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!

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! 

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!