I’ve been dealing with IBS symptoms on and on again (I’ve never really had an “off” period) for the last several years. My reactions are sensitive enough that I get sick even from small amounts of food that I know irritate my stomach (e.g. skins on fruits and many vegetables, seeds, nuts, the list goes on and on).
There’s not much of an explanation behind IBS and why it happens. For anyone unfamiliar with what IBS means, it stands for “irritable bowel syndrome.” There are a variety of expressions of IBS-some people get upper digestive issues like vomiting and acid reflux, others get more lower digestive issues like gas, diarrhea, and bloating.
I’m one of the rare (and oh so special) cases that gets both, often. To be totally honest, I get both upper and lower symptoms every day, even when I watch what I eat and take medications to ameliorate my gut. It’s typically a lose-lose situation because I can’t eat foods I once loved (and/or still love, #RIPPecans), and if I try to eat them I get violently ill.
IBS is an extremely frustrating chronic condition because you can’t plan around the symptoms or take medications to make it all better in an instant. There’s no cure, and in my own experience, even the strongest medications for some people have had zero effect on my own symptoms. Some people just get gas when they eat an “irritant,” as those of use who are chronically ill with this condition call it. Other people, like me, have bodies that literally break down and refuse to function for hours, sometimes days on end when an irritant is ingested, even if it’s a small amount (thank you, nut crust from a dessert at a vegan restaurant…).
Well, cut to the point of this blog post, a book review specifically on IBS and how to deal with it. In her book, “The IBS Elimination Diet and Cookbook,” Patsy Catsos delves head-first into IBS and how one could go about reducing and/or eliminating its symptoms. Prior to reading this book, I’d heard about the “low-fodmap diet,” but I’d never looked further into it.
Catsos opens the book with a very good explanation of what FODMAPs are, aka types of foods that can trigger IBS. Think “apples, multi-grain bread, cauliflower, yogurt,” etc. By changing the types of sugars and fibers going into an IBS-responsive body, symptoms have been scientifically shown to show fewer reactions when it’s low in FODMAPS.
The book, as a whole, is written in a very easy to read style. There aren’t extensive passages with scientific jargon. I’d tell ya if it did because frankly, no thank you. The key to this guide is realizing it’s not a be-all, end-all fix to IBS symptoms. Catsos suggesta in her “nutshell version of the program,” to do the following:
- Educate yourself about FODMAPS (and consult your physician and dietician) – from a legal point of view, this is important because she’s not a doctor and no book should be taken as verbatim health advice. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH (but like me, I’m using this as a guide).
- Record baseline symptoms – kind of like what I started this blog for. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come since the onset of my diagnos-ish (see previous blog posts about how I’ve never gotten a clear, 100% diagnosis of all my symptoms…IBS is just one of many). Documenting a baseline is important because it measures how much improvement or stagnancy you’ve experienced.
- Plan your diet and go shopping – because no diet is complete without food.
- Eliminate high-FODMAPs and monitor your symptoms – because of the above reasons.
- Monitor your symptoms and compare them to your baseline.
- Reintroduce FODMAPs and monitor your symptoms – this is important because some foods you may never be able to reintroduce, while others may just need to be eaten in moderation (I’m looking at you, dairy ingredients), and some sadly, not at all.
- Evaluate your results.
- Enjoy the most liberal and varied diet you can tolerate – it’s possible you’ll be able to eat everything after taking a break from it, other foods may require somber goodbyes. I haven’t yet personally committed to the low FODMAP diet long enough to know if I’ll ever be able to eat a pecan pie without cringing and preemptively taking handfuls of medication…but a girl can hope!
This book is chocked full with tips, questions, and lots of different answers. At first I was a bit apprehensive to pick up this copy to review, but I’m so very glad that I did. It’s a pretty substantial book when it comes to food and diet titles, but I’d say that it’s a worthwhile investment.
In all, I’d definitely recommend this book from IBS’er to IBS’er. I’d also recommend it to anyone who’s experienced discomfort after eating certain foods-who knows, maybe you’re sensitive to certain kinds of FODMAPS? I’m no doctor, but I’d give this book a healthy recommendation to anyone interested in a good health and wellness read (and maybe a tasty recipe or two!).
I received this book complimentary on behalf of the publisher, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.
Score Card: Cover Art 4.5/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.