The lowfodmap journey is finally over! For the past 5 months Derek and I have been on a very restrictive doctor ordered diet. We were following this diet to treat a condition called SIBO which is small intestinal bacteria overgrowth. Basically, this means we had too much bacteria in our gut which would cause over fermenting of foods leading to lots of uncomfortable symptoms (gas, bloating, bathroom trips). We were diagnosed using a breath test, had to take a strong course of antibiotics and then follow the lowfodmap diet for 3 months with 2 more months of reintroducing trigger foods.
SIBO can be caused by different things but in our case, it was leaky gut for Derek and having low stomach acid for me. We weren’t truly aware of what we were getting ourselves into and the experience has taught us way more than what makes our stomachs feel best.
Being on this diet it was basically impossible to eat out. Not only were so many common foods on the no list but ones that were allowed had such specific quantities that were acceptable. This took a huge toll on our social life. I am much more of an introvert than Derek is. For me I enjoy quality one on one time with my girlfriends or small groups. With my schedule, it is super easy for me to get together with friends during the day for coffee or a walk and at night time I prefer to be home. The social aspect wasn’t too hard for me, even though I did miss grabbing lunch and happy hour drinks with friends. For Derek, going out with friends is a huge thing for him, it destresses him and revitalizes him. Since Derek has a more traditional job, he looks forward to going out at night and on weekends, meeting friends for dinner or drinks. Not being able to eat out made it very difficult to do these things. We found it hard to go out and just be an observer as friends ate and drank. We ended up becoming pretty reclusive and just meeting friends occasionally for hikes and walks on weekends when we could. This showed us how much of our social life revolves around food. We had to be more creative and find other ways to get out of the house.
We both learned that food served as a comfort for us. For me there was nothing better than curling up on the couch after a long week with some ice cream or other treats. Derek would love to order pizza or a burger and crack open a beer. These small comforts were no longer allowed and it definitely threw us to see how much we relied on them. Having these comforts taken away caused us to get snappy with each other. This definitely tested our relationship and piled on to the normal adjustments during the first year of marriage. I’m not going to lie, there were times we had epic screaming fights leading to me getting way too emotional and Derek a little too angry. But the experience also taught us how to resolve issues, how to communicate better and be more open and honest with each other. In the moment, it all felt to be too much but I’d say this diet and the stress it caused really gave us tools for the inevitable tough parts of marriage and life.
Another hard part of being on this diet was the time, effort and planning it took. I had to cook all of our meals for 5 months, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I always had to make sure food was prepped and groceries were ordered. There were so many times after coming home from the day that I just did not want to have to deal with cooking, but in order for us to eat I had to hit the kitchen. I started waking up at 5:30 every morning just to get the food prep out of the way. Since there were so few foods we could actually have, we consumed so much to keep ourselves full that I felt like things were gone right after I had cooked it all. I had Amazon Fresh groceries at my door at least every other morning. Derek tried to help as much as he could but with him working a full-time job I understood that he didn’t really have the time to help. He was really great with helping out at night with the dishes (there were always so many dishes). But there were times that this did cause some tension in our relationship. I would get up in the morning to a messy kitchen and I would get upset and frustrated that Derek didn’t clean up. I tried to be more understanding and realize that after a full, stressful day of work Derek needed his own time to decompress and the dishes were not always part of this.
After the 3 months of strict elimination we had the reintroduction phase. We had to test each category of food one at a time for 3 days, increasing the serving size each day. After the 3 days of testing there was a 3-day wash period between. Each food we tested represented a category of carbohydrates. I won’t bore you with all the details of our reintroduction but I will tell you the things that I learned do not work well for me. The first test food we did was avocado and so sadly I failed this. The smallest serving was okay, ¼ an avocado, but anything more than that caused great discomfort to my GI tract. This was very hard for me to accept; I absolutely love avocado! Other foods in this category that I have to be careful with are any fruits with pits and also any gum or snacks that are made with mannitol or sorbitol. Two other categories that we tested were onions and garlic. Again, the smallest serving was okay but anything larger than that really upset my system. This will make eating out hard since these are huge ingredients in most food but I will just have to be careful and try to ask for none when I can. Other foods in this category include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, roma tomatoes, cabbage, asparagus, pistachios, beets, snow peas and artichoke. The final category that was tough for me was almond butter. I made it to the second day without too many symptoms but once I hit the largest serving I experienced some trouble. The other things included in this category are cashews, hazelnuts, flax seed, hemp seeds, black beans, chickpeas and lentils.
Overall this was a really intense experience. Looking back, if we knew how tough it was going to be I am not sure if we would have gone through with it. I can sit and list all the hard and negative aspects but I want to shift my mindset and focus on the positives. It helped Derek and I to learn things about ourselves, what some stress coping mechanisms are and how much our social life revolves around eating/drinking. It tested our relationship by forcing us to be around each other way more than normal but this helped us to really understand each other more and get our communication on point. We soothed our troubled guts and now experience way less of the terrible everyday symptoms we were having. Most of all we truly appreciate going out to dinner now and the freedom it allows!