I couldn’t continue to accept that a stomach ache every day was normal. I had a gut feeling my body was telling me something more about the food I ate.
In 2011 I joined a 200 strong secret society of concerned parents to hear Sue Dengate of ‘The Food Intolerance network’. It’s funny, I went to it with my children in mind. Little did I know how it would influence my life! Sue’s slideshow sermon on food intolerances opened my eyes to the detrimental effects of many ingredients in our everyday food. It could have been death by Powerpoint, but instead it was it was the beginning of the end of how I previously related to food. What died that night was my culinary complacency.
Immediately afterwards I waged a war in my own pantry. Armed with information about a range of preservatives and the many duplicitous aliases they assumed, I started flushing the enemy out. I interrogated the ingredient panels on every foodstuff. Within a week I had either binned or given away most of my pantry.
I now shopped like a sleuth. I mistrusted every packet, tub and box in the supermarket and held them up in the glare of the bright lights until they revealed their contents. After removing processed foods, preservatives, MSG etc from my diet, I felt more in tune. These unnecessary additives were not the problem, but without this multitude of chemicals in the mix, I had a baseline. I could identify other food triggers. In January 2013 I made a pact with myself to stop eating gluten. I told my family it was a 3 week cleanse but I knew it was forever. It had taken me twenty years to reach this place. I was committed to the change.
The improvements were significant; I knew this was the first step in healing my digestive system. I felt less constipated and I didn’t suffer catatonic fullness after eating a big meal. Welcome as this was, being gluten free alone didn’t seem to pack enough punch. If anything, I was underwhelmed. Gluten free was easier than I ever imagined; no cravings, no sense of depriving myself. Plus I knew I could feel better than this. I researched the effects of gluten on the body, wondering if I could expect more or if I was missing something. The more I read the more I wanted to find out. I became passionate about improving my health and vitality through food. In my local library I stumbled upon a book which I felt at the time was written exactly for me; Intestinal health through diet with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet by Elaine Gottscall. Her research and personal story I found compelling. The SCD was another huge dietary shift but the scientific evidence was impossible to ignore. Empowered by my small success with gluten, I eliminated grains, legumes and processed sugar. I began to make 24 hour cultured yogurt at home.
What happened next was most undesired! For the next few weeks I felt like a zombie. In fact, I felt like someone had stolen part of my brain. I was a functioning at base level. I was profoundly tired, emotional, moody and generally crap. Over the next few months, as I tweaked my diet, this wretched feeling came and went. Had the zombie left my stomach to reside in my brain? (I’ll write about this another time, so keep posted).
The last thing I cut out – and this one certainly wasn’t easy – was dairy and the joy of cheese. But AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! (Long sigh of relief) Finally I was on the edge of (what I suspected was) normality! My stomach symptoms were changing. I recall my mental notes as I started to experience the unimaginable:
No stomach pain for 3 days… No stomach pain now for 1 week… OMG! It’s been 3 weeks…. A miracle. I’d made it to the other side!
There were many dietary contradictions but none greater than when I learned about FODMAP‘s. FODMAPs were the missing link . They were the last piece of the puzzle that helped to explain why I still could not eat some foods without pain. The Gut And Psychology Diet an off-shoot of the SCD with more emphasis on fermentation and probiotics is another healing diet that has significantly influenced my healing journey and still does. Is your head in a whirl?? So many diets and theories……
In conclusion, I wish I could say it was as simple as rigorously following one because none of these diets have been a one-size-fits-all solution for me. I have had to be patient, listen to my gut feeling and tailor these approaches to my unique and specific tummy needs. Each of these healing diets contribute to rebuilding a healthier me. A bit like an amalgam of philosophies that make sense to me. It’s an ongoing discovery but ultimately I eat anti-inflammatory foods and listen to my body.