How often do you read the label on a food product before you eat it? I never used to read labels because I didn't think there was a point if I already liked how the food tasted. All of that changed though when I developed IBS.
During my freshman year of college, I began to experience severe stomach pain after eating. I had to learn to pay close attention to what I was putting in my body, and this ultimately led me to trying the Low FODMAP diet.
I'm no doctor, but if you or someone you know has IBS, I hope my story is inspires you (or them) to try alternative methods of healing and maintaining wellness.
The pain I felt after eating wasn't your average stomachache. This kind of pain made me think, "I need to lie down in the fetal position and pray for death while this passes." I went to multiple doctors and gastroenterology specialists who gave me test after test.
Eventually, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Doctors hadn't thought of this earlier because the physical symptoms were isolated to my stomach. The diagnosis was actually a relief.
I finally new what was wrong, but I still struggled with combatting my symptoms as multiple medications failed to help. Enter: the Low FODMAP diet.
The Dietary Solution
As someone who doesn't understand science all too well, explaining the Low FODMAP diet is quite difficult. Its effectiveness is largely based on scientific analysis of the makeup of foods. The Low FODMAP diet calls for the elimination of certain short-chain carbohydrates.
Scientists have found that these carbohydrates are too quickly fermented in the gut by bacteria and poorly absorbed in the small intestine.
My diet excluded gluten, dairy, processed sugars, most fruits, various seasonings like garlic and onion, and a bunch of other seemingly random food groupings. It's not easy to explain these restrictions to your friends let alone a waiter at a restaurant. Nor is it fun to be the girl with the disease that has the word "bowel" in it.
Gone were my dreams of lounging poolside that summer, sipping lemonade and eating endless chips and guac. Not even avocados are permitted on this diet. Instead, I struggled with being hungry and miserable 99% of the time.
For the first half of the summer as I truly mourned the absence of carbs in my life.
After about a month I gave up the moping because one day it hit me that there could be some pretty cool perks to eating this way. Following the Low FODMAP diet helped lead me to a healthier lifestyle in general by forcing me to change my habits.
It's Not All Bad
I learned how to cook for myself that summer, something I had wanted to do but didn't had the motivation to try until I had no choice. For some reason, food you've made yourself just tastes better. I shamelessly feel trendy when I prep my meals for the week like all those Instagram food bloggers.
I also learned (or rather, was forced) to read the label on every single food product I purchased or cooked with. Every. Single. One. Trust me, that can get tedious, but it can also teach you to be more conscious about what you're putting in to your body.
Not only did I learn how identify foods that did or didn't fit the diet, but I also discovered all of the unnecessary ingredients found in seemingly simple products.
Over the last few months I've successfully reintroduced some of the foods I couldn't eat while strictly adhering to the Low FODMAP diet. The biggest lesson I took away was the habitual act of paying attention to the ingredients in my food. Try it for yourself the next time you reach for a snack or something out of a package.
You don't need to try an extreme diet to learn this lesson. Stopping for a a few moments to read over the ingredients is an easy step to help you be a healthier, more mindful eater.