For years now, I have had stomach issues. It’s not the most glamourous thing to talk or write about, but I think it’s important to share because it sheds light on things that others may not be aware of and may be helpful and, it may end up explaining why some of my runs/races haven’t gone so well (and why I often need a pitstop).
When I say stomach issues, I mean the following- upset stomach/bowel movements on average 3-6 times a day, heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, pain and gas. Sounds terrible, but I got used to it and just figured it was me. My family pushed me for years to see a gastroenterologist but I put it off out of laziness and fear of what they would say. I LOVE food. I’m not a picky eater. I love to try fabulous restaurants and I love to cook. I didn’t want to give up either of these.
I went completely unprocessed during lent last year and I thought it would solve everything. And while I lost weight, and ate “clean” I still had stomach problems. I decided when I was training for NYCM to seek out a nutritionists’ help. I found Marni through my friend, Katie. I really wanted to work on my stomach issues and make sure I was eating enough at the right time to stay fueled. Marni was perfect for this- she’s an amazing triathlete and I highly recommend her for sports nutrition. I was able to stay full and fueled and my stomach was better while running (I ate very bland pre run), but it wasn’t necessarily better day-to-day.
I made an appointment back in July with a gastro, but couldn’t actually get an appointment until November, after the marathon. Dr. Yanda asked me tons of questions and he suggested we do a blood test to test for celiac and depending on what that showed, a colonoscopy if needed. The blood test was negative, but showed possible signs of colitis so we scheduled the colonoscopy.
IT sucked. Not the colonoscopy itself, but the prep. My colon came back fine- no colitis- but they did find a polyp. It was pre-cancerous but came back fine and now I will just have to go back every 3 years. So, what was my doctor’s plan? The low FODMAP diet for IBS. WHAT. IS. A. FODMAP (I will get to that in second).I bought the book that was recommended, read it over the holidays and quickly realized that it was a bit more complicated to figure out on my own. Marni was honest with me and said this wasn’t her specialty and suggested I find someone in Atlanta. So with a little research, I contacted Jenny, from Balance Fitness and Nutrition. She’s a runner and knows all about FODMAP and LEAP (another type of elimination/food intolerance test) and we met last week to go over the can have/can’t have/do’s/don’ts.
So, here’s the lowdown. This is all information from Patsy Catsos‘- the medical nutrition therapist and FODMAP expert.
FODMAP- this is an acronym for a particular group of carbohydrates in your food (Fermentable Oligo-Di-and Mono-Saccarides and Polyols). FODMAPs include certain natural sugars in foods such as milk, fruit, honey, and high fructose corn syrup. Some FODMAPs are certain types of fiber in foods such as wheat, rye, onions, garlic, and beans, inulin, and chicory root.
To sum it up- these things can wreak havoc on your gut. It can mean gas, upset stomach, foods not properly moving through the intestines which leads to bloating and diarrhea. TMI, but welcome to my world.
On this diet, you should limit the amount of FODMAPs you have in a certain amount of time (per meal, every 2-3 hours) to ease the symptoms. In order to test what FODMAPs you are sensitive to, you have to do an elimination diet and then return the FODMAPs to your diet in a systematic way to observe symptoms.
The list of foods is extensive and I was really overwhelmed when I first did my research. Basically, all of my favorite fruits and vegetables, the ones I usually combine and DEFINITELY have more than 1/2 a cup of per meal were on the list (see full list here). I lived off of brussel sprouts, asparagus and broccoli. I’m pretty sure my diet consisted of garlic and onion, and this to me, meant no cooking and recipes. Do you know how hard it is to cook without garlic and onion!?!? Cooking is one of my favorite things to do and I feared losing it. You can sense a freak out. Jenny calmed my anxieties and explained it well, told me the elimination stage was only for 2 weeks and even gave me a cookbook.It’s easiest to explain the diet as no gluten (not all gluten free products work though because they may have other high FODMAP ingredients), no lactose, and certain fruits and veggies on a list that I now live by and carry with me everywhere I go.I can do anything for 2 weeks. I kinda started the diet a few days before I met with Jenny, and officially on Thursday (still had gum and wasn’t counting quantities). There has been IMMEDIATE relief from doing this but it is HARD.
The 2 hardest things so far:
1. Finding the time to prep all my food, reading all the labels and finding foods to eat when out and about.
I literally couldn’t eat a single thing at an event I went to Thursday night. Each dish was healthy, but had one or two ingredients I couldn’t eat. I came home and had eggs and grits for dinner. We went out for an early birthday dinner for Rich on Saturday at my favorite steakhouse and I could only have a plain salad, plain steak, and plain spinach. Not nearly as exciting as what I would normally eat, but much more healthy and I was in no pain the next day.
2. Measuring out my food and not mixing certain foods together. Measure a 1/2 cup of strawberries they next time you want them or only eat 1/2 of a banana. Or 2 cups of popcorn, or 1/2 a cup of sweet potato, or 1 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup. You get the idea. This is my life right now.
I’m currently tracking everything in an app on my phone, what I eat and when, when I go to the bathroom (did you know there are six types of poop!?!), how much I sleep, how I feel, etc. The only somewhat rough morning I had was Saturday, but it was nothing like it usually is.The best thing about it all right now? How much better I have felt. It’s insane. Very little pains, gas, and runs to the bathroom. I’ve actually enjoyed trying a few new recipes (pancakes, meatballs, and a quinoa salad to name a few) and have been pleasantly surprised at how flavorful the foods are.
I will see my gastro on Monday the 19th and then meet with Jenny again on the 21st. Jenny will evaluate my food log and then help me reintroduce the foods back into my diet to see which ones are triggers and what I will need to avoid for good.
So, there it is, all out on the table. I truly had no idea that certain foods could really make this much of a difference on my quality of life. I’m excited to finish the process in a few weeks, really see how much my gut has changed and see how this could effect my training.
Any questions for me? Have you ever had to do an elimination diet? Have you heard of FODMAPs? Do you have food sensitivities? If so, what food(s) have you had to give up?