I have had IBS for most of my life. When I was younger no one called it IBS. There wasn’t a name for it or any reasonable cause. It was just something I lived with and dreaded, took Pepto-Bismal and Immodium for the symptoms and never knew I could control it or change it. It cropped up at the most inconvenient moments, ruining so many good times.
As an adult in my late twenties I began to experience migraine headaches. I went to several doctors, chiropractor, acupuncture, physical therapy. I tried more prescription medications than I could count. Migraines ruled my life. I got them a couple of times a week and sometimes they lasted for days. I took sumitriptan as needed for nearly twenty years.
Eat healthy, they said. Get your fiber, they said. I thought I was doing my body good by eating plenty of whole grains and raw vegetables but my IBS problems became such an issue a few years ago that the doctor sent me for a colonoscopy.
I received a clean bill of health and the doctor told me my issues were probably related to some type of food allergy. He recommended eliminating processed foods from my diet to see if that helped and also cutting back on the amount of fiber I was consuming. If that didn’t help, I would have to start eliminating specific food groups to try to narrow down the allergy.
So… Don’t eat whole grains and raw vegetables??? Stop eating processed foods! What’s left? The thought of eating chicken and boiled vegetables the rest of my life did not make me very happy. To stop eating things I’ve been eating my entire life just seemed like a monumental task, not to mention horribly inconvenient.
Eliminating processed food was not easy. I started by making small changes. I would take certain foods out and figure out what whole foods I could replace them with. It was a slow and frustrating process and didn’t seem to be helping my IBS much at all. But I knew that I was making my body healthier by getting rid of boxed and frozen dinners and packaged foods full of chemicals and preservatives.
I started eating the plain old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast as an alternative to boxed cereal. Normally I would top it with blueberries but for a change one day I decided to throw a handful of raisins in my oatmeal. Those raisins slammed my IBS into overdrive! Raisins… Who would have thought it??? I couldn’t believe they could be causing so much havoc so I did some online research and that was how I discovered Fructose Malabsorption. The symptoms matched mine, it made perfect sense. My body could not digest normal amounts of fructose.
I read everything I could find about FODMAP diets and discovered a host of other problem foods for me. FODMAP (Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) are short chain carbohydrates that are not easily digested for some people, causing IBS symptoms. Some of these FODMAP’s include Fructose which is found in fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup. Fructans in wheat, garlic and onion. Lactose in dairy products. Galactans in beans, lentils etc. Polyols found in sweeteners such as sorbitol and xylitol and stone fruits like avocado and peaches.
The information you find on Fructose Malabsorption and FODMAP diets on the internet is varied and sometimes contradictory. I did a lot of reading and through much trial and error I found what works for me. Fructose tolerance varies depending on the fructose to glucose ratio in some fruits and vegetables. I don’t seem to have any issues with dairy products or lactose but I have issues with most of the other FODMAP. I don’t eat out very often anymore because almost everything on the menu has garlic or onions and a host of other unknown ingredients that may bother me. If I really want to go out and enjoy the company of friends and family I usually eat before I go and just order an iced tea to sip on while they eat. It hasn’t been easy but it has been worth it to have normal healthy guts.
When I removed all the processed and problem foods from my diet I saw immediate results. My IBS improved significantly and within a few months of being on the low FODMAP diet and restricting my fructose intake, I stopped having migraine headaches. I haven’t had one since. It was an unexpected bonus! Wow, twenty years of suffering could have been prevented if I had only know this way back then. The power of the internet, you gotta love it! I used to dream of not having to deal with migraines and IBS. I guess I can check that dream off my list!