Or, my long long journey to the not so magical land of food intolerances
Months passed, nothing changed; until one terrible late March afternoon, throwing up in a public restroom, when I noticed blood. The little voice in my head that had been whispering ulcer was now screaming frantically.
Two days later I was in the doctors' office, where my longtime family physician confirmed that my symptoms did indeed sound like ulcers. No more caffeine, no alcohol, no spicy foods, no aspirin, and he put me on Prilosec. I found a gastroenterologist and awaited the date of my endoscopy. Even with the diet and new medication, I continued to be sick everyday.
When I got the results back from the endoscopy, I was both relieved and frustrated; I didn't have ulcers, thank goodness. Apparently the blood was caused by the force of my retching (gross). However, my stomach lining was irritated, and they didn't know why.
I went off the diet and the medication, which had been making me so dizzy there were days I couldn't stand or walk around for more than fifteen minutes at a time (not to mention dizziness is not a desirable side effect when you're suffering from daily nausea). There were rounds of doctor appointments, blood tests, inconclusive ultrasounds. I stopped looking for a job because I couldn't go to interviews between being sick and and the frequent doctor trips.
I was miserable. Apart from the physical pain, I felt listless, useless, and unmotivated. While doctors couldn't pinpoint the issue, I began to realize I was fighting a battle with my food. I just didn't know which foods. I tried cutting out dairy, and then red meat. I ate more fruits and veggies, I stayed away from fatty foods. Nothing worked; the only time I wasn't sick, was when I hadn't eaten. My doctor ultimately ruled it as IBS, which I felt didn't properly address my food issues. In a matter of 6 months I dropped from 130 to 110 pounds, due to the fact that I was subsisting on coffee and one meal a day. I knew it wasn't healthy, I was so weak that basically any activity exerted an exorbitant amount of energy, but it was the only way I could get through my day.
After 10 months of my stomach nightmare, a friend reached out to me with a possible solution. We had often traded digestive horror stories, she having been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in the past year; she told me that a friend of hers was having similar problems. She thought it was fructose malabsorption.
I immediately Googled it, and was astonished by how closely it aligned with my symptoms, and how much my normal diet consisted of trigger foods. So, I decided to try cutting out fructose for a week, just to see if it helped a bit. The results were amazing. As soon as I changed my diet, I started feeling better. I could eat a full meal, more than one even, without the terrible pain and cramping. I wasn't nauseous. I learned that fructose malabsoprtion could even cause the onset of depression; my mood improved and I actually felt like getting off the sofa.
In short, that simple information changed my life.
It sounds like there's a lot of stuff I can't eat, but there's a lot of stuff I can still eat too! Like peanut butter (which I love). Luckily, I don't have any issue with dairy (which often goes hand in hand with fructose malapsorption) so I can still have cheese (though I've been drinking almond milk for years). I can have meat if it's not breaded (sorry, chicken fingers). I can eat berries, citrus, stone fruit, kiwis, and bananas. I can have lettuce, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers. There are lots of gluten-free options these days too; I have a sandwich bread that I like, and I've discovered that corn pasta is pretty yummy. Since the best sugar option for me is refined white sugar in small amounts, I use gluten free baking mixes to make myself a treat every now and again. I can drink beer, and find that alcohols don't bother me, even port and tequila which can be problematic.
That's the thing about fructose malabsorption, it manifest differently in each person. I've read accounts online of people who can eat bread, but that just sends me over the edge. Some people can't have any sort of sweetened dairy, but I can eat small amounts of ice cream without issue (given there are no artificial sweeteners. I've gotten really good at reading food labels).
I thought it would be really hard to get used to this diet, but I've found it easier than expected, and has had lots of benefits. I've gained back 5-10 pounds, and have settled in at the healthy, happy medium of my high school weight. I've known cutting back on sugar would be a good idea for ages, but I've never had the impetus until now. Also, there's lots of new research being done about the effects of gluten on our health; Dr. David Perlmutter's research showing a possible link between gluten and Alzheimer's Disease is particularly fascinating, and I will be interested to see what other doctors and scientists will have to say about these theories.
I hope this provided some info, even though it probably wasn't the most dazzling post ever (though taking these pictures was pretty fun!). In the future I will probably end up posting some gluten free and FODMAP friendly diet recipes, for any of my food intolerant homies out there. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment or email me (the little envelope link in the side bar!) So, Happy Thursday! So close to the weekend, I can almost taste it.... cheers and many returns! XO, Rachel
Afternoon edit: toothpaste warning for those with gluten intolerance
If you have gluten intolerance, I am begging you to go read your toothpaste labels. I have huge blood blisters on the inside of my upper which are so inflamed it is nauseating to look at. My lips are swollen and my mouth continues to burn. I'm having a hard time eating, smiling, or talking.
This is so frustrating. Has anyone else discovered any other things to watch out for?