what I learned from FODMAP elimination and reintroduction

As I mentioned recently, I’ve had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) for three years now and have struggled to get the symptoms under control. My number one issue is bloating, and although it doesn’t interfere with my life the way, say, unpredictable diarrhea would, it’s still a significant annoyance. (Diarrhea and constipation are very common IBS symptoms but not ones that trouble me.) My belly puffs up easily so my clothes need to have a bit of stretch or they don’t fit. It’s a bit of a blow to body image and it makes me not want to take photos. I’m sure part of that is vanity and subscribing to society’s notion of what is or isn’t attractive, but I also I don’t feel like I look like myself.

I did some research online and found a book that looked promising (Patsy Catsos, IBS — Free at Last!, 2nd ed. (Portland, ME: Pond Cove Press, 2012). It looks at the role that FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di- and monosaccharides, and polyols) may play in IBS symptoms. FODMAPs are basically fermentable simple carbs. (FYI Monash University in Melbourne is the leader in FODMAP research, so their resources are the most reliable. The Catsos book is based exclusively on Monash research but it’s getting a little out of date now.)

There are five categories of FODMAP carbs:

  • lactose, found in milk and some milk/dairy products (a simple carb [disaccharide/two sugar molecules, in this case galactose + glucose])
  • fructose, found mostly in fruit (a simple sugar [monosaccharide/one molecule])
  • fructans, wheat and onions are top sources (a simple carb [oligosaccharide/three or more fructose molecules, up to a maximum of 10)
  • galactans, legumes/pulses are a top source (a simple carb [aka galacto-oligosaccharide/three or more galactose molecules, up to a maximum of 10)
  • polyols, none of which I’d heard of other than sorbitol, but they’re naturally occurring in some fruits and vegetables like prunes, mushrooms, dates and avocados (aka “sugar alcohols” though they’re neither a sugar nor an alcohol)

In the first phase, you eliminate (the majority of) FODMAPs for two weeks with the goal of getting things settled down. It only took about a week before the bloating pretty much stopped, hooray! I don’t ordinarily weigh myself often but I’ve now gotten into a routine of weighing daily, which revealed I’d also been retaining water. I had almost resigned myself to having to buy new clothes to fit my different circumference, but it looks like that won’t be necessary now.

I’ve now done all five challenges. I found it difficult to get enough food containing the target carb in one day to give a good test and so I may retest a couple categories. That said, I observed that lactose and polyols didn’t cause a reaction, fructose and galactose caused a mild to medium reaction, and fructans caused a strong reaction. For me the usual reactions are bloating and gas, but it’s possible that the problem FODMAPs also affect my energy and mood.

(To be clear, none of these carbs are inherently “bad”. What the FODMAP testing shows is that each person’s metabolism is unique, and what results in optimum function for one person may be much less than optimum for someone else.)

My big takeaway so far is that I need to tread very cautiously with fructans. The North American diet gets about 70% of its fructans from wheat and about 25% from onions. My strategy is to start with cutting out wheat; onions will get scrapped only if necessary. And since my issue with wheat is not a gluten allergy (celiac disease), it’s not going to do me any harm if I get trace amounts of wheat in my diet from prepared foods. All the IBS does is cause inconvenience, and it’s up to me which inconvenience (bloating versus the hassle of avoiding certain common foods) I avoid and which I accept.

I’m getting a checkup next week and when I speak to the doctor I’ll ask him what testing, if any, is available here for these different categories of carbs. I’ve certainly learned something from trial and error, but I’d like more rigorous testing so I get clearer results.

This isn’t the only issue I have with carbs. Soon I’ll tell you a bit about the difficulties I’ve had with hypoglycemia over the years.

mile high 30

Two Fridays ago, I was frantically prepping and packing for a business trip, and last Friday I was in transit for over 12 hours on my way home from said trip. It was good but exhausting (as these things always are) and I’m glad to be home.

A few hours before I got back, Wolf came back into town for the first time since his job started and thus was able to pick me up from the airport. It was late and due to a bit of sleep deficit, the ordinary rigours of travel, and especially business trips, as well as a minor mishap en route (I lost a library book!), I was completely done. Every goddamned thing was irritating: the way other passengers stood in the aisle or put on their coats or walked… so… slowly. The only thing I was aware of was all the things that were wrong, and that was everything.

But Wolf was there waiting for me when I arrived, and held me close, and carried my bags, and got me straight home to bed.

From Nov 2017, on a trip to see Jaime. I bake in a sweater while travelling; cardigans are definitely the way to go.

Boobday is a body-positive meme where women share images of their bodies in order to show that there is beauty in all of us. With confidence comes power and with power comes confidence.

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I think I feel like blogging again

If there’s something that I want to understand but don’t (or at least not as fully as I want to), I keep revisiting it until I have the answer. One issue that’s like this for me is why I slowed down so much with blogging. Yes, I’ve discussed this before, but I’ve discovered some new factors, and I’m feeling optimistic.

I posted a lot in 2015, my first year. I had a lot to say, and while I was suffering with undiagnosed depression, the fact that I wasn’t able to work much ended up giving me more time to write, and fortunately I had enough brainpower for it. Wolf came back that summer and in the fall I started teaching dance more than I had been. In 2016 I posted somewhat less.

I think the original causes for the slowdown were depression (starting in the fall of 2016) and the fact that my sex life was cooling off so I had less to write about. No doubt the depression affected my sex life, but it was also cooling off for its own reasons, not yet fully understood (this is something I’m working on now). Then I went on antidepressants, which basically doused what embers of libido that remained. I strongly suspect that the antidepressants also muted my creativity, so even if I had something to say, it was hard to give enough of a shit about saying it to actually write and publish. My many, many unpublished drafts speak to that issue. In 2017 I had half as many posts as 2016.

I was feeling better by December 2017 (yay, depression essentially gone!) but stayed on the antidepressants until spring on doctor’s orders. I felt my cognition rekindle; it took 3-4 weeks but when the change came it was pretty sudden (yay, I can think!). And that was over six months ago, so where has the blogging been? In 2018, I had half as many posts as 2017.

The way I had originally defined the scope of the blog has become limiting to me. I think this is key, and it’s taken me a few months to really absorb it. I kept having ideas of things to say but I felt like I wasn’t allowed to say them here. Weird, since this is my blog to say what I want, but it’s taken me a while to give myself permission to talk about other things beyond the original scope of the project. I’ve felt limited by the name of the blog (which I chose four years ago when things were different), but I don’t have a better name yet, so fuck it. For now, it stays. I intend to revise my About page to reflect the new scope, in bits, as the mood strikes. If I tell myself it all has to be done in one go, it becomes overwhelming and doesn’t get done at all.

I’ve just become aware of a few other factors – less significant, but they go some way to filling in the remaining gaps. I might have mentioned before that I have a new(ish) laptop and I’ve found it difficult to adjust to. The keyboard is different and I get typos more often than before. So that’s annoying. Also, the screen is smaller than I’m used to so editing photos is less fun and more hassle. I have a nice big monitor for my work computer, which spoils me for the small one.

In addition to this, I have few reasons to turn on the laptop, and it being off is a barrier somehow. I don’t really know why, but it’s definitely a thing. I’m much more likely to putter on the blog, and especially reply to comments and comment on other people’s writing, when the laptop is already on.

Wolf has been gone for a week now and I’m rediscovering the routine I had while he was away doing his doctorate. During the day I like it quiet. No music. No talk radio. No TV or Netflix or YouTube. Just silence, other than the sound of a bit of traffic outside and sometimes the wind. (Actually, a lot of wind lately.)

OK, this isn’t really any different from when Wolf is here. But in the evening, it changes. I now have to do the cooking and dishes, and I want music on while I work around the house. When I want music, I go on Soundcloud, which I do from my laptop because of technical reasons. And lo, now my laptop is on every day, and I can just decide to write a little something or do other blog maintenance and it feels so much easier.

Brains are weird.

goals and plans for 2019 — do I have any?

This week’s Food for Thought Friday questions are about goals and plans for 2019.

I’ve never been one for planning very far ahead or making new year’s resolutions or anything. The best time to start something new is now, whatever day of the year that happens to be. I feel the same way about personal growth and life generally. I’m not one for doing things the way they’ve always been done just because they’ve always been done that way; on the contrary, looking for ways to improve is part of my worldview.

That’s not to say that I never plan anything, but while I was dealing with depression (and fatigue) I learned, like Kilted Wookie, not to plan very far in advance. There were too many times when I decided that I’d do whatever thing in a day or two, and then the day came and I lacked the resources I needed to do the thing. Cancelling my own plans was much more disappointing than not making them in the first place.

That’s much less of an issue now, though I still have my natural tendency not to set goals. Even so, I do have some ideas that more or less fit into this category.

I’m planning a trip to see Jaime in April. It will have been over a year since we saw each other last. Too long, but he lives too far away.

My most important and most immediate goal is to take good care of myself while Wolf is away, and the biggest element of that is getting better at cooking. Wolf just likes to take care of me and so he ordinarily does all the grocery shopping, cooking, and dish-washing. I was never a fan of cooking and never developed those skills to where I’d like them to be. When he was away doing his degree, I kept myself fed, but I made big batches of things that took too long to prepare and then got sick of the interminable leftovers.

My specific goal is to develop the skills to reliably throw a decent fresh meal together with a minimum of effort. I foresee a routine of planning supper while eating breakfast so I can go on a supply run at lunch. This is complicated by my dietary needs which have only gotten more complex.

I’m also trying to improve a few health issues. I hope to learn to control my IBS symptoms better through diet, hence the FODMAP diet I’m on now (which will be wrapping up soonish). If that also helps improve a couple of other health issues, as seems possible, it will be a happy bonus.

Another goal is to reduce the amount of stuff in the house. This is a big project, which I first identified years ago, after our last move. (It becomes so obvious, when you have to carry and cart every one of your possessions, how much stuff you actually own.) It’s the detritus of years, a physical collection of deferred decisions. I do get the occasional wave of anxiety about this massive task, but I’ve also been selling stuff online so I remind myself that it’s a work in progress and I just have to keep chipping away. If I’m in a hurry, there are places and ways to just give it away. What slows me down is a sustainability issue: I can’t in good conscience just pitch a bunch of stuff in the garbage, and I struggle with being decisive enough to just get shit done.

This project is more important now that Wolf has this new job, since there is a very good chance that we’ll need to move to a different city this summer. If I have to move, I’d prefer to go where he is now though I’d be happier not to, due to sheer laziness. But chances are this time next year I’ll be in a different city.

As for plans for change, I’m working on getting to know myself better, specifically my needs and wants. A related issue is trying to overcome my low libido. These are the current facets of my perpetual project of seeking contentment, enjoyment, satisfaction, well-being. In a word, happiness.

None of these are really goals for 2019 (except for the obviously time-sensitive ones) as I just don’t think that way, but now is as good a time as any other to talk about plans.

mile high 29

So Wolf is getting settled in his new job in the other city (the other place, but not The Other Place, if you see what I mean). And I’m getting settled into my new solo routine at home. I have to get used to being on my own again (including cooking for myself, which I find difficult and stressful), at least for a few months, but there are significant differences this time. For one, Wolf now has a cell phone so it’s easier to be in touch from a distance, whether that’s by phone or text. We’re also in the same time zone so our cycles still mesh. And the distance, while inconvenient, is near enough for a weekly commute.

Except that we only have one car and the public transportation situation here is dire. But my mom will be away for an extended period — almost the exact same length as an academic term, as luck would have it — and she has offered to lend us her car, which will simplify things immensely.

But for now I’m now communicating with both Wolf and Jaime largely by text, which gives me a stronger sense of my menfolk; I’m more conscious of maintaining two relationships now that I’m alone in this house and they each have a specific text sound and call schedule.

From the last leg of my trip home from Europe in April. En route from Jaime to Wolf.

Boobday is a body-positive meme where women share images of their bodies in order to show that there is beauty in all of us. With confidence comes power and with power comes confidence.

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