I’ve been on the FODMAP diet almost 2 weeks now – time for an update! It’s a difficult diet to figure out, for 2 reasons. First, every resource list of “safe” foods is different. For example, the list my doctor gave us said coconut water is OK, but the Monash app says otherwise (coconut water made me very sick). Second, I react to some foods that are definitely supposed to be safe (ahem, CORN CHEX). The ambiguity of the lists and my body’s own peculiarities makes for a stressful, bumpy ride.
Overall, though, I’m responding very well to the FODMAP diet. Yay!! I’m eager to hear what the dietitian says and whether or not she encourages me to reintroduce foods. As long as I keep FODMAPs out of my body, I feel better than I have in years. It’s really exciting! It’s also exciting to piece together the puzzle of my eating habits. For so long, I thought I ate the way I did because I was lazy and had no self-control. For example, I tried eating salads (with pumpkin seeds and butternut squash) last winter, but didn’t stick with it. Why? Butternut squash and pumpkin seeds, two supposedly healthy foods, are high in FODMAPs. I didn’t know at the time why I didn’t like salad, but now I have a reason.
I absolutely could not attempt this diet without enormous amounts of help and understanding from my friends, family, and co-workers, especially Tom, Pat, Joni, and Roberta. THANK YOU!
How my body responds to FODMAPs
- Anxiety (and crying), usually presenting as feeling overwhelmed about finding safe foods
- Indecision, and a general decrease in executive functions (including irrationality)
- “Brain fog” – it feels like there’s a grey blanket over my brain that prevents me from thinking clearly. I forget words, am unable to finish a train of thought, am absent-minded, and unable to concentrate. It often feels like I’m on a distant planet, or moving in slow-motion underwater.
- Blurred vision
- Right Upper Quadrant (RUQ) pain
- Fatigue (not necessarily sleepiness)
- Trembling extremities and/or tense muscles
- Poor temperature regulation – usually extremely cold
- Constipation, then diarrhea
- Nausea and gas – abdomen is tender to touch
Regarding the anxiety: the anxiety and stress about my health and my diet is there anyway (and is perfectly reasonable!), but when I have FODMAPs I lose my ability to manage the stress and keep it in a healthy perspective.
How can you tell if I’m having a reaction?
I’ll probably say something vague like, “I feel sick,” or “I don’t feel good.” I might complain of stomach pain or nausea. If I say any of the following, I’m definitely reacting to a FODMAP:
- “I just don’t know what to do” (usually said while crying)
- “I’m so overwhelmed” (also while crying)
- “I’ve decided to never eat food again”
Things that help when I’m feeling sick
The only real treatment seems to be removing the offending food (which is sometimes difficult to determine) and then waiting for its effects to work their way out of my system. While I wait, the following things help me feel more comfortable:
- Lay absolutely still on my back (resting!)
- Drink at least 1 dose of liquid Pepto-Bismol
- Drink unflavored LaCroix (settles my stomach)
- Eat something safe (e.g., a bowl of rice with friend eggs)
- Listen to a podcast (Night Vale!)
- Together with a friend, plan what I can eat for the rest of the day (using either my meal list or the Monash app)
Last week, after a series of bad episodes, Tom and I put together a list of foods I CAN eat. Identifying my options helps me feel in control and less overwhelmed. We have this list hanging in the kitchen so when I’m hungry, or preparing food to take to work, it’s easy to pick something from the list to eat. As we reintroduce other ingredients, the list will grow, but for now it’s nice to have a list of definitely safe options.
- Salad: spinach (no more than 150g/day) + cherry tomatoes + maple syrup “dressing
- Protein options (choose 1):
- Pancake (Namaste) + maple syrup or blueberries (no more than 40/day; recommended serving is 20)
- Thin-sliced beef + frozen spinach + sesame oil (limit sesame oil as fat can trigger symptoms)
- Fried egg (2) + brown rice (optional: spinach + ground beef) (no more than 2 eggs/day)