FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble

Summer  is here and it’s time to enjoy fresh food from the garden or farmers market!  I have a rhubarb plant tucked into the corner of my yard and it’s the first thing I can harvest each year.  One of the things we look forward to is a warm Rhubarb Crumble, spooned over ice cream (or frozen coconut, rice or soy milk for those of us with dairy intolerances!).  A FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble is a wonderful spring and summer treat…

FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble
FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble

I adapted this recipe from the one printed on the back of the GoGo Quinoa package.  Apples are a no-go, so it took just a little tweaking to make this into a FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble recipe.

 FODMAP-Free Rhubarb Crumble

  • 8×8 pan
  • Chopped rhubarb, enough to fill at least 1/2 the depth of the pan
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Earth Balance dairy free baking margarine

Grease the pan, add the chopped rhubarb.  Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the rhubarb.  Add small dots of margarine to the top.

For the crumble:

  • 4 tsp Earth Balance dairy free margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flakes

Melt the margarine and toss with the sugar, flour and flakes.  Spoon this over the rhubarb in the pan.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake until crust is golden and rhubarb is tender (approximately 25 minutes).

This is a terrific way to use rhubarb.  Rhubarb is given the green light on the Monash FODMAP app, so it’s nice to have this option for fresh fruit!

Chopped Rhubarb

 

Travelling to New York City

Travelling to New York City!

The Husband and I are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this year, and decided to treat ourselves to our first trip to NYC.  As always, I’m nervous about travelling with IBS, but I’m determined to not let it hold me hostage (see Manifesto #3; I will be free ).  Travelling to New York City was The Husbands idea, but I was pretty confident that I could make it work, now that I have a few travel strategies in place.

Packing and preparing for our trip was a bit of an ordeal….  What clothes should I bring?  What will we want to see and do?  Our friends and family jumped in with many helpful suggestions – unfortunately MOST of these suggestions centered around restaurants.  At first I didn’t mind, but after being told of the millionth pastry shop that we simply ‘must try’, I had a little snit and mild panic attack.  My wonderful, supportive, patient husband sat me down – and helped me see that we were going to NYC to:

A) celebrate our anniversary, and

B) SEE (not eat) New York City.

So with my priorities straightened out, I packed my negligee and supplies for ‘camping’ in a hotel.  My hotel kitchen kit holds granola bars (FODMAP Free), an empty lunch kit, plastic cutlery, a few Ziploc baggies, napkins, some dish soap, and for my first few hours in a new city, some rice cakes, organic peanut butter, travel sized almond milk and tea bags.  OK here’s the thing:  I know we are staying in a nice hotel in the middle of civilization, but I never assume that I can quickly get my hands on the basics.  And I’m not a good person if I can’t have a cup of tea (with milk) and a small breakfast FIRST THING in the morning.What I need to prep the basics in my hotel room.

WE had a fabulous time!  Our hotel was new and bright, we were located close to Times Square and found the city to be overwhelmingly awesome – so much to see and do and the people we met were very friendly (thanks to the complete stranger that helped us figure out the subway!).

Our first morning we were able to find a well-stocked grocery store – The Food Emporium – where I could load up on peanuts, rice crackers, safe deli meat, fruit and more.  We stocked our little hotel room fridge and I was good to go!

'ours' was located on 810 Eighth Ave.

My breakfasts were peanut butter on rice cakes with a strong cup of tea.  Lunches were mostly granola bars, bananas, nuts – but I did order a lovely salad with grilled chicken (just olive oil for dressing) at Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park one afternoon.  I had planned on being a bit more daring for dinners, but honestly, we were so exhausted from hiking around Manhattan all day that we both enjoyed a coffee-table picnic in the hotel room, catching whatever movie was on in the evening.  Munching on sliced turkey, sharing grapes and sipping a bottle of wine was a surprisingly romantic dinner!

All natural ingredients - safe to eat on a low FODMAP diet.
All natural ingredients – safe to eat on a low FODMAP diet.

 

We did try out an Irish Pub for dinner once (we stopped in  earlier that day, asking if they had baked potatoes available on the menu – only later did I realize the humour of doubting an Irish Pub would serve potatoes).  I brought a (pop-top) tin of tuna, ordered a baked potatoe, green salad and olive oil on the side – no, it’s not fancy, but it keeps my tummy happy!

Thanks to my cautious eating, I felt awesome the entire trip – we did so much sightseeing and covered a lot of territory.  When I asked The Husband if he really was ok with not eating out at fancy New York restaurants he looked at me like I was daft: “Do you know how much money we’re saving?!”.

Just being a regular tourist!
Just being a regular tourist!

So, travelling to New York City can be done if you have IBS!   Here’s what worked for me:

  • Bringing my emergency kit purse with a change of clothes – this is especially comforting on the flight.  I didn’t need it, but feeling in control keeps the tummy calm.
  • Making sure our hotel had a bar fridge
  • Bringing my ‘hotel kitchen’ kit
  • finding a grocery store close to the hotel
  • I did try to google ‘NYC FODMAP friendly restaurants’ but didn’t get much that was helpful
  • Maintaining the perspective that I’m travelling to see and do.  Not eat.
  • Having a plan for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, and not relying on spur of the moment choices.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary and a big treat for us to see this magnificent city.  I couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary gift….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FODMAP free Granola Bars

Living on a special diet, no matter if it’s for diabetes, IBS, or other reasons brings it’s own special challenges.  Once I was able to figure out WHAT I could eat safely (this took me about 2 years), I was then left with the challenge of making sure that I could have safe foods easily accessible.  One thing I really missed was being able to toss a granola bar into my purse.  I needed to discover a FODMAP free granola bar!

Most easily available granola bars are filled with ‘healthy’ ingredients that don’t sit so well with my tummy.  Apples, honey, dairy, wheat and even sometimes ingredients that I can’t pronounce, let alone try and spell!

I did discover the granola bars from Nature’s Path, and found two types that are safe – but one of them is pumpkin flavoured, and I’m not a real fan of pumpkins in anything except pie (and that will now be a memory from my pre-IBS days).

So I checked out recipes on the internet and from my cookbooks.  I mucked about in my kitchen.  My biggest disappointment was ending up with a crumbly mess that didn’t stick together – I made the mistake of putting one of these (wrapped in saran) in my purse and it didn’t survive the morning before disintegrating.

After some experimentation, I did end up with my go-to recipe, that I’d like to share with you.

Home made, from pronounceable ingredients that are FODMAP friendly!
Home made, from pronounceable ingredients that are FODMAP friendly!

There are three secrets to making a granola bar that sticks together and doesn’t fall apart:

  1. I use Organic Brown Rice Syrup by Lundberg (no doubt there are other suppliers of this product).  I can find this at both my local health food store as well as Safeway, and it is a FODMAP free substitute for corn syrup.
  2. Be cautious of how many ‘dry’ ingredients (particularly the oats) that you add to the recipe.  Adding a little ‘extra’ can result in a dry bar with not enough ‘stick’.  The total amount of dry ingredients should not exceed 6.5 cups.
  3. Boil the ‘wet’ ingredients for about 2 minutes, before adding dry ingredients.  If you’ve ever made candy, you know this is an important step.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s really flexible.  I change it up all the time.

Granola Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Earth Balance or other margarine substitute
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Brown rice syrup
  • 3 cups rice crispies
  • 1.5 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup diary free chocolate chips
Simple and fast granola bars that won't crumble!
Simple and fast granola bars that won’t crumble!

In a large, heavy pot set on medium heat, combine the margarine, brown sugar and rice syrup.  Stirring constantly, bring to a light boil and simmer for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients.  Press into a 9×13 lightly oiled pan.  Let set, remove from pan and cut into bars.  Individually wrap bars in saran, store in freezer until needed.

As I mentioned, one of the key things to not having a dry crumbly bar is to control the urge to add too many dry ingredients (particularly the oats).  I usually measure out the dry ingredients beforehand to make sure I’m not over the magic 6.5 cup amount.

Don't add too many dry ingredients!
Don’t add too many dry ingredients!

The fun part of this recipe is that if you remember this rule, you can mix up the ingredients for variety.  I’ve removed the chocolate, increased the coconut and added chia seeds:

Chia granola bites
Chia granola bites

I’ve added the candied orange peel that I’ve had left over from my Christmas baking:

Granola bars with candied orange peel.
Granola bars with candied orange peel.

 

Other tips:

  • If you don’t want your chocolate chips to melt into the bars, you can add them just before you turn the batter out into the pan.
  • If you add peanuts, be aware they may be oily and not stick to the bar.  I find if I use Spanish peanuts and chop them up they stay put.

I take large Ziploc bags of these whenever I travel.  One of these and an orange or banana will do me for lunch if there’s no other safe options available.  They keep well, are convenient to have on hand and are definitely a sanity saver!

FODMAP Free Baking for Christmas

It’s that time of the year again… Christmas!!! Over the years I’ve gone through Christmas with a varying degree of enthusiasm.  There was the Christmas that I celebrated by making Martha Stewart look lazy.  There was the Christmas that wasn’t so much celebrated as… endured.  This year I fall right in the middle of the two extremes and I have to admit part of my hesitation is the challenge of FODMAP-free baking for Christmas.  Can it be done?  Yes!

Dairy free, egg free, gluten free and FODMAP free.  And YUMMY!
Dairy free, egg free, gluten free and FODMAP free. And YUMMY!

The lights were up on our house at the beginning of December, the tree was up the following weekend.  We sent out about 60 Christmas cards (complete with cheezy family photo), and have attended various parties.  The one big thing that was missing from my Christmas preparations was the marathon Christmas baking that I used to do.

Now that I am dairy, egg and FODMAP intolerant, my tried and true Christmas baking recipes just make me a tad blue.  I did attempt last year t0 modify shortbread using rice flour and goats butter, but the cookies were a crumbly mess.  I vowed then not to attempt to bake Christmas cookies again.

But, another year later, I feel like something is missing from the Christmas festivities if I don’t do some baking.  There’s’ nothing worse than having food around that I can’t eat, so I asked The Husband and The Son what kind of Christmas cookies were their favourite and I would bake only that.  The Husband chose shortbread so I bought butter for the first time in years and made him up a batch of that (careful not to lick fingers!!).  The Son surprised me and chose gingersnaps.

“But those aren’t Christmas Cookies”  I said.

“That’s what I want” he said.  So that’s what I made for him.

Of course, all this baking made me crave some treats that I could have too, so I did some experimenting.  I used the basic white cookie recipe that I got out of the Living Without magazine, and attempted something… Christmassy.

I experimented and came up with three different cookies and I’m quite proud of them.  Not only do they look great on the cookie tray, they are so tasty that someone who didn’t know they were dairy free, egg free and FODMAP free (including gluten free), would be surprised.

Here’s my recipe for the Citrus Pops.  They are soft and sweet, with a crunchy citrusy zing.  Very pretty on the plate too!

Lemon and Orange candied peel make these zingy and pretty!
Lemon and Orange candied peel make these zingy and pretty!

FODMAP Free Baking – Citrus Pops

Cookies:

  • 1 box gluten free vanilla cake mix
  • 1/2 c Earth Balance baking margarine
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of egg replacer (of choice) and 3 Tbsp of water
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract

Icing:

  • 2 cups Icing Sugar (more if needed for consistency)
  • Sugar water (see candied peel recipe)

Topping

  • Candied orange and lemon peel

Instructions:

Mix cookie dough, it should be very soft.  Use damp hands to roll into balls (dough will be sticky), and bake on parchment at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Remove from parchment and cool.

Cooling and waiting to be iced!
Cooling and waiting to be iced!

Add 1-2 Tbsp sugar water to the icing sugar and beat.  Add more icing sugar or sugar water depending on consistency.  You want a thick, but not too dry icing.  Dip tops of cookies into the icing (use spatula to smooth over the top of the cookie) and then dip immediately into candied peel (I kept the orange and lemon candied peel separate so I had two different types of cookies).

Let icing firm up and store.

Candied Orange Peel

  • 4 oranges
  • 4 cups water
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sugar (for dredging)

Wash oranges thoroughly.  Peel oranges, trying to keep pieces as large as possible (makes the next step easier).  With a sharp knife, slice off as much of the white part (pith) as possible (it’s bitter).  Dice the peel finely.

Dicing Orange Peel

Combine water and first amount of sugar into medium pot over medium heat.  Bring to boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add peel and simmer for about 2 hours (check frequently to make sure pot doesn’t run over or dry out).  I’ve seen advice not to stir, but I run a spoon around the sides once or twice.  Remove from heat and let sit to cool.  Drain in colander (keep this sugar water to make the icing).

Dredge the peel in sugar (about 1 cup), and place on parchment covered pan in a 200 degree turned-off oven to dry out.  Check to make sure the oven isn’t too hot – you don’t want to bake these!  Let the peel dry out (you can leave them for an hour or overnight).  Store in a dry location.

This works with lemon peel as well, but I found the colour didn’t stay as vibrant after boiling.  To spruce up the colour, I put the 1 cup of sugar (for dredging) in a clean empty jar, added 1-2 drops of yellow food colouring and shook until the sugar was the desired colour.  I then dredged the boiled peel in this before drying out in the oven.

The Citrus Pops have been a big hit around here, and also generates some interest when I take them to gatherings.  Many people have food intolerances, and they welcome something safe to indulge in!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

 

Review of the Living Without magazine

I have been wanting to do a review of the Living Without magazine for a while now, as it is an important part of my life with IBS.  Living Without is published bi-monthly by Belvoir Media Group LLC and is a fantastic resource for people who are living with food allergies and intolerances.

 

My copies of the Living Without magazine
My copies of the Living Without magazine

At the beginning of this year, I was pretty much at the end of my rope – I had diarrhea and cramps all the time, my bloating was painful, I was exhausted and very discouraged with the help I was getting (or not getting ) from my physician and naturopath.  I discovered the Living Without magazine on the shelf of a shop that I didn’t normally go into, and was intrigued by its tag line: “The magazine for people with allergies and food sensitivities.”.

Inside this issue was an article written by Rory Jones titled: FODMAP: Road Map for IBS.  Rory included a small ‘cheat sheet’ listing of foods to avoid and foods to enjoy.  I had nothing to lose at this point so decided to give it a try.  It was my hallelujah moment – within a week my symptoms eased off and I felt hugely better.

This article literally changed my life.  I now really look forward to the Living Without magazine arriving at my door.

Every issue contains a variety of articles on a wide range of IBS related issues.  Asthma, infertility, and backpacking have been just a few of the topics covered this year.  I particularly enjoy reading the Research Round Up Department and always get a laugh out of We’ve Got Issues (irreverent solutions to your real life allergy drama), written by April Peveteaux.

April Peveteaux's hilarious "We've got Issues" in the Living Without magazine
April Peveteaux’s hilarious “We’ve got Issues” in the Living Without magazine

Living Without is one of the few magazines that I actually am interested in the advertising!  The new products that are being made available to folks with Celiac, IBS, Food intolerances and allergies are a ray of sunshine, and I’m appreciative of this place to see what’s new to the market.

And the recipes!! In the April/May issue Lisa Stander Horel authored a fabulous article on baking Big, Fat, Soft Cookies that was so exciting to me.  I plan on using her Vanilla Soft Cookies as a base for my Christmas baking experiments this year.  With a dairy, egg and FODMAP intolerance, my baking options are slim – but Lisa’s ideas have given me something to work with.

Lisa Stander Horel's inspiring cookie recipes in the Living Without magazine
Lisa Stander Horel’s inspiring cookie recipes in the Living Without magazine

If I have one concern about the magazine is that the latest issue doesn’t have the tag ‘the magazine for people with allergies and food sensitivities ‘ on it, but has replaced it with ‘gluten-free living at it’s best’.  I hope it’s not going to focus on just the gluten free aspect of food issues, as I find there are a large collection of publications dedicated to this area already.  The rest of us, with wider ranging issues, really can benefit from a magazine that includes us too….

If you can’t find Living Without on the news stands, check out their website Living Without .  Hopefully you will find this resource as fantastically helpful as I have!

Eating out with IBS

I’ve got a dinner invitation that I’m not sure I can refuse… it’s a family thing, and everyone thinks they are being kind to me – so I don’t have to cook.  It’s hard to tell family that eating out with IBS and food intolerances is a LOT of work.

However, I am determined to rejoin the greater world, despite having IBS, AND, I’m feeling much more confident after our road trip experience this summer.  So I’m going to do my best to make this dinner out work for me.

My first step is to go online and check out the websites of a few restaurants.  I went with larger chain restaurants, because they seem to be much more aware of food allergies, and will sometimes be so organized they provide nutrition and ingredient listings online.  I checked out three:  Joey’s, Moxie’s, and Earl’s.

I discovered that Earl’s didn’t seem to have a printable allergy/nutrition listing online (that I could find).  Moxie’s has a guide available and it very clearly lists out many of the common allergen ingredients in their food (including the common FODMAP foods).  Almost everything on the menu has either dairy, gluten, onions and garlic, though.  Joey’s didn’t have any of this information on line, but they did have the option of emailing the restaurant with a special request.

I have decided to go with Moxie’s because their on-line information is the most comprehensive (although, you do have to do some digging).  Their website shows the phone number of each restaurant, so my second step is to call them.  I managed to get the manager and he was terrific to chat with.  He assured me that they take food allergies special requests very seriously, and I found this to be comforting.

Moxie's on line allergen information is well laid-out.
Moxie’s on line allergen information is well laid-out.

We’ve booked the restaurant, and now I just need to make sure I eat gently in the days leading up to the outing.  I want my stomach to be calm, and I want my nerves to be collected when we walk into that restaurant!  I think I’ve messed myself up in the past by letting my anxiety get to me, so I’ll work to trust in my plan. (step 3!).

My fourth and final step for preparation will be to print off my chef’s card to bring along with me. I’ll make sure to speak up confidently (but cheerfully!) to our waiter and ask for their help.

I plan on giving this to my server each time we go out to a restaurant!
I plan on giving this to my server each time we go out to a restaurant!

I’ll prepare The Husband by letting him know that he might be on tasting duty if I have any suspicions about what gets served to me.  I will also repeat my usual 30-minute wait request:  I like to sit about 30 minutes after a meal (that I haven’t prepared myself) to see if I have an immediate reaction.  My reaction to dairy is this fast, and I don’t want to be I the car when a case of diarrhea hits.

As for the egg and other FODMAP unfriendly ingredients, I’ll just have to wit to the following day to see if I had success in eating out with IBS at this particular restaurant.  Wish me luck!

 

FOODS THAT MAKE MY GUT ANGRY

 

I was thinking that I would share with you what foods I’m currently avoiding because they give my digestive system a hassle.  I’m technically on the challenge phase of the FODMAP diet, but I’m finding life so enjoyable without IBS symptoms that I’ve been reluctant to risk getting sick again – it’s easier (for me) to avoid everything and feel good!

 

Food Intolerances:

 

DAIRY:  My system cannot tolerate any amount of bovine dairy, in any form.  It’s more than just a fermentable issue with me – the smallest amount of even the ‘safe’ dairy (american cheese, parmesan, yogurt) will send me running to the washroom with watery diarrhea within a half hour (usually sooner).  I’m lucky that I can tolerate goats milk and related products (different protein makeup), so this has taken the sting out of loosing this food group.

 

EGGS:  My IgE blood panel tells me that it’s just the egg whites that my system reacts to.  However, this reaction is so strong (intense headache, fatigue, bowel discomfort) that I have written off all egg products. 

 

BEEF:  Eating a steak will result in me staying awake all night as I suffer through every groan, cramp, twinge and strain of my gut trying to break this meat down.  I can have a bite of steak (my husband is pretty good about sharing), but I haven’t chanced much more than that.

 

STRAWBERRIES:  Eating a few of these has me running to the bathroom with diarrhea and cramping within a few hours.

 

And FODMAPS.  FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – the carbohydrates that are malabsorbed in my intestine.  I get very confused as to what an Oligo vs Fructan vs Fructose are, so bear with me…

OLIGOSACCHARIDES:  My excellent FODMAP App from Monash University tells me that fructans and galactos are in this group (FOS and GOS for short).  Vegetables like garlic, legumes and onions are listed.  Fruit like nectarines, peaches, apples and watermelon are included.  Grains like barley, rye, wheat are included.  Nuts like cashews and pistachios are included too.  This carbohydrate is also disguised as inulin on ingredient listings. 

I definitely have trouble with garlic and onion.  Apples are out for me.  I haven’t really challenged the rest.  The Monash FODMAP app helpfully lists some foods that have moderate Oligos-fructan/FOS and or GOS  – I’ve been avoiding these so maybe it’s time to try and start my food challenge with these items.  I know a serving of broccoli (listed on the app as having ‘moderate Oligos -fructan/FOS and or GOS’), at dinner doesn’t upset me too much.

DISACCHARIDES: lactose (dairy).  I stay away from all dairy, not sure if it’s an intensive reaction to the carbohydrate or the protein (casein).  Dairy causes my most immediate, intense reaction.

MONOSACCHARIDES:  one molecule sugars.  Glucose, fructose and galactose (lactose) are here. Honey, high fructose corn syrup, and fruits like apples and mangos are included.  I know honey and apples mess me up, so I’ve been avoiding these too.

POLYOLS: Polyols are sugar alcohols.  Sorbitol and mannitol (found in some fruits and vegetables and often found as artificial sweeteners) are some of these.  Cauliflower, mushrooms, snowpeas, peaches, watermelon are listed as having high mannitol levels, and I have been avoiding them. I know that giving up gum was one of the things that helped alleviate my symptoms so the artificial sweeteners are obviously a problem for me.

So, in a nutshell, most food makes my tummy grouchy.  This leaves me with limited options as far as cooking goes – most helpful ‘low FODMAP’ recipes are out for me (or need a lot of adjusting) because they will include eggs or dairy of some kind.

Watch for my next posting, where I list the Top 10 ingredients that I keep in my pantry. 

My Journey, Part 2

To manage my IBS symptoms, I had about 6 or 7 months living (begrudgingly) happily without milk,  but then the symptoms returned.  Terrible headaches (deep in my eye-sockets) and unpredictable diarrhea.   Bloating, cramping, exhaustion.   

A trip to my Doctor was of not much help.  After I described my symptoms and my test results were reviewed, (remember, the tests show that I am ‘healthy’), the Doctor looked at me sadly and said “unfortunately, we are seeing a lot of this sort of thing.  It’s very common”.   

And that was it!!  Not much of a plan of action, is it? 

I was pretty desperate for some help, and now not really enthused about the medical community (I know: one doctor a whole community does not make). Needless to say I was pretty frantic.  I knew that I couldn’t keep on living with the cramping and the hours of sitting on the toilet, never mind the accidents which were embarrassing and kept me trapped more and more often at home. 

 A good friend of mine had had some success with similar issues after she had seen her naturopath.  I was very reluctant to take this path, as I really didn’t know what naturopaths did. 

I envisioned an ancient and wizened practitioner who tried to sell me a variety of ill-smelling and expensive powders and potions. 

I was very wrong.  My naturopath has had extensive medical training, is young and has really never tried to sell me any ‘potions’.  We both believe that we should get our nutrition from food and not additives. 

What she did do, though, is spend an entire hour going over my history, symptoms, a diary of food that I had been eating along with tracking symptoms, and my medical test results.  It felt so good to be finally heard and taken seriously!   

On her recommendation, I took a basic food panel blood test.  It shows the antibodies (IgE and IgG4) that your body creates when it is struggling to accept various foods.  The way I understand it,  higher antibody levels indicate that your body is REALLY not happy with what it’s dealing with. 

I was floored by the test results.  Dairy, Beef, Green Beans, Kidney Beans and Eggs all scored in the ‘not safe’ zone. 

This took me a while to process.  Firstly, I had thought I had already eliminated dairy from my diet – in which case my body shouldn’t still be fighting it.  My naturopath suggested that I need to be more vigilant in reading ingredient labels.  She was right – I had been missing hidden dairy in a lot of products.   

Beef, I had started to suspect that something was a problem here.  After eating a lovely barbequed steak one evening, I spent the wee hours of the morning curled up in agony on the couch – I could almost feel my gut having difficulty processing the meat. 

Green Beans?  What is up with THAT?  Green beans are  supposed to be GOOD for you. 

Kidney beans?  Never was a fan.  Easy to give these up. 

Eggs?  Well, now.  I may have been willing to eliminate dairy from my diet, but eliminating eggs would be another thing altogether.  I like to bake.  I love fried egg sandwiches.  My go-to fat free dessert is angel food cake.  No, not eggs too. 

As if to prove a point I made an angel food cake that evening.  Enjoyed it tremendously.  And spent the next day in bed.  Yes, yes eggs too. 

My Naturopath also suggested that I take a high quality pro-biotic as well as a fiber supplement, and to diligently track what I eat.   

I was happy I had a plan of action.  And I got results almost immediately –  once I removed the offending foods from my diet I quickly felt better physically (no diarrhea, no headaches).   

Mentally was a different story.  The feeling of loss was pretty strong.  I wanted to talk to someone about this, but I doubted there was a ‘mourning the loss of your favorite foods’ support group out there. 

So I ploughed on, looking for help with books I picked up from the library and searching for information on the internet.  I was pleased and amazed to know that I wasn’t alone.  I still don’t understand how there can be such a large group of unwell people out there, and the medical community or marketplace seems to ignore us entirely.   

Armed with my new sources of information, I was determined to get back to enjoying life again. I was done with being ill! 

Ha!

 

My Journey, Part 1

So where did my IBS adventure start?   

 I started developing symptoms about 2 years ago (it seems much, much longer than that).  At first I thought I had a stomach flu that just wouldn’t go away!!  I was truly miserable.  I soiled my pants.  Running to the bathroom became an awful sporting event.  As you probably know from your own experiences, feelings of anger, sadness and desperation all take turns in your head. 

Then it tweaked on me that dairy might be the problem.  I made this discovery while I was on vacation –  I don’t eat very well on vacation: wine instead of milk, a snack of fries instead of yogurt, you get the gist… 

Once I discovered what was giving me trouble, I had to decide what to do next.  I had many, many worries.  What if there is something really wrong with me?  How can yogurt possibly be bad for me?  How can I live the rest of my life without dairy?  Is that even possible? 

My biggest fear was wondering what could be causing this.  Peoples stomachs just don’t suddenly start disliking certain foods, do they? 

I met with my Doctor, and she assured me that yes, stomachs sometimes suddenly do just that.  She thought it would be a good idea for me to have a couple of tests to make sure there wasn’t something structurally wrong with me, and so a stool sample as well as a colonoscopy with biopsies were arranged.   

Let me be the first to tell you, these are very, very fun tests to take.  If you have any sense of pride and modesty, just take a deep breath and learn to love your wild side. 

 On the bright side, everything came back clean.  I was healthy!!  (insert maniacal laughter here). 

So, all that was left for me to do, was to remove dairy completely from my diet.  This was a pretty big change for me,  and besides being irrationally irritated at the thought of life without cheese I also had a worry about long-term consequences.  My mother has osteoporosis, so cutting dairy out of my diet probably wouldn’t be good for me, right?  

I was feeling pretty low at this point.  It seemed that my life was turning into a life of denial.  Not that I was a big glutton before, but it’s always unpleasant to have options taken away from you.  

My next stop was to a Registered Dietitian.  This was a really positive experience, partly because of a lucky coincidence – she was also lactose intolerant.  She was able to give me lots of pointers:  how to ensure I’m getting enough calcium, how dairy can be disguised on a food label  (who knew there were so many code words for ‘milk’?), and even what sorts of dairy alternatives exist in the grocery store.   

 She wanted me to test for my tolerance for dairy – and I discovered in a rather unpleasant way that just a spoonful of yogurt has nasty consequences for me. 

My Dietitian did suggest trying goats milk cheese –  the protein in goats milk is structurally slightly different than in cows milk.  By now I was terrified of anything dairy, and was reluctant to just give it a try.  I quizzed the folks at my local cheese boutique as well as the cheese stall at my local farmers market.  Once convinced that the two dairy products are in fact quite different I summoned up the courage to try chevre (the word for cheese made from goats milk).  I was thrilled to learn that goats milk is an option for me! 

So, from my Physician I learned I was healthy (ha ha) and from my Registered Dietitian, I learned how to ensure I would get my daily calcium needs met… as well as finding out that my life could go on. 

Once I got dairy out of my diet, I was thrilled to discover side benefits – no more running to the toilet, and (bonus round) no more of those weird  headaches I had been getting for years.

 Yay!

 It was a “cure” (I understood that it wasn’t really a cure) like many others – a cure with a price.  I was pretty angry that I had to give up dairy, and all the foods it hid in.  Chocolate bars will be forever off limits to me.   Here’s my embarrassing confession:  every time I’d see that commercial with happy women saying that my bowel problems would go away if I just ate more yogurt I would go and buy some.  Talk about the power of marketing!!  I’d be too scared to eat it, and always end up throwing it away.  What a terrible waste…

 Yup, a cure with a price.    But I’d take it.