Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a diagnosis that no one wants but is one that many people have. Truthfully, I feel that IBS is a catch-all diagnosis that people end up with when the doctor doesn’t really know what the issue is. IBS can cause a person to have chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation, stomach pain, joint aches and pains, anxiety and more. Many different stomach issues can cause these sometimes very different symptoms but there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.
Prescription drugs made my IBS less painful, however, they did not help the root cause of the problem. The IBS symptoms did not stop. In truth, masking a symptom is something that people in the United States do often. However, it is not about healing. So, what is the remedy?
For me, there was no real gain in health in controlling my IBS symptoms until I found the FODMAPS diet. At one point, about three years ago, I couldn’t eat anything without having major stomach burning and pain, chronic diarrhea, and a feeling of terrible malady that would not stop. I was washed out. My first step to health was in removing gluten from my diet. This helped tremendously but did not stop the symptoms completely. Then, I removed milk. That helped a little more. But, it did not allow me to get the symptoms under control. During the summer of 2012, I found the FODMAPS diet first from my friend who is also an acupuncturist and then secondly by reading Chris Kresser’s post. This diet made me stop and think. I had already done many pieces of it but my symptoms did not stop completely.
What is FODMAPS? It is a diet that originated in Australia. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols. According to Barbara Bradley Bolen, Ph.D., “The FODMAP theory holds that consuming foods high in FODMAPs results in increased volume of liquid and gas in the small and large intestine, resulting in distention and symptoms such as abdominal pain and gas and bloating. The theory proposes that following a low FODMAP diet should result in a decrease in digestive symptoms. The theory further holds that there is a cumulative effect of these foods on symptoms. In other words, eating foods with varying FODMAP values at the same time will add up, resulting in symptoms that you might not experience if you ate the food in isolation. This might explain the mixed results of studies that have evaluated the effects of fructose and lactose, two types of carbohydrates, on IBS. Ongoing research is being conducted as to the accuracy of the FODMAP theory and the effectiveness of the diet for IBS.”
Bingo! I adopted this diet and within three days, my stomach started to settle down. (I offer a link below to the FODMAP diet with actual foods.) For me, the things I need to eliminate included gluten. I cannot digest it. I also had to remove milk, at least temporarily. Then, the next largest issue for me was those other trace foods that I was not able to isolate. By removing onions and garlic from my diet, I could see the effect they had. I am not a person who eats onions and garlic often but I found that flavorings containing these two ingredients were in many, many things. I had to find spaghetti sauce that did not contain onions or garlic. That was hard. I had been substituting coconut products in the place of milk products. I found that these were not helping my IBS. I was using real butter and found that it, also, was complicating things. I was eating more raw vegetables to be healthy. It was having the opposite effect. As I began to pay attention to the particulars in the FODMAPS diet and controlled them very strictly within my diet, my symptoms started to clear. I felt better within three days!
I have used this diet for over six months now and my stomach continues to get stronger. I have experimented with adding one to two things back into my diet carefully and strategically. I have not had a problem with them. Those foods high in FODMAPS seem to have a cumulative effect. The more of them eaten, the more severe the symptoms become. The remedy is to monitor what is okay to eat and what is not and paying special attention to foods high in FODMAPS. These are not foods that are good to combine and eat on a daily basis.
For me, this seeming cure has been 50 years in the making. I have tried elimination diets but never was able to eliminate all of the problematic foods. The theory here is to eliminate, at least for the first several weeks, those foods high in FODMAPS and eat those low in FODMAPS. If you eat a low FODMAP food and it still bothers you, don’t eat it. As you begin to feel stronger and you symptoms dissipate, introduce one new food at a time and eat only a small amount of it. Over time, you should feel better and be able to pinpoint those foods that cause the major symptoms.
It is so nice to be able to eat and not worry about massive stomach pain. If you are an IBS sufferer, I’d suggest you try this diet. Read labels carefully and try to eat as much “real” food as is possible. By saying real food, I mean food in it’s natural state, not processed. Also, eat organic. It is possible to feel better!
A good list can be found at this site http://ibs.about.com/od/ibsfood/a/The-FODMAP-Diet.htm
For me, the most troublesome foods are onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, and white sugar. For you, the foods may be different but are certainly going to be on the FODMAP lists. Lists do vary from person to person, so my advice would be to continue to search and find what fits for you.