I remember when I was diagnosed with IBS in 2007, after being “treated” for what appeared to be the start of H-Pylori. I began to have very painful abdominal pain, bloating and distension, and severe constipation soon after. I saw various health professionals and was told different things to help my symptoms like…….
“sit down and relax while you’re eating”
“make sure you have adequate amounts of fiber, water, and exercise”
“just take a daily over the counter laxative, you’ll be fine”
and my least favorite one...
“maybe it’s all in your head”
I asked myself over and over again "why now? What was wrong with me?"
All the tests came back negative- no celiac disease, no colon cancer, no problems whatsoever. I was grateful for this but I felt stuck at the same time.
I was basically being told:
“this is your life from now on, there is no fix, deal with it.”
These symptoms interfered with my daily life, jobs, relationships, and overall well being. This led to the beginning of anxiety as well as bouts of depression.
I was attending college at the time to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specialized in integrative and functional medicine. It was an exciting time and I was so passionate about it. The problem was, the “healthier” I ate, the worse my symptoms got.
I constantly had abdominal pain, pressure, low energy, fatigue, anxiety, and stomach distention that made me look pregnant!
I continued to live this way for the next 10 years.
To help with my anxiety I began practicing yoga, and in 2013 I became trained as a Registered Yoga Teacher. I noticed when I was consistent with mindfulness practices through breathing, movement, and meditation that my symptoms would improve.
If I had a stressful day or was not doing my mindfulness practices I noticed symptoms worsened.
During my training I also began to experiment with Ayurvedic medicine (the sister science of yoga), which has a dietary focus on proper digestion based on body/mind type, including cutting out things like garlic and onion (these just so happen to be FODMAPs!). I began to experiment with different strategies via yoga and diet and noticed what a huge difference it made for me! This felt like a mini-break through, but I still couldn’t quite manage my symptoms to the degree I would have liked with these methods alone.
In 2018 everything changed! (FINALLY!)
I had just given birth to my second son and he had severe colic and constipation that seemed to be directly effected by what I ate. I was working in an out-patient nutrition counseling job, and I was seeing many referrals recommending clients that were diagnosed with IBS be put on the low FODMAP diet.
I had utilized this diet in the past for IBS clients (and myself) with mixed results, however the research and science on FODMAP content of foods had come a long way since my initial experience with it. The new research emphasized that the FODMAP containing foods were not simply "on" or "off" limits, but they were "portion size specific." Every individual's threshold was unique and through elimination and re-introduction one could discover what they could or could not handle. It was also considered to be a temporary diet experiment, not a life long diet that you never came off of.
The best part of implementing this? I started seeing REAL RESULTS!
Clients would walk in the door after being on the diet for just a few weeks smiling and tell me that their life had improved immensely since being on the diet!
After years of suffering, losing jobs, avoiding social eating, and not being able to go anywhere without the stress of where the nearest toilet was, these people were happy to report that many of their problems (from constipation to diarrhea and everything in between) began to dissipate with their new found knowledge of FODMAPs, complimented by some of the mindfulness strategies I had been teaching them.
As for my own journey, I cut back on many FODMAPs that I had a known intolerance to during that year and my son’s symptoms cleared up and so did mine. When he weaned, I remember thinking YAY! it’s time to go crazy on garlic, broccoli, chili, onions, dairy, whoo hooo! I had the worse flair up of my life that week and I remember thinking OH MY GOODNESS, THIS IS HOW I FELT EVERYDAY FOR 10 YEARS. THIS IS HORRIBLE.
So I started my FODMAP lifestyle plan once again, played with my recipes so that I could still eat plant based meals but was more flexible about eating some animal proteins too which actually made me feel better, I continued to integrate yoga and mindfulness activities into my day, and ultimately eat the most varied, non-restrictive diet I could without anxiety or fear of having a flair up.
This was a huge breakthrough for me, and I continued to see results with clients as well!
Since then I’ve decided to dedicate my career to sharing this knowledge as the FODMAP Dietitian with other IBS sufferers so they may also experience a life free of debilitating IBS symptoms.
Click below to learn more about the 12 week low FODMAP program!