The past several months have been difficult for me. Both my irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea and my cervical radiculopathy have flared up. Between muscle spasms that result in nerve pain in my back and many uncomfortable hours spent in the bathroom, I’ve been pretty miserable.
I’ve spent most of the time chasing cures. Trigger point injections, massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, hot and cold compresses — you name it, I’ve tried it! I was even desperate enough to try a new medication my neurologist thought could help. Given my history of side effects, you can imagine that it was truly a last resort on my part. Sadly, it became just another entry on the long list of medications I cannot tolerate.
This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the foods I eat. Although not mentioned by my doctors, common sense told me there must be a connection. Something I’m eating must be contributing to the painful state of my body.
Over the years, I’d eliminated some items that I was fairly certain had contributed to my problems. I am lactose intolerant so it wasn’t difficult to give up dairy. Food sensitivity testing done years ago by my acupuncturist had shown that I was sensitive to soy, so I gave that up as well. Never a big fan of Asian foods, that wasn’t much of a sacrifice.
The really difficult thing to give up was gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley. However, I’d read so many things about its negative effects that I felt I had no choice. Because of my continuing problems, I reasoned that other culprits must exist out there. And maybe I could actually eat the things I’d already discontinued.
So my research began. According to Harvard Health Publishing, following a low FODMAP diet can be helpful for IBS. I’d given that eating plan only a half-hearted attempt when it first became popular several years ago. It was definitely time for a second, more serious try.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that in contrast to the initial recommendations, gluten is no longer considered a high FODMAP food. Maybe I could have a slice of warm, crusty bread again? I printed out both lists — foods to eat and foods to avoid — and attached them with magnets to my refrigerator.
Next, I searched for foods that could cause pain. Most sources equate pain with inflammation and recommend an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet. As I quickly scanned the foods on that list, I was pleased to find that most of the foods I frequently eat were included. If my husband wasn’t a dedicated meat-and-potato man, I’d probably have been a vegetarian by now. This might be easier than I thought. Again, I printed out the “good” and the “bad” lists and attached them to my fridge.
Frustration occurred when I began to compare the lists. For years, I’d been a big fan of broccoli, a highly recommended anti-inflammatory food. Not only did I enjoy its taste — especially when eaten with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice — but it is a recommended source of antioxidants. But there it was on the list of high FODMAPs to be avoided for IBS.
Worse still was that cauliflower and cabbage (coleslaw) were listed. I’d been eating riced cauliflower, touted as a healthy substitute for white rice, only to find that it’s not healthy at all for me. In fact, along with broccoli, it is among the worst culprits for causing gastrointestinal upset and IBS symptoms.
Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), garlic, lentils, and kidney beans are common ingredients on the Mediterranean diet and have been staples in my diet for years. These foods are also considered high FODMAPs, according to Harvard Health. They’re also on the top of the list of foods to be avoided for people with IBS.
It’s definitely a dilemma. Do I eat foods that may reduce my pain but also trigger IBS? Or do I eat foods that control my IBS but also increase my pain? Of course, there’s no correct solution, but I’ve come up with a plan. I will eliminate all of the very worst culprits on both lists to see how I do for a couple of weeks. Then, one by one, I will reintroduce those foods to see what reaction, if any, it will cause. In this way, perhaps I’ll find specific foods that I should do without.
Wish me luck!
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