Getting to the Core of My Stomach Issues
By: Kate Coleman
Lately I feel like there is always something wrong with my stomach. I hate to complain all of the time. I mean, no one wants to listen to my constant “bellyaching” (pun intended). I try to grin and bear it, really I do, but it seems like my stomach is always really bothering me.
In the last month, I have consistently had some or all of the following symptoms: gas and bloating so bad that I can’t fit into my pants; explosive diarrhea that sends me racing for the bathroom; vague or sometimes severe nausea, constipation and occasionally vomiting. Coupled with that, I nearly always have abdominal pain. This can range from mild pains to ones that actually double me over.
I’ve tried all of the over-the-counter treatments. I kept hoping that my problems would be solved by a quick trip to the drugstore. I’ve taken antacids, ginger lozenges, extra strength gas medicine, laxatives, peppermint oil and even tummy tea. Sadly, nothing worked and, truthfully, I sometimes felt worse after taking the medicine.
Finally, after a particularly mortifying incident when I was searching for a restroom in an unfamiliar office building, I decided it was time to stop trying to mask my symptoms and figure out just what was causing them. It was time to take an honest look at what I was putting into my stomach on a daily basis. I began by jotting down everything I ate and drank for a few days. There were a lot of classic “trigger foods” on my list: caffeine, spicy food, bread and alcohol. I decided to eliminate each of these items for one week to see if I felt better without them. Initially looking over the list of “trigger foods”, it was obvious that eliminating any one category would make a person feel a bit healthier. But I wanted my stomach issues gone, not just mildly improved.
I chose to start my tummy experiment by eliminating spicy foods. I really don’t like them all that much and knew I wouldn’t miss them. Unfortunately, no result. I still had horrible gas and diarrhea.
Week two was caffeine elimination. Not only did my stomach continue to hurt, but I could barely keep from falling asleep in my dinner plate. The children had to put themselves to bed, and I’m still not sure who walked the dog. I was glad to put caffeine back on my menu!
That left two potential culprits, bread and alcohol. I dearly love an occasional glass of wine, and I don’t think I have ever checked out of the grocery store without grabbing a French bread loaf from the bakery. (Actually, I buy two so I can eat one in the car on the way home.) Bravely, I quit both for a week. I must admit that I did feel a little better, but the pain and diarrhea persisted.
So what was I eating that was upsetting my stomach so much? I decided to go back over my food notes. Almost immediately I noticed that my stomach always started to hurt right after breakfast. But that didn’t make sense. My breakfast diet is healthy; I usually eat a banana with peanut butter, a bowl of cereal or even lactose-free yogurt. These are healthy choices but they are clearly making me feel sick. Why?
After a bit of online research, I found the low-FODMAP diet. (FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. You can see why scientists use the term FODMAP.) Anyway, FODMAPs are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates that some people cannot digest. People with IBS often feel much better when they adopt a low-FODMAP diet. Reading through the low-FODMAP diet, however, I realized that peanut butter, bananas and lactose-free yogurt are all allowed.
Frustrated, I typed in “FODMAP diet not working”, and found a blog that suggested that if I’m not feeling better on the low-FODMAP diet, then sugar might be the problem.
Suddenly, I felt like I was maybe on to something so I searched “can’t digest sugar”, and this gave me a related search of “inability to digest sugar”. I clicked on this suggested link, and “voila” – I think that I may have found my answer! Wikipedia informed me that there is such a thing as sucrose intolerance (also known as both GSID and CSID). The list of symptoms reads like my personal complaint list.
I will need to do more research into sucrose intolerance, and I plan to schedule an appointment with my doctor to ask him whether he thinks that sugar may actually be to blame for my constant stomach issues. In the meantime, however, I’m going to start watching my sugar intake and switch to fried eggs for breakfast.