my symptoms.

I stuck to the recipes as much as I could with what I could find and for week two I’m hoping to devise a cheaper menu plan! Luckily I have a lot of herbs and spices already in the cupboard now to give my food flavour.

This was what my boyfriend feared the most, I was only going to subject him to my meals for the evening meal of the day but he thought they would be tasteless and overly healthy. Each day he was surprised with what I had cooked, not only due to the fact I had actually cooked (as this is not a talent of mine) but also the taste and variety of the food.

I found it exciting to try new foods such as, swordfish. Make pancakes with a savoury twist. Bake a handmade cheesecake, one of the things I had loved to eat before having to go on a gluten free diet and I didn’t bother trying to make my own as I assumed it was a lot of effort (turns out it is effortless, it just tests how patient you can be while it cooks, cools and then sits there in the fridge tantalising you).

I was not looking forward to trying this diet but because I was driven to make it work and prepare my lunch in the morning and create amazing cooked meals after work, I really enjoyed my food again.

I hope to stay on the diet until I feel my IBS is under control, it certainly is better but I don’t want to rush things and I want to let it heal, do some good. Then, as advised by the book and throughout the internet I shall try to reintroduce a FODMAP at a time and monitor my symptoms – I believe this will be the tricky part with a lot of trial and error – but if it means I won’t have to be so careful with what I eat and can enjoy a meal out, it will make it all worth it.


For further reading, I have also found support groups on Facebook to be helpful.

I have shared a few pictures of my low-FODMAP meals on Twitter I hope to post on here too describing each of the different meals.

My Facebook page contains latest news and tips on managing IBS and other digestive disorders.

Let’s educate ourselves on digestive health and support others to find a friend in food.

Advertisements

Difference between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance

Both a food allergy and intolerance can make your body sensitive to a particular food or ingredient causing unwanted physical reactions whenever you eat the foodie culprit.

Only 2% of the adult population have a food allergy, where as 45% have a type of food intolerance.

Food allergy occurs when an antigen or trigger in the food reacts with specific immunoglobulin (also known as antibodies) in the immune system, as your body recognises the food as a foreign substance (allergen) when eating the food for the first time.

When you eat the offending food again, the antibodies attack the allergen, producing histamine and other chemical, setting off various types of symptoms.

Some foods are also naturally high in histamines. These include aged and fermented foods and alcohol (especially red wine), some people are sensitive to these types of foods.

‘Histamine poisoning’ can happen if you eat fish not kept at safe temperatures and has spoiled before you ate them. Those fish can build up high levels of histamines, which can make you sick.

Anaphylaxis is the most dangerous kind of an allergic reaction, involving the breathing and circulation, and causing faintness and shock, with a fall in blood pressure and in serious cases can lead to death (nut allergy, for example). Symptoms of food sensitivity include swelling of the lips, diarrhoea and vomiting. You may have eczema, a very runny nose or asthma.

Usually the reaction is acute and immediate, but it may be delayed, as in the case of coeliac disease (gluten being the allergen).

A food allergy can be tested by a patch test or blood test from your local doctors.

Food intolerance reactions are not caused by the immune system but is brought about by other mechanisms. For example, a milk intolerance (lactose intolerant) is due to a lack of a particular digestive enzyme, lactase.

Some active chemicals may be present in the food causing a reaction, such as caffeine, causing a racing heart and tremor. Some suffer from food additives provoked by hypersensitivity.

The timing of these symptoms vary, swelling tissues, vomiting and a runny nose appear within one hour. Rashes and diarrhoea may take longer, 2-24hours. Some disorders, headaches and irritability, may last for several days.

Long term problems relating to food include irritable bowel, hyperactivity disorder and migraine.

A food intolerance causes different reactions for different people so there is no definite test to find out your food intolerance. Monitor what you are eating and how it makes your body react and always seek professional advice from your local doctor.

In some cases, weeks or months of elimination of the intolerant food may well lead to reintroduction of the food without a reaction, as your body learns to build up a tolerance.


For further reading please see here there is a wealth of free food fact sheets on the Association of UK Dieticians website, all very useful and available here.

My Diet through the Years

Childhood

young-me-in-maccydI was a very fussy eater. I didn’t like different foods touching and often I would eat one thing on my plate to then move onto the rest rather than mix it all together. I would go days and sometimes weeks of just eating the same thing, I remember one time only wanting to eat sausages all week and nothing else and another time only wanting to eat dairy. Luckily I’m now over all these odd phases. I would definitely say my diet was unhealthy, as you can tell from the image above (I’m on the right) even if it was for my niece’s birthday.

Teenage Years

For many years I was a pescatarian, it made it easier for my Mum who did most of the cooking as my Dad was too but it was my decision and I felt good for having more fish and vegetables and cutting out meat. However, a lot of the go-to vegetarian freezer food has wheat involved. So I probably didn’t help myself by having toast or cereal in the morning, taking a packed lunch with a sandwich, crisps and most likely a cheese-string as they were popular back then and goodness knows whatever unhealthy snacks. I do remember going through a phase of giving away the unhealthy things to other class mates or trading my chocolate bar for an apple.

Twenties

This is when my problems began… actually to be honest I’m sure they began a lot sooner. This is really where I started paying attention to what my body was telling me, not that I had much choice as I was continuously being ill. I knew I had to figure out what was triggering my discomfort after eating, I monitored my pains and found I felt particularly bloated after eating, especially at lunch. I used to have sandwiches, cheese or ham and yoghurt and fruit. I decided to cut out wheat and dairy and introduce things slowly. I quickly found out wheat was my main culprit.

I changed my morning toast for porridge and have rice cakes instead of bread for lunch. But I was still having pains. I took out oats, therefore porridge and was feeling better.

It wasn’t as simple as it sounds and had quite a few trips to the doctors and phone consultations before I was prescribed to have IBS tablets, because I had already cut out wheat from my diet I couldn’t have a blood test to see if I am coeliac and I don’t fancy a tube inside me for someone to tell me there’s no cure but to eat well. Although, in desperate times I did try a holistic allergy test involving changes in muscle strength when in close proximity to different allergens. Using this method it claimed I am allergic to gluten, wheat, strawberries and green beans, an unproven test but seemed to be quite accurate for me.

Now (25years old)

I am far from being healthy, I’m still catching every cold I come in contact with and sometimes my stomach will unexplainably upset or will feel uncomfortable after food and some days I just feel absolutely exhausted. So I have decided to really monitor what I am eating and would like to share my journey to help others and gain more knowledge and basically – get to grips with my gastro system and find a friend in food rather than seeing it as something that bothers me!

The first change was to swap sunflower oil for olive oil, which is a more stable fat and therefore healthier… look out for a post on cooking oils coming soon.

I try to make sure I have eggs at least once a day, avocado too, if possible for protein, vitamins and minerals – a whole lot of good stuff!

Using my ‘safe foods’ my foundation diet of these foods is as follows;

Breakfast -Two eggs and half an avocado (or whole depending on size)

Lunch – A range of organic greek yoghurt, goats cheese on rice cakes, nuts with half a cube of dark chocolate and fruit (banana, apple) and sometimes a carrot or two.

Evening Meal – Based around rice or potato (mostly jacket potato with skin on) with fish or chicken and vegetables.

I drink a lot of water, at least a pint or more before I set off for work and always have a glass next to me throughout the day.

In the morning and evening I tend to have peppermint tea or any herbal tea that has a mix of peppermint to aid digestion, plus keeps the breathe fresh after all the eggs and fish!

I have tried and should try harder to have sauerkraut on the side of every evening meal as it full of ‘good’ bacteria to help inhibit bad bacteria in the gut.

I have just started out on this new diet and will keep posting as I discover new things. I have already started, as mentioned in my last post, identifying my own ‘safe foods’ and intolerable foods.

Safe food: Cashew Nuts

Intolerable food: Peppers

… learning something new everyday!

Make a list of ‘safe foods’

Categorise your food into ‘safe’, ‘tolerable’ and ‘non-tolerable’.

You will want to start off with ingredients in your diet which are safe foods and work out which foods are best for you from there, everyone is different, so this helps to see what foods are best for you.

By making a list you can clearly see what your gut can tolerate and that’s when you can start to plan ahead your meals for each day.

Starting off with already known safe foods and introducing different things into your diet will give you a clear idea of what foods to avoid, hopefully making less ‘bad days’. If you do however have a ‘bad day’ go back to your list of safe foods, as this will be the foundation of your diet until you can introduce new foods again.

Foods that will be a good base to your diet will be the following:

  • Rice
  • Eggs (full of protein but intolerable for some)
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Fish such as smoked salmon and mackerel
  • Peppermint Tea (I prefer this warm to cold as I find it hard to tolerate hot drinks)
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Sauerkraut
  • Potatoes with the skins on
  • Chicken
  • Yoghurt (organic greek yoghurt or probioctic, avoid if dairy intolerant)

Even some of the above can not be tolerated by some, so choose the ones that are kind to your own gut. These will give you a balanced, varied diet providing you with the vitamins and minerals which would have otherwise not been absorbed fully into the system when on a ‘bad day’. Supplements can be taken but always along with a healthy diet, in my own opinion supplements are aids to help you absorb more nutrients than you are able to in your diet but should never be replaced with any meals or food categories.

Certain things that are best to avoid to start with:

  • Vegetables and Fruit with skins on
  • Caffeine
  • Fatty Foods
  • Fizzy Drinks
  • Wheat and Gluten
  • Milk

The above are mostly ingredients that our stomachs find hard to digest, these tend to cause bloating and discomfort by taking the above out of your diet for a few weeks it gives your gut a chance to calm down and return to a norm.

If having a whole new diet change is a bit daunting to yourself and your gut, just make small changes, for example start replacing your morning coffee for a peppermint tea instead.

Good luck and if this post has helped at all let me know.

I will be going into more details on later posts about everything noted above.