My Journey, Part 3

Remember how I said that removing the foods on the food panel blood test made me feel better?  Well, that lasted.  For about 3 months. 

And then the symptoms came back again.  Slowly at first, and during the month of December. You know – the time of year where there is food everywhere.  Beautiful food.  Special food.  So delicious food.   

So at first, I didn’t know if I was truly getting worse, or just ‘accidentally’ eating foods on my forbidden list.   

But, my cramping and bloating and dashes to the bathroom were becoming more frequent.  By the time Christmas actually arrived, I was scared to eat anything.  We were spending Christmas at my Mom and Dad’s place – and my mom is a great cook.  No, scratch that – she’s an amazing cook.  She was so worried about making me sick, but I simply had too many forbidden foods for her to remember.   

And, on top of that, we were flying to go visit them.   

Now, I should mention that the symptoms weren’t really, really bad here.  I just felt tired, with weird bowel movements, lots of bloating and cramping.  Weird enough for me not to trust being on a plane without a good dose of pepto bismol to keep any surprise diarrhea under control.   

In January, I tried to talk rationally to myself.  I hate always feeling yukky.  I’m a ‘suck it up, buttercup’ kind of gal.  I’m not THAT sick, right?  So I started a ‘feeling’ diary – where I just wrote down the date, and a short comment on how the day went.  ‘Good’ if I had a good day, HLHS if I had a headache on my left hand side, BMx4, runny (4 bowel movements, runny), that sort of thing.  At the end of the month I looked back:  There was only one day where the entry said ‘Good’.   

I can’t live like this.  What to do? 

I tried my Doctor again: I just got the sad look and an offer to book me in for allergy testing.  I was pretty sure I didn’t have allergies, but put myself on the waiting list. 

I  contacted my naturopath and reviewed my food and symptom diaries.  I confirmed that I was  taking the expensive probiotics.  Yes, I was also taking the right fiber supplements.  Yes, I was (now) avoiding the forbidden foods.  I could tell the naturopath was stumped.  

It turns out that my girlfriend has a naturopath who suggests smelly powders and potions.  Have you ever heard of Slippery Elm and Marshmallow Root?  My friend swears by this combination.  I mentioned this to the naturopath and she said it couldn’t hurt (but she did look doubtful that it would help).  I purchased some at my local supplement store and tried them – I think they are just a ‘natural’ alternative to pepto bismol.  They helped a bit with the diarrhea, but they aren’t as effective as pepto bismol.   

The couple at my local health supplement store recommended a special fiber supplement.  I was desperate enough to buy it.  It ain’t cheap, and  this stuff not only tastes, really, really bad, but it stinks to high heaven.  Do I really need to do all this just to feel ‘normal’? 

And that’s when I got my February/March issue of Living Without.  Inside was an article about researchers at the Monash University in Australia who were studying IBS and investigating something called FODMAPs.  I was encouraged to see that their work was the result of actual research!  Included in the article was a small box, listing common foods to avoid and foods to enjoy.  I ripped it out and stuck it to the refrigerator. 

What the hell, I thought.  Let’s give it a try.  At this point I was desperate – I had a heating pad on my belly every evening trying to calm the pain.  And every morning was spent with repeated trips to the bathroom.  The new diet was worth a try. 

The results were almost immediate.  The bloating went away.  The cramps went away.  And, thanks to the researchers at Monash University, the diarrhea went away too.   

I’ve been following a FODMAP diet for a little while now, but it seems longer – I think because my days are so full – of doing things in the real world!  I’m not continually stuck in the bathroom, or sacked out on the couch with a headache, or walking around painfully with a belly that looks like I’m 8 months pregnant. 

Yes, there have been bumps along the way.  I know that my other attempts at a ‘cure’ only lasted for a little while – so I am a bit nervous that this good thing won’t last.  But I sure will enjoy it while it does!