ME, my Digestion and I, The Tale of the Unhappy Threesome Continues

16 Jun
The ever present and growing food baby #bloated. Photo credit: Morguefiles user: grietgriet.

The ever present and growing food baby #bloated. Photo credit: Morguefiles user: grietgriet.

ME, my bloated belly and I are back to tell the second installment of my IBS tale. From the many comments I had on my previous post it seems IBS is a beast that bothers a lot of us. It’s really nice to know my bloated belly and I are not alone 🙂 so thank you for all your comments (if I’ve not yet replied, I will I promise. It’s just with ME/CFS I have to pace myself and this includes computer time so thank you for your comment and I will reply very soon).

Last post I gave a potted history of my experiences of IBS. Today I’m going to bring that history a bit closer to present day.

I can trace my current IBS ‘flare up’ back to last December. My ME/CFS specialist recommended I up my daily dose of Co-Enzyme Q10 from 200mg to 400mg. This I dutifully did, in the hope, as ever, of finding the magic cure for the crushing ME/CFS fatigue. But before my energy levels had chance to pick up even a little, my blasted bloated belly sprang into life. Pregnant food baby tummy was back. And back with vengeance. I quickly reduced my Q10 back to the lower dose and my GP gave me some meds to ease the reaction. But  it didn’t seem to make a jot of difference. My poorly gut was in a flare up and did not seem to be willing to quieten down. Depsite my many pleas. And in a nutshell, my gut has been playing up ever since.

Before last December I seemed to have my IBS symptoms under control (ish) through daily linseed and a gluten, dairy and low refined sugar diet. Things weren’t perfect but they were significantly better than they have been for the last 6 + months. Ever since that fateful day last December when I popped the extra Q10 into my mouth, my belly has bloated way WAY more than ‘my usual’ and I have not been as ‘regular’ in my waste disposal habits either! It seems to be a cumulative response. Generally it’s fine first thing and after breakfast. But by evening most days though my belly is bloated, stretched, tight, hard and sore. On really bad days, after lunch and early afternoon it is bad. Sometimes it eases down as the afternoon goes by and flares up again later on, other times it’s ever present.

I’ve never thought of myself as a fad dieter and I’m certainly not in the ‘magic way to lose weight’ sense. But I’m beginning to think I may be a fad dieter thanks to IBS… Over the years I’ve tried so many different diets and ‘eating plan’ combinations  to try and ease my IBS:

  • Wheat free
  • Gluten free
  • Yeast free
  • Dairy free
  • Lactose free
  • No refined sugar, low fructose
  • No sugar of any kind (fructose, sucrose, lactose etc etc)
  • Low GI
  • High fibre
  • Low fibre
  • Protein rich
  • Meat free
  • Low carb
  • FODMAP elimination
  • High soluable fibre
  • Low fat
  • etc etc

The list goes on and on and on…

With my IBS symptoms having gotten so bad in the last six months or so, I’ve renewed my attack on my digestion and poured my energy (what little I have) into trying to find a solution. I even got so desperate that I went for colonic hydrotherapy! That fun experience deserves its own post so that I can share all the lovely gory details so I’ll leave that one aside for now…

As you can probably guess from the list above diet has always been my preferred action plan for tackling my IBS. I’ve always shied away from prescription laxatives and antispasmodic drugs preferring a more natural approach: peppermint oil, linseed, prunes, psyllium husk (makes things veeeeeery smelly!), peppermint tea, fennel tea etc etc etc and managing symptoms by avoiding trigger foods (gluten and dairy in particular for me). I’ve tried too many things to remember them all!

Recently I embarked on the FODMAP elimination diet. I’m not going to use my precious energy explaining exactly what FODMAPs are, there are loads of great resources on this out there such as here and here. Suffice it to say FODMAPs are certain types of carbohydrates that are harder to digest. There’s quite a long and eclectic list of foods you need to cut out across a range of food groups, including: garlic, onion, apples, pears, broccoli, honey, fructose (a big FODMAP bad guy), legumes & pulses, lactose, wheat…the list is long. Again you can find good resources with FODMAP safe and unsafe food lists here and here.

The FODMAP elimination diet follows standard elimination principles. You cut out everything that contains FODMAPs for two weeks and then one category at a time you reintroduce them and in theory you will pinpoint which category of foods are your IBS triggers. I was so optimistic and hopeful that finally I’d got to the bottom of my IBS nightmare. For the first 5 days or so of the elimination things seemed to be going swimmingly. I wasn’t bloating and I was going to the toilet regularly – yippeeeeee. I felt euphoric! But then everything came to a crashing stop. Literally. My digestion and bowels decided to stop working. I was incredibly bloated, the food baby (I’d say it was twins) was back, and my body no longer wanted to, erm, relieve itself, erm, do a number two, erm, poo…. I continued with the FODMAP elimination for the rest of the 2 weeks but then gave up. The FODMAP literature all stated that by the end of the two week elimination period if FODMAPs were at the root of your problem then you would have seen noticeable improvement in your IBS symptoms. Erm no. Everything I read said that the FODMAP approach helped about 75% of IBS sufferers. Bloody typical my stubborn body decided it wanted to be in the minority…

So that was the end of avoiding FODMAPs.

One thing I did learn from FODMAPs was that lactose free dairy is not good for me. On the FODMAP elimination diet you’re not allowed cows milk dairy products but it recommends you use lactose free (ie. cows milk that has been treated with the enzyme lactase to reduce the lactose content) milk products instead. I dutifully bought lacto free milk and cheese. On eating these, I suffered cramps and pain worse than I’ve had for years and I put this down to having lactose free dairy for the 2 weeks of the FODMAP elimination. For the last few years the only dairy I’ve had is goats yoghurt and goats cheese. This is lower in lactose and I seemed to tolerate it okay. I used soya, nut or coconut milk. And I seemed okay on that. But lactose free cows milk certainly did my insides no good. So clearly I have a problem with cows milk dairy products that goes beyond lactose. So the FODMAP diet was not all in vain. I did learn something valuable from it. Always look for the silver lining in every cloud and all that….

Aside from no gluten and no dairy, I’m beginning to think it literally doesn’t matter what I eat. Little miss food baby is ever present. It seems by mid afternoon or early evening, food baby is back each and every day. It’s pretty dispiriting and disheartening. Pretty much downright frustrating and very very annoying.

Please don’t be put off trying the FODMAP diet by my account of it. It may not have worked for me, but you may be lucky and find yourself in the 75% portion of people it does help. If you are considering trying the FODMAP elimination diet I’d highly recommend Patsy Catsos’ book IBS Free at Last! It’s really comprehensive and clearly sets out how to follow the elimination diet and how to manage the reintroduction challenge phase.

Next post….the IBS strategy of high soluable fibre and low fat. This is the ‘fad’ I’m currently pursuing ever hopeful that there is an answer out there to my IBS nightmare.

For now, from me and my food baby, good night!

Have you tried the FODMAP elimination diet? How did you find it? What magic tricks (I’m beginning to think it requires magic) do you use to keep your IBS in check? 

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13 Responses to “ME, my Digestion and I, The Tale of the Unhappy Threesome Continues”

  1. seriouslythisismyreality June 19, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    I have IBS issues as well. I never know what will effect me. Even foods that normal do not upset me can turn demonic and attack my poor bloated belly. I have not tried any diets to combat this because I think it will just end up making things worse. I do drink a lot of green tea and that seems to help a lot. Good luck to you. I have started to follow your blog and I am anxious to share in your journey.

    • myjourneythrume June 19, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      Thanks for your comment and follow! I love your profile pic, I wish I could plug myself in to recharge too! I love green tea and drink copious amounts of it too, sometimes I wonder if that’s part of the problem. So hard to know isn’t it?!

  2. mandara August 27, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Hi! I was wondering if you thought about trying low fodmaps again, without the dairy? Experimenting with dairy at the same time might have ruined any results. Also, have you tried gaps/ scd?

    • myjourneythrume August 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

      I haven’t tried low FODMAPs without dairy but it is on my to do list, thanks for the reminder! I’ve been looking into GAPs and SCD too but not yet tried them yet. I worry that without any carbs my energy may be worse. Have you tried any of these diets?

  3. thehomeschoolingdoctor September 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    FODMAP elimination helps my bloating some. But I find that I still have bloating with tomato, a supposedly low FODMAP food. But low FODMAP doesn’t help some other IBS-C predominant stuff I have. So, for me, it is a piece of the puzzle, but doesn’t do it entirely! (Sorry for the late comment…I was cruising around your pages today and saw some new stuff!)

    • myjourneythrume September 6, 2013 at 8:25 am #

      Glad to hear FODMAP elimination is helping a bit. I seem to be okay with tomato, thank goodness because I do love tomatoes! I find raw fruit and veg worse than cooked – eating an apple raw makes me bloat instantly but stewed apple I seem to be fine with. Have you noticed anything similar?

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor September 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

        Yes, for sure! FODMAP foods raw or cooked are problematic, depending on amount. Non-FODMAP raw foods are usually problematic. Cooked, low-FODMAP fruits/veggies are acceptable.

  4. Michelle September 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    the thing i wonder when reading all the diets you’ve tried is … did you try any of these as an ONLY diet? (meaning you only ate that diet and no extras) and ~ okay i guess that makes two things i wonder ~ for how long did you try these things before you decided they didn’t help? I have had digestive problems, not bloating to your extent, but bloating, constipation for days, sometimes diarrhea after 4 day bouts of constipation… and once I got on stayed on the Paleo diet for two weeks, I felt better everywhere ~ including my gut. and the pipes were unclogged as well. I notice that when I give into a craving that I know I shouldn’t things get backed up again my body rebels and I get really tired again as well.

    • myjourneythrume September 18, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      I have in the past eliminated one thing at once and tried things individually. When I did the FODMAP elimination I added dairy back in as dairy is allowed. This was a bit silly given how badly dairy affects me (tho adding it back in made me really see that) and as a result I don’t know what low fodmap would be like for me without the dairy. But the way I’m eating now seems to be working so I’m happy for now at least!

      • N T November 10, 2014 at 10:19 am #

        My niece tried it when she had IBS – cured the IBS but seems to have triggeredChronic fatigue syndrome. Very possible that this is due to mineral/vitamen deficiencies. Don’t try these diets without doctors advice especially if you’re not absorbing foods well.

      • myjourneythrume November 18, 2014 at 9:10 am #

        Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Diet really came through for me in the end and has helped me a lot in my recovery from both IBS and ME/CFS. I think you’re right you need medical supervision, especially if embarking on diet interventions is a new venture for you. I hope your niece is doing better now.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Bloated Bellies Are Us: does a high soluble diet help IBS? | my journey thru M.E. - June 20, 2013

    […] I said in my last post, the low FODMAP approach to managing my IBS symptoms has bitten the dust. Sadly it did not reduce […]

  2. Deciphering Food Intolerances | my journey thru M.E. - July 16, 2013

    […] – until the FODMAP elimination diet debacle, I was having a kiwi (with a few almonds and brazils…) each morning as my mid morning […]

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