For the last few years, or so , I have been struggling with my digestion. And so at the end of last year I started seeing a dietician. On their advice I have been following a low fodmap exclusion diet. For those of you, probably most of you, who aren’t sure what that means it is cutting out the sugars that are known to be undigested by some people and to be fermented in the gut. This includes lactose (found in milk and dairy products), fructans (found in wheat products, onion, garlic and some fruits and vegetables), fructose (found in honey and fruits where that it more abundant than glucose), galactans (found in beans) and polyols (sugar alcohols found in artificial sweeteners and some fruit and vegetables).
As you can see from this is quite a lot of different things to cut out, but I did it. And I must admit the children have been great at helping me with this. Whenever we have something new they look at me all worried, and ask if I can eat it. And they have adapted to the change of food in the house well. The fact that I cook meals, rather than eating lots of ready prepared things helps, as I am much more in control of the ingredients and can amend those, and restrict what we have much easier.
Then, after eight weeks of cutting out all of these types of food I then have done a series of tests where I re-introduced limited amounts of these on a strict schedule to then see how my body reacted to them. Doing this when the whole world shut down with an international pandemic was probably not the best time to choose to do this, but I had already started.
I did find the testing phase difficult, as the mental struggle to eat things that may (and, for me at least, mostly did) bring the symptoms back. That was far harder than the cutting out the food in the first place. And it took much longer than I had anticipated. In fact having started this whole thing in the second week of January I have only just finished. As someone who plans and likes to know what I am doing and what I am going to be doing, as much as possible, that has been another challenge as well. The whole unknowable of what the end of the process would look like. So I am doubly glad to have finished and have a way forward. Polyols I will need to cut out completely, fructose I have no reaction to so I can eat normally, and the other groups I need to limit and keep track of, but I can have small amounts.
However much I might complain about the restrictions I do feel better on it. Of the five types of foods I was cutting out I reacted to four of them, though only polyols was a strong reaction. I knew that cauliflower was evil as I’d seriously stopped liking it since I was pregnant the second time. One of the reasons I think I hadn’t really linked these was that they are on the low level side, and appear at a time after I’ve eaten them rather than straight away.
At home we have worked out how to swap all these foods out, and what I can have instead, but it is difficult to eat out. And, when we are allowed to travel again, it will be more difficult to visit and stay with anyone. I can choose to be really picky, and then have a limited amount of things I can choose from, or to eat without regard to the limitations and then suffer from my gut for up to a day or two after. So, anyone who I am likely to come and visit – prepare for a long list of things I can’t eat, or that I can only have small amounts of.
Now it is more a test of how much I value myself as to whether I pass on these details to anyone we visit/stay with. Going to them with a long list of restricted foods, especially when so many of them are such common ingredients (like onion or garlic). Dairy and wheat, though likely more common, are not as daunting because they are more known to be an issue and so there are far more options readily available for their replacement.
I know that if I eat lots of these common foods then I will feel the repercussions, but equally asking other people to go out of their way to help me is something I find difficult. When we have visitors I am happy to adapt what we eat to their dietary requirements, but I have never before been the one asking for the same. Until now. And while I am certain that anyone we do visit will be happy to do the same for us it is still uncomfortable to ask them. And yet I must, as it is important to keep my body running as well as it can. So I know I need to do it, yet it is the next daunting step in this process. One benefit of the current coronavirus situation is that this I am unlikely to to need to do this anytime soon!