April is IBS Awareness Month and, as such, I though it would helpful to share the books and websites that have helped me so very much over the last few months.
My default reaction to a new idea or problem to solve is research. This used to mean hitting the library when I was in school and heading to the bookstore once I was a gainfully employed adult. Of course, the Internet is a fabulous resource, but you have to be able to weed out the truth from the fiction, tested theory from mere supposition. Respected authorities are still respected authorities, right?
Monash University, Dept of Gastroenterology These folks literally wrote the book on FODMAPs and are continuing to test and evaluate more ingredients as time goes on to determine just what effects they have on our delicate digestive engines. They recently released an iPhone app that, from all accounts, is quite helpful to its users. I can’t speak to it, personally, as I’m still waiting for the promised Android version (coming out soon, I hope). You can order their information booklet (link is to pdf order form) that goes over the basics of what FODMAPs are and how they can effect us, along with a handful of recipes to get your started. There are also some product information bits, but unless you’re in Australian those won’t help too very much. It doesn’t go into incredible depth on the subject as they believe (and not without good reason) that going through the low-FODMAP elimination diet and challenges should be overseen by a qualified dietitian. But with FODMAPs stll relatively new in the US, it can be hard for those of us here to find someone who really knows about it and can guest you through the process.
Which leads us to IBS: Free at Last! by Patsy Catsos. Catsos is a registered dietitian in Maine who is a great champion of the low-FODMAP diet for IBS sufferers. If you can’t find a local dietitian to work with, Catsos’ book is the next best thing and can gives very detailed information on what FODMAPs are, how they (can) effect us, and how to systematically remove the known high-FODMAP food sources from our diets and gradually test them through specific challenges. Catsos writes in a very approachable style, but also includes a chapter that goes into the nitty-gritty scientific details for those who want to go more in-depth. There’s an extensive Q&A section (in my Kindle version they were actually linked at the end of each chapter, which was pretty convenient) and a couple of recipes for basic bits.
One thing that I really found useful–and this is the only place I’ve found it put so plainly–was the explanation of just why High Fructose Corn Syrup is such a questionable ingredient. Yes, it’s true that HFCS is a combination of glucose and fructose (the “same” as table sugar, according the HFCS lobby, right?), table sugar is always 50/50 fructose and glucose, the glucose making the fructose easily digested by bodies with IBS. HFCS, on the other hand, can come in various ratios, three of which are the most common: 45% fructose/55% glucose, 55%fructose/45% glucose, and 90% fructose/10% glucose; and there’s no knowing which one the manufacturer is using. Fructose that’s not “balanced” by equal amounts of glucose are a problem for many IBS sufferers. I can this the free-range fructose problem 🙂
Kate Scarlata is a Boston-based dietitian who is another proponent for the low-FODMAP diet. It was her guest post on Fooducate that started this whole journey for me. The author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Well with IBS (I have not read this one, yet, but understand that it has a chapter on FODMAPs, but it’s not the main focus). Her blog, however, is a great source for inventive recipes that are frequently low-FODMAP friendly. Her Homemade BBQ Sauce is really tasty and even includes finely-grated carrots for a bit of extra vegetables. I used it to make BBQ Chicken Pizza one night and it was a big hit.
The easiest way to adjust to a low-FODMAP lifestyle is to cook most of your meals at home. If you’re already comfortable in the kitchen, this isn’t such a big change, but if you previously depended on a host of pre-made convenience foods or eat out for most of your meals, this can be a big adjustment. Finding good sources for recipes, then, is paramount.
Which is why I’m happy to see that Scarlata has put together 2 pdf ebooks: Low FODMAP Cooking with Kate Scarlata and a 21 Day FODMAP Friendly Meal Plan. I have purchased these but have only glanced at them so far. Still, they look like good resources, especially for Todd when he needs ideas when it’s his week to cook.
Finally, on the book front at least, I picked up a copy of this 3-in-1 Gluten Free Cookbook at Homegoods just before the holidays. Since it was an overstock-style store it was only $8 and I figured it was a low-risk investment in the event I didn’t need to continue wheat-free after the Elimination Phase, but would give me some pointers in the mean time.
Turned out to be the best $8 I’ve spent in a while! The cookies and cake I made over the holidays were well-received by my family and Todd and I continue to cook out of the book for dinner ideas. Because the focus is one gluten-free cooking, there are still plenty of recipes that won’t work for low-FODMAP living, but the bread and dessert chapters really are huge helps.
Of course, once I was out of research mode and into the day-to-day, I needed to stay on top of what was going on and the best way I’ve found to do that is by banding together with others of the same purpose. There’s a Low-FODMAP for Foodies facebook group that works both for inspiration and support, and a Pinterest board of Low-FODMAP Products and Recipes created by a fellow member of that group.
Then there are three recipe blogs I follow that focus on FODMAP or similar issues:
Granted, not all of the recipes available on those sites (or any other, for that matter) will be perfect for every IBS patient that responds well to a low-FODMAP lifestyle because everyone’s individual tolerances are different. It’s perfectly possible to be sensitive to only one or two of the five FODMAP groups or (like me) to be sensitive to all of them. It’s also possible, over time, to increase tolerance to certain foods over time.
It’s also entirely possible to be in that 25% or so of IBS sufferers that do not respond to a low-FODMAP lifestyle, which can be incredibly frustrating.
Products and tactics for eating out (fast food and fine dining, both) deserve their own posts in due time. For now, I think this is a pretty good start, don’t you?