Browse Tag by Controlling IBS symptoms

The realities of living with IBS

Today I’ve had a terrible day as far as my IBS is concerned. The irony is, I’d only just been thinking to myself yesterday how good it’s been.

FODMAPS and IBS - A Free From Life

In fact, I’ve been feeling pretty good all round, which I put down to taking a multivitamin designed specifically for women, along with a vitamin B complex. I’d been feeling ridiculously tired before I started on these supplements, in a way that didn’t feel down to the stresses and strains of normal life or even my age. I craved to have even just a smidgen of energy to get me through the day.

After some health concerns earlier this year, that has led to me having a few tests, including a colonoscopy (not nice) and a hydrogen breath test, the only thing the results showed up is that I have some fermentation going on in my lower intestine. This means food is taking longer than it should to pass through and a little colony of bacteria have set up home to take advantage of that. It’s the supposed reason for my stomach pains.

What anyone with IBS will tell you, though, is how the pains can come seemingly out of nowhere.

It’s often the case where you can’t for the life of you fathom what could have caused it. To go from feeling fine and relatively pain free for a reasonable length of time and then suddenly be struck down and spending all day feeling nauseous, is pretty depressing.

I just started taking probiotics again and am left wondering could that be the cause? Probiotics are meant to be the good guys, but that’s not to say there isn’t something in the pill that could cause problems, if you are particularly sensitive. The ones I take say they may contain milk as it is used in the media where the bacterial strains grow.

My life without dairy is proving successful in terms of clear skin and all-round general well being. It has definitely made a difference to me.

I’m thankful to have no major health concerns, but I guess I’ve become a little complacent during my ‘well period’ and forgotten what it’s like to suffer an IBS attack. My symptoms today I would describe as being like a hangover. With a dull headache and a feeling of being zapped of all energy, the sickness I’ve been feeling goes away temporarily every time I eat, but soon after leaves me feeling worse than before.

It’s annoying at best and debilitating at worst; these collective symptoms that have no apparent one-cause or cure. For anyone else who suffers like this, know that you are not alone, nor are you crazy or a hypochondriac. Keep pushing through the pain and hopefully one day, we will find a way to beat this.


Dairy free diaries

Dairy Intolerance - what you need to know - A Free From Life
Image courtesy of tiverlucky at

My son is dairy and wheat intolerant and although I make most things to suit him, I don’t always avoid these items in my own diet.

Having suffered long-term with IBS, I’ve found my own symptoms are worsened by nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, mainly). Avoiding these foods definitely helps keep my stomach from tying in knots and my skin breaking out in hives, but one thing it hasn’t helped with is my skin.

I haven’t talked about my skin problems on this blog before, but it’s time to finally ‘come out’!

Although I suffered with bad skin as a teen, it cleared when I started taking the pill. When I came off the pill, I went on to have three children, and during this time my skin was clear, which I think was mainly down to the hormones swimming around my system during that time.

It was after having my third child that things began to unravel. A year after having him, I sought help because my IBS was at its worst and my skin was terrible.

Having taken measures to help with both of these problems, I’ve since changed my diet to get the IBS under control and the products I use do a good job of controlling my skin – mostly.

The area I can’t seem to do anything about is my chin.

I’ve looked into it (thanks Google), and found the cause of outbreaks in this area is hormonal related and common amongst women of 30+. Great. Even better news, it’s a recognised form of acne. Wonderful.

So it seems unless I go back on the pill (not going to happen) or take some form of hormone regulating medication (I’m in my early forties, so I’m not going there yet), there isn’t a lot I can do. Or is there?

Some suggestions indicate poor digestion as a possible contributor to these forms of outbreaks (that’ll be me then), with a link to dairy. So it leaves me with little choice but to give this option a try.

I’m reaching the end of week one of my dairy free trial. I tried to kid myself that I didn’t each that much dairy in the first place, but I’ve found the difficulties arise when you go out.

What has changed this week?

  • I went to Costa (once), for a takeaway and had a soya milk cappuccino (wasn’t too bad). Didn’t choose anything to eat because the choice is limited to dried fruit, nuts or some mini cherry bakewells (too sweet for me).
  • I took my eldest daughter plus friends to the local trampoline park on Saturday and it was over lunchtime. Again I had a coffee with soya milk, but there wasn’t anything I could eat except crisps (and I don’t do potatoes do I?) By the time we left and called into town on the way home, I was starving and ended up getting a slice of banana bread from the local gluten free cafe (it was one of three choices that were both gluten and dairy free).
  • Today, I was out shopping with my middle daughter, whilst my eldest and her friends went to the cinema (this, and the trampolining, were because of her birthday, not that I take her to stuff and don’t do anything with the other two – just in case you were wondering). I needed caffeine (as you do when you’ve had three teenagers for a sleepover), so we dropped in to M and S.

Although there were a few choices of gluten free cakes, there wasn’t anything dairy free. Even if I’d opted to forego the gluten free, the choice didn’t improve because all the sandwiches included dairy. I ended up with a gluten free bread bun, spread with margarine and you guessed it, a coffee with soya milk.

I will say one thing for this week, I have definitely eaten less and avoiding dairy has meant not giving into the sugar cravings. I can also appreciate, more than ever, what my son has to live with on a daily basis and it’s the reason why I always take snacks for him wherever we go.

As for the skin (the reason for doing this) I can’t say I’ve seen any improvement yet, although it’s early days and I wouldn’t expect to. The test will be to see how it fairs over a complete cycle because after all, it’s the hormones at work here, and diet may not be the contributing factor.

I’m off to make a peach cobbler now. It’s a simple recipe and will be both gluten and dairy free, plus low sugar. It is Sunday after all, and with the log fire burning away, some comfort food feels like the perfect end to the week.


Debunking the FODMAP diet

Debunking the FODMAP diet - A Free From Life

I’ve talked about FODMAPS before, here on A Free From Life. What makes them so interesting to me is their link to IBS and other digestive disorders. As an IBS sufferer, who could never seem to work out which foods were causing the symptoms, it makes sense to finally have something to which I can lay the blame.

Having said that, the term FODMAPS, which stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, is enough to make anyone run a mile screaming. When you’re told that foods containing FODMAPS include wheat, beans, pulses, some vegetables, dairy products and fruit, it immediately sounds warning bells. A diet without these things is surely impossible to maintain isn’t it?

There’s another thing too. You have to experiment with FODMAP foods as you may find that some affect you more than others, depending on how high the levels of active ingredients. Yes it’s confusing and it’s not a diet you can embark on without professional help, but because of the evidence backing up FODMAPS as a potential cause of IBS, is it not worth considering?

In response to the confusion surrounding a low FODMAP diet, Australian dietitian, Dr Sue Shepherd, has been working with a team to create a FODMAP certification programme. Dr Shepherd, who developed the low FODMAP diet back in 1999, has also recently launched her own low FODMAP food range. The certification programme, known as FODMAP Friendly, is an Australian Government-approved accreditation system. It includes a logo designed to help consumers pick out foods that are suitable for them to eat on this diet and in order for products to display this logo, they must first go through vigorous laboratory testing. FODMAP Friendly foods are set to be a new addition to the free from aisle and should help those following a low FODMAP diet to choose foods with confidence.

Debunking the FODMAP diet - A Free From Life

The team at FODMAP Friendly kindly sent me the app that accompanies their website. This app gives lots of useful information about the programme and how the foods are tested. It also breaks down what FODMAPS are and provides advice for following the diet. As they don’t recommend anyone to follow this diet without first seeking professional help, the app contains information on where to find a dietary specialist in a number of different countries. I’m sure that this list will be added to over time.

The app also has a list of certified products, with links to the relevant websites. At the moment, most of these products are Australian and not available in the UK, however, I was informed that the FODMAP Friendly website will be selling these products worldwide in the very near future.

Individual foods are listed with a simple breakdown of the total fructans, excess fructose, sorbitol, lactose, mannitol and GOS levels. Don’t worry if that means nothing to you because a simple ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ stamp tells you whether it is suitable. This is great information to have at your fingertips, but what I would like to see are recipes that you can make at home using suitable ingredients. It can be very off-putting to see a great big long list of foods with a ‘Fail’ stamp across them. I’m sure many people would appreciate some tips on how to cook in a FODMAP friendly way, myself included.

Debunking the FODMAP diet - A Free From Life

I think this is a really positive step towards debunking FODMAPS and helping individuals to conquer their IBS and digestive disorders. There are so many people who believe they have a gluten intolerance, yet they still seem to suffer symptoms and cannot understand why. I think they need to appreciate that this complex condition is down to more than one food group and also that controlling the symptoms is possible. If this accreditation system works and it spreads to the UK, it will be a breakthrough for IBS. Awareness of this condition is still poor and there are doctors who continue to mis-diagnose and send patients away having told them to take an antacid medication. Just because IBS is a complex condition doesn’t mean that it should be ignored or swept under the carpet. I believe it is important to look at the cause and not just treat the symptoms and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that more people will become aware of FODMAPS through this accreditation scheme.


FODMAPS and IBS – Is it possible to control the symptoms?

FODMAPS and IBS - A Free From Life

I recently wrote about a bad experience I had with my IBS and my struggle to control the symptoms, even after twenty years of suffering with it.

The term irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, came about as the result of a group of doctors and researchers sitting in a room together and deciding what to call this collective set of symptoms that linked to the digestive system. They understood that it was a genuine medical concern, but because no one could identify one particular cause (still can’t), they had to group them together.

FODMAPS and IBS - A Free From Life

The term, IBS, for me, became synonymous for ‘hypochondriac with stomach ache’ and because of that stigma, I never went to see my doctor about it. Believing that they couldn’t do anything about it anyway, I doubt that I ever will go. I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s down to me to work out what causes my symptoms and try to manage it that way. That’s easier said than done, though. My recent attack (the one I wrote about), came as a complete surprise because I hadn’t suffered that badly in ages. I thought I had it under control, but apparently not.

Looking back, I can see that stress played a big part in that day and also not eating properly. For me, those two things are really important and as we know digestion is directly affected by stress, it’s no surprise that IBS sufferers can find their symptoms worsening when their stress levels increase. I have also identified, in recent years, some foods that I am intolerant to (the nightshade group) and cutting these out of my diet has really helped.

I wonder whether I will ever truly know the causes, though. Is it gluten? Is it dairy? and what about FODMAPS? Haven’t heard of these yet?  High FODMAP foods are thought to be directly linked to IBS or digestive symptoms and I first heard about them when my husband had surgery on his stomach. His consultant recommended he follow a low FODMAP diet and it’s interesting that we have identified a number of foods that irritate his stomach belonging to this food group.

It’s not an easy diet to follow, though and it can be very confusing to know what foods to eat and what to avoid. This is why I am pleased to have the opportunity to road test a new app called FODMAP Friendly, specifically aimed at those who would like to follow a low FODMAP diet.

I think apps for people with food intolerances and allergies have real value. Not only do they provide vital information, you can find that information quickly and easily and wherever you are in the world. Click here to read more about some of the apps that are available to try. They include information for gluten free shopping and dining, ways to manage and record your symptoms and even an app for translating your allergy to help you communicate your symptoms when abroad.

The app I will be testing is brand new and I’m looking forward to reporting how I get on. You can learn more about FODMAPs here.

How do you manage your IBS Symptoms?



What are FODMAPS -

FODMAPS is a collective term given to a group of carbohydrates. It stands for (wait for it) Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.

Australian researchers at Monash University in Melbourne developed the FODMAP diet following studies conducted amongst self-diagnosed gluten sensitive individuals. The research indicated that in patients whose diets were low in FODMAPS, gluten did not produce a specific negative effect. Since many FODMAP-containing foods also contain gluten, they concluded that it’s possible to control symptoms by reducing these carbohydrates in the diet.

So what are they I hear you cry?
This group of carbohydrates are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and when eaten they alter the fluid content of the colon. Bacteria in the colon ferment undigested material, producing gases such as hydrogen and methane and this can result in symptoms such as bloating, constipation etc.

Oligosaccharides (such as fructans and galactans)
These are found in wheat, beans, pulses and vegetables such as onions. They also come in the form of inulin and fructooligosaccharides (both food additives).

These include lactose found in cow’s milk and goat’s milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Fructose is a monosaccharide – found in fruit and honey and added to many processed foods (high fructose corn syrup, for example).

These are sugar alcohols found in diet and sugar-free foods in the form of sorbitol and xylitol. They occur naturally in peaches, plums mushrooms and cauliflower.

I first came to hear about FODMAPS via the consultant who treated my husband. He has a hiatus hernia and suffers from gastrointestinal reflux. An alkaline diet partially controls his symptoms, along with prescribed medication, but he has also found that reducing FODMAP foods from his diet helps enormously.

As an IBS sufferer, I am very interested in FODMAPS. I put up with my symptoms for a long time because there never seemed to be anything specific that triggered them. It’s so difficult to pinpoint the problem foods and I didn’t consider it a problem that required medical attention. I didn’t think a doctor would be interested to be honest and back then, they probably wouldn’t have been.

Since then, I’ve found that avoiding nightshade foods, namely tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and aubergines leaves me symptom free. There are some foods on the FODMAP list of no-no’s that I can’t eat but there are others that I’m fine with, for example onions and mushrooms. Unfortunately, these don’t agree with my husband at all and neither does cauliflower, which I love as an alternative to mashed potato. You can’t win when you are trying to cater for different food avoidance issues!

My thoughts on FODMAPS?
I have a poster stuck on my fridge door and I use it as a guide. As far as my husband is concerned, following a low FODMAP diet significantly reduces his symptoms. The key is to consider it as a reduction of these foods not a complete elimination. After all, with so many foods on the list you could end up with a very limited choice for your diet. This is never a good thing. It’s possible that not every food on the list will aggravate your symptoms, so it’s best to try omitting a few at a time and see how you get on. In my husband’s case, if he fancies eating a cooked breakfast and it comes with grilled mushrooms, he will eat them. As long as he sticks to a restricted diet most of the time, the occasional break doesn’t do any damage. It depends whether you are prepared to suffer the consequences of falling off the wagon, so to speak.

Have you come across FODMAPS and if so, does it work for you?