I never thought I’d have a colonoscopy at the age of 30, nor did I want to! But it was necessary. Without going into too much detail (or grossing you out) I was having a few symptoms that triggered concerns. Pair that with a pretty sensitive stomach, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for years, plus a family history of colon cancer in a female relative in her 40’s and BAM! Colonoscopy for Shannon.
Now, I don’t mean to alarm or scare those of you who have never had one, but holy crud, the bowel prep was horrific. I’ve heard I got the “bad” prep. But really people, is there such a thing as an easy or ”good” preparation for a colonoscopy? (eye roll)
My parents literally called me every few hours after I started my prep. “How’s it going?” “You doing ok?” They alerted about me what I should expect, but what was so weird is that I didn’t have the typical response. It was almost as if the medication sat in my belly. I went to bed that night feeling totally ok.
A few hours later I woke with cold sweats, chills, and the worst nausea I have ever experienced (worse than pregnancy—far worse)! The frequent trips to the bathroom started, but not nearly as often as my parents had told me to expect. I was so worried I would go to my appointment that next day, have them tell me it didn’t work well enough to do the procedure, and I would have to reschedule and do the prep again. No thank you! My appointment wasn’t until noon which meant nothing to eat or drink either. Thankfully, they allowed me to proceed and I am happy to report, the colonoscopy was 100% normal!
With the good news, came the bad news.
Good news: it was normal. Hallelujah! Bad news: I still had the same symptoms.
I was Introduced to the FODMAPs Diet
The what?! Yeah, I had the same response. I also was slightly embarrassed and baffled that I had never heard of it and had been a nurse practitioner for 4 years! How was this possible?
The gastroenterologist went on to explain that certain foods (like everything I was eating, of course), are not easily absorbed or digested in many people. These are foods that are higher in a certain types of carbohydrates (sugars) that are osmotic, meaning that they pull water into the intestine. This means that they might not be as easily absorbed or digested. And worst of all, could potentially be a source for bacteria to ferment upon in the intestine if these foods are eaten in excess.
The foods that tend to be high in these type of sugars have been known to cause symptoms such as: bloating, cramping, gas and/or diarrhea. There are symptoms a lot of people experience daily, specifically in those with IBS and or inflammatory bowel disease.
What does FODMAPs stand for?
Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols
Basically, they are foods that are high in these different types of carbohydrates (sugars):
- Fructose: high fructose corn syrup, honey, apples, mangoes, watermelon
- Lactose: dairy
- Fructans: also known as inulin, this including wheat, onion, garlic
- Galactans: beans, lentils, legumes, soy
- Polyols: sugar, alcohols, sweeteners containing sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, and stone fruits i.e. avocado, cherries, nectarines
A few things to note: Not all carbohydrates contain high amounts of these sugars, so don’t think you’re going to have to eliminate all carbs. There are also other foods: certain vegetables, nuts, etc. that are high in FODMAPs.
The worst foods for IBS symptoms:
I almost laughed when he showed me the list of the foods highest in FODMAPs.
- Apples: I ate one a daily almost without fail
- Sweet potatoes in high quantities: I eat more than the recommended amount
- Onions: On my chicken salads about 3+ times a week
- Garlic: I put garlic on everything
- Avocado: On the same chicken salad mentioned above
- Dairy: I generally avoid but love Bailey’s in my hot cocoa (cocoa powder is also a culprit)
- Chickpeas (Hummus): My go to snack with carrot sticks
- Honey: In my tea. Every. Single. Day.
- Veggies: All of my favorites & frequently consumed made the list: cauliflower, brussel sprouts, celery, and mushrooms to name a few
I seriously had a near panic attack. What the heck was I going to eat?
Finding my IBS Triggers
I was determined, however, to give it “the good ‘ol college try.” And so I did. For 6 straight weeks I cut out the foods highest in FODMAPs. And what do you know, my symptoms improved significantly. I also have no doubt my daily Shakeology helped, as I was ensuring I was getting pre- and probiotics in my daily nutrition.
I slowly added back in various foods after the 6 weeks and found my biggest triggers, which is the goal of this “diet.” Apples are a huge trigger for me as is dairy. Cutting out hummus/chickpeas was really beneficial and avoiding cauliflower in large amounts was also key. For those that know me and my love for vegetables, you know I can eat a lot of veggies. I found that some of the other foods were ok, so long as it was in moderation. My life motto: everything in moderation. Which is what I love so much about clean eating and the 21 Day Fix meal plan I follow.
Sugar alcohols are the worst of all for me and probably for most. Recently I had started having more frequent and worseningsymptoms and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then I realized I had starting drinking a drink that my friends were raving about (and was seriously delicious). I don’t want to knock the drink by telling you which one, but I finally realized that it was the newest addition to my food intake.
Ingredient culprit? Erythritol. Touted as a smart sweetener—a low calorie sweetener known as sugar alcohol. Womp, womp! As soon as I cut that drink out, my symptoms improved.
A total aside, but years ago when I started my infertility journey, I was told by a nutritionist/naturopath to avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs. She explained how bad artificial sweeteners were for me and that Stevia is the only sweetener I should consume. (Note: Shakeology uses Stevia and no other artificial sweeteners, preservatives or additives—this is a common question I often receive!)
How Do You “Do” a Low FODMAPs Diet?
- You have to be religious about the diet for 6 weeks.
- Keep a food diary with the foods you’re consuming and the symptoms that are improving and/or worsening.
- Read labels. Always read labels. If it has a food high in FODMAPs, avoid it during those 6 weeks. However, if it’s the very last ingredient on a food that is overall low in FODMAPs, it should be alright.
- Buy gluten-free grains (aka wheat free). You don’t need to follow a completely gluten-free diet as the focus is foods high in FODMAPs, such as wheat, not in all gluten. Low gluten foods include: quinoa, rice, corn.
- Limit serving sizes for high fiber foods to about ½ cup per meal if you have symptoms after consuming high fiber
- Limit serving sizes for low FODMAP foods (certain fruits/veggies) if you experience symptoms.
- After 6 weeks, add high FODMAP foods back in one at a time to find your triggers that are causing your symptoms.
Follow this General FODMAPs Guide
HIGH FODMAP FOODS TO LIMIT
Meats, Poultry Fish, Eggs: foods made with high FODMAP fruit sauces or with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Dairy: buttermilk, chocolate, cottage cheese, ice cream, creamy/cheesy sauces, milk (from cow, sheep or goat), sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, soft cheeses (brie, ricotta), sour cream, whipped cream, yogurt
Non-Dairy Alternatives, Nuts & Beans: Coconut milk, coconut cream, beans, black eyed peas, hummus, lentils, pistachios, soy products
Grains: chicory root, inulin, grains with HFCS or made from wheat (terms for wheat: einkorn, emmer, kamut, spelt), wheat flours (terms for wheat flour: bromated, durum, enriched, farina, graham, semolina, white flours), flour tortillas, rye
Fruit: avocado, apples, applesauce, apricots, dates, canned fruit, cherries, dried fruits, figs, guava, lychee, mango, nectarines, pears, papaya, peaches, plums, prunes, persimmon, watermelon
Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, beets, leeks, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, fennel, green beans, mushrooms, okra, snow peas, summer squash
Desserts: Any with HFCS or made with foods to limit
Beverages: Any with HFCS¸ high FODMAP fruit/vegetable juices, fortified wines (sherry, port)
Seasonings, Condiments: HFCS, agave, chutneys, coconut, garlic, honey, jams, jellies, molasses, onions, pickle, relish, high FODMAP fruit/vegetable sauces, salad dressings made with high FODMAPs, artificial sweeteners: sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, xylitol (cough drops, gums, mints)
LOW FODMAP FOODS OK TO EAT
Meats, Poultry Fish, Eggs: beef, chicken, canned tuna, eggs, egg whites, fish, lamb, pork, shellfish, turkey, cold cuts
Dairy: lactose free dairy, small amounts of: cream cheese, half and half, hard cheeses (cheddar, colby, parmesan, swiss), mozzarella, sherbet
Non-Dairy Alternatives, Nuts & Beans: Almond milk, rice milk, rice milk ice cream, nuts, nut butters, seeds
Grains: wheat free grains/wheat free flours (gluten free grains are wheat free): bagels, breads, hot/cold cereals (corn flakes, cheerios, cream of rice, grits, oats, etc), crackers, noodles, pastas, quinoa, pancakes, pretzels, rice, tapioca, tortillas, waffles
Fruits: bananas, berries, cantaloupe, grapes, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, kumquat, lemon, lime, mandarin, orange, passion fruit, pineapple, rhubarb, tangerine
Vegetables: bamboo shoots, bell peppers, bok choy, cucumbers, carrots, celery, corn, eggplant, lettuce, leafy greens pumpkin, potatoes, squash, yams, (butternut, winter), tomatoes, zucchini
Desserts: Any made with allowed foods
Beverages: Low FODMAP fruit/vegetable juices (limit to ½ cup at a time), coffee, tea
Seasonings, Condiments: Most spices and herbs, homemade broth, butter, chives, flaxseed, garlic flavored oil, garlic powder, olives, margarine, mayonnaise, onion powder, olive oil, pepper, salt, sugar, maple syrup without HFCS, mustard, low FODMAP salad dressings, soy sauce, marinara sauce (small amounts), vinegar, balsamic vinegar
For more info see the full guide low FODMAPs Diet Guide from Stanford.
So why do I share this with you?
Did I share to embarrass myself by telling you I had to have a colonoscopy? Or that I had some of these embarrassing symptoms? HA! No way!
I share this because I know for a fact that so many others out there suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or other similar symptoms. It reaffirms my belief that it is so important we eat in moderation. It is so important that we read labels and that we are conscious of what we are putting into our bodies.
If you try this, I’d really love to know if it has helped you! Please share your experience with me or reach out with any questions.
And I’m going to share now that the story ends well: Normal colonoscopy. YAY!