I am writing this small Blog in the hope that I can help at least one other person who has been suffering constant stomach and digestive issues that no well meaning advice, diet or operation has been able to lessen or cure.
You’ve probably heard it all before…
- “It must be gluten intolerance!”
- “You probably need to FODMAP.”
- “It’s just IBS, you really just need to deal hey”.
You know what? None of this helpful advice actually helped me and it took me six long and painful years to figure out what was actually wrong with me but now that I have, the relief has been so instant and so freeing that I feel like I can’t be the only one who could have the chance to feel this good again.
So, me, well I have spent the past six years or so, suffering increasingly worsened digestive issues. Chronic constipation, bloating, painful (hospitalising) cramps…not to mention constant tiredness, puffy face, heightened depression. You name it!
Over the years, the symptoms only got worse. I’d have a good few days and then- bam- I’d be in back in pain again with no idea why.
I had completely cut out gluten and dairy, I rarely ate fruit, I ate vegetables 99% of my life. I have always been conscious of what I eat and would consider my diet to be a very healthy one.
Eventually, one night after dinner, my stomach bloating reached a whole new level of ouch that was soon accompanied by very, very, very painful cramps, keeping me up-doubled over in agony all night and preventing me from going to work the next day as I simply could not stand up!
Long story short, I ended up in hospital which then led to an Endoscopy and Colonoscopy along with food allergy testing. Long story shorter, nothing was wrong. No celiac disease, no major dairy intolerance, no mango intolerance(?). I probably just had IBS as well as gluten sensitivity and should go talk to a FODMAP nutritionist. Not a great result for a $3000 operation but hey.
I started reading about FODMAPPING. Apparently avocados, beetroot, hummus and about 9000 other foods were all triggers of IBS and would now need to be eliminated were I to follow this diet path- coincidentally, I read this information while enjoying an avocado, beetroot and tahini based salad and felt very sad for my future in general. This just couldn’t be the right thing to do. These foods had not been a problem for my first 30 years of life and a life avoiding them seemed fairly intolerable in itself. I did not FODMAP.
So I kept circumventing gluten and dairy and my symptoms… again grew worse.
Then, last week, walking home from another painful day at work -my jeans straining to contain my distended stomach- I had a thought, like one of those lightbulb moments people talk about. I was thinking about the possibility that my stomach had been causing me even more grief than usual that week due to the almond milk I had been consuming (I work in a cafe) which I normally wouldn’t touch. Then, the left-field thought flashed in that when I had first started experiencing my problems, I had started using Vitasoy Soy Milky Lite on my oats and as a drink. The almond milk was also long life…could they share an additive, preservative or something? I have often toyed with the idea that an oil or preservative could be my nemisis but nailing one down seemed fairly hopeless.
I raced home, hopped on the computer and looked up the ingredients of both. Shared listings: VEGETABLE GUM 407 and 415. Okay, could this be something? I started to look up other foods I had considered safe for me that I consumed on the regular since cutting out gluten…
- Burgen gluten free toast
- Schiracha chilli sauce
- Mighty Mite gluten free vegemite
And then the foods that I had consumed lately on the semi-regular, special treat foods but still, foods I chose specifically to try to be good to my stomach: gluten free burgers, dairy free gelato, hummus and other dips; gluten free hot cross buns, muffins and breads; bliss balls, barbeque sauce…
I definitely did not eat these foods daily or even weekly but as I thought of and checked the ingredients of each one, I found on every single occasion, the presence of 400 and 1400 additive number gums!
The food choices I had been making in order to ease my symptoms had possibly, actually been contributing to a continuous building up and increase of my pain. This would explain why, over the past six years- my condition had worsened despite all attempts to control it. In avoiding gluten, I had been consuming foods with the very gums and thickeners that are used to replace the gluten!
I now had a decent theory as to what had been going on. All I had to do was cut these additives out of my diet completely and observe what happened. So I did.