Friday, March 2, 2018

Changes in Digestion: Hope for those with IBS

I was trying out two new recipes last night: one was a Moroccan-style chicken stew (done in the slow cooker), and the other was this insanely good lentil recipe from "Oh She Glows, Everyday"

Three things crossed my mind during this process:

1) Is this stew going to be as good when I transform it into a "Low-FODMAP"-friendly recipe? With no onions or garlic??

2) Will these recipes taste as good if I omit the sugar (maple syrup, honey, etc) in both of them?

3) I can't believe I can eat lentils! This is amazing and weird at the same time; like when I brought back white potatoes into my diet a few months ago. 

First off, onions and garlic bring loads of flavours and health benefits to our food, so not being able to enjoy them - and even more accurately, having them exacerbate my IBS symptoms - has been a real struggle; for both cooking at home (especially for a fiancé who LOVES both garlic and onions) and when we dine out.

Staying disciplined as much as possible is not only empowering, but you're preventing the pain that these food compounds cause. Pain is a signal telling us that something is wrong in the body. And it's a signal that we shouldn't ignore.

For those with food sensitivities or reactions, you absolutely can omit ingredients that aggravate you, and still have amazingly tasting food. Both dishes turned out incredibly well, considering what was missing. In this case, the added sweeteners were completely unnecessary.

Secondly, our bodies change as we age, and what worked for you in the past may not work in a few months or years. I spent about a year on a strict paleo diet and loved it! I had a hard time digesting potatoes and legumes (in addition to gluten and dairy), so paleo was the perfect solution for me. Even my "hangry" moments decreased in frequency.

Fast forward 6 years, after the inclusion of gluten-free grains back into my diet:  My once great digestion had returned to being stormy. My body was giving me distinct signals that something was terribly wrong and that the foods I was eating were aggravating me. I had a gut feeling (pun intended) what was causing it... sugars, including certain fruits and honey, onions, garlic, cauliflower, and even too much sauerkraut which I thought was supposed to be a great fermented food for gut health. It bothered me that these things that I had eaten for so long were now a huge issue for me.

Following up with my IBS research and treatment protocols, I realized that all of the foods I was reacting to were high in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols), and started my plan to follow a low-FODMAP diet. This wasn't an easy feat. This is a crazy strict diet but I was tired of suffering.

And the truth is that I feel so much better than I did just 4 months ago, but it's not easy for many of us to completely change our diets. We get caught in habits and knowing what we have to give up can really bring a person down. It is absolutely a challenge.

But my point is that the gut changes over time. Pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory pathways always exist in the body, but we can modify their activation. The gut itself is a type of semi-permeable barrier that can become damaged. Our GI tract is like a whole other world, containing trillions of bacteria, all living within us. These are living organisms that secrete molecules that our body uses or obtains a signal from. They feed on what we ourselves are eating. There are so many factors involved that can change what your body reacts to and how it reacts.

There is always hope for IBS. There is always a chance that you may be able to eat things in the future that you're not able to now. But remember that there is a purpose for these signals - your symptoms - and it's your responsibility to truly listen to them and then modify your diet to best serve your body. Not only will your overall health improve, but you will actually feel better acutely. Seriously. Imagine eating a delicious meal and not feeling bloated, gassy, or having abnormal or painful bowel movements. That's what you have to look forward to :)