For 13 years I have suffered with stomach and bowel problems; I have been gastrically, digestively and stomachically disabled. I have flitted between not being able to get off the toilet, and not being able to go at all for so long that I could look 3 months pregnant in a matter of days. And, of course, I am talking about poo. That taboo subject people don't discuss (apart from teenage boys and men when discussing their pre-night out ritual) but everybody does it, hopefully daily, and without a second thought.
At times over the past 13 years poo has had much more than a second thought from me. That, and the pain I was under on a daily basis, muted on good days, so sharp and debilitating on bad days. I have had to go home from nights out with friends, sat in the toilet for an hour at work; for the sake of emphasis and because I am not the only one, I have pooed my pants. And before anybody judges me, I was not caught short not wanting to use a public toilet, I had already been in the public toilet thought it was all over, attempted to get home and, then, was met with an onslaught that I could not control. Trust me, it has happened more than once, and each time I was devastated, mortified and I cried for hours.
Why am I telling you all this? Well because I am not alone in suffering this way. There are over 250,000 sufferers of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the UK, with the most common conditions being Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis. And with at least 1 in 10 people suffering symptoms of IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome - severe enough to visit a GP. Alongside, my own family experiences six individuals, varying symptoms and problems, and counting. With all this information I know I am not alone.
The worst thing is unless they are your close friends and family, nobody sees your symptoms or the daily pain you are in. And if you are like me you become very good at covering it up and getting on with your every day life, I had tailored my life to cope. If I had a pound the amount of times people told me I 'looked great, had I lost weight?' after a particularly bad bout of not being able to get off the toilet and not really eating, I would be writing this in some very fancy designer shoes right now - sadly I have on fluffy slipper socks.
But this is not a tale of woe. I have been introduced to something that has changed my life drastically for the better. The Low Fodmap Diet. 10 and a half weeks ago, after many invasive, painful tests and exploratory surgeries that came out clear for any thing sinister I might add, to which I am very very grateful, I was sent to a dietitian. After a long chat she began to talk to me about the Fodmap diet, there and then I knew I wanted to try it, and, boy am I glad I did. Had I seen my dietitian a year earlier, she would not have been able to put me on the diet, in the UK it didn't really exist; created by Dr Sue Shepherd in Australia and herself a coeliac, it has yet to have an impact in British shores in any big way.
Fodmap is an acronym for Fermentable, Oligo-saccharides,
Disaccharides, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. All of these are carbohydrates.
Fermentable as they ferment in our intestines.
Oligo-saccharides are fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides.
Di-saccharides are lactose.
Mono-saccharides are fructose
Polyols are Sugar Alcohols.
Basically, the idea is to avoid all foods that are high Fodmap, the list is far too long to include here but for a better idea of foods check my blog post Science Bit or Fodmap Bit.
So for the past 10 and half weeks I haven't been eating wheat, dairy, certain veg, certain fruit, beans, pulses, and certain sugars. This may sound horrific, and you will be thinking 'Well what the hell do you eat?' The answer is simple - lots, and I have not had an attack in the whole 10 and a half weeks, this for me is heaven. I think I feel like a normal person, imagine that. I last a whole night out with my friends, drinking, eating and generally being merry. I can focus on work and my energy is up..
The biggest loss for me has been Onion and Garlic, I am a massive foodie, I love eating, cooking, reading about food and writing about food. The thought of losing both of these was one of the most traumatising events in my life. I have since begun the reintroduction phase of my Fodmap diet - yep that's right you can reintroduce food to find out exactly which of the Fodmaps you are sensitive too. Unfortunately, it seems Onions are off my palate for the foreseeable - although a small amount, say one tablespoon during a meal out, will not reopen the floodgates. Garlic, unless a chief ingredient, does not have dire consequences.
I am learning what I can and cannot eat. I am learning to cook and focus on the things that I can eat. There is still a plethora of amazing, delicious ingredients to enjoy. Now that I have found a way to put ME back in control, I refuse to see the negatives, but concentrate on the positives. Take this new lease of life I have been handed and run with it. I will be writing new recipes, finding new free from foods - of which the marketplace is greatly growing and some actually taste good, and generally making sure my life is just as foodie but, now I can actually enjoy it. And no more pooing my pants.