Saturday, February 25, 2012

Alcohol Part 1: Proceed With Caution

Yes, I know this is incredibly "first world problems" material, but I miss being able to socially drink. My go-to bar drink was a gin and tonic, but most cheap brands of tonic water use high fructose corn syrup as the sweetener. Why is HFCS in everything? I'll take my gin with... water and a lime. Excluding alcohol, I can't even get a Mango A-Go-Go smoothie from Jamba Juice either. Or a Frappuccino. Woe is me.

Like others my age, I've dabbled in the stupid and reaped the consequences: Four Lokos (before they got banned and had caffeine), an open bar at a wedding, and mixing and matching liquor. After repeat bad experiences, I settled down and acquired a preference for beer. It was something to sip rather than throw back, and it left me less inebriated than wine. I had just professed my love to Hoegaarden when I started my FODMAP-induced torture. Wheat, and wheat-based grains, are vital ingredients in beer. Sadly, no beer no more.

But, maybe this was a blessing in disguise. I had had trouble with beer even when I only had one but mixed it with other alcohol, and it never left my guts feeling too great. So now I stick to the clear hard stuff, gin and vodka. I've tried GF beer too, but I still don't feel well after drinking it.

Redbridge, a gluten free beer

My recommendations: stick to one type of liquor until you find something that works with your system. Be wary of mixers, too. Most bars use the cheapest cranberry cocktail/tonic water/other fruit juices, so they're all likely to have HFCS.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


One of the cool things about my inability to eat normal things is the opportunity to expand my palate. Thus, I've found amaranth. So amaranth is another one of those cool "super-grains" but minus the hype of quinoa. Evidence: there is only one dispensary tube of amaranth at the local co-op food store I shop at, while there are at least 2 tubes for regular quinoa and a couple for flavored quinoa.

So why should you try amaranth?
  • High protein per serving (9g)
  • High fiber
  • Tastes/smells earthy, so it adds variety to your grains
  • Cheaper than quinoa

 Itty bitty seeds.

I needed something different for a breakfast meal because quinoa at all meals of the day wears on you. Before amaranth, I tried kasha, otherwise known as roasted buckwheat groats. Maybe it's the kind that they had at the co-op, but I could not stand the burnt taste. I haven't tried regular buckwheat yet since amaranth tastes pretty damn good.

Adding cinnamon, flax seeds, almonds, and some of the kasha = breakfast.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trader Joe's Quick-Cook Organic Brown Basmati Rice

I have cooked brown rice before, but I prefer to make white rice because it is SO MUCH FASTER. And I am impatient. And white rice tastes better than brown rice.

Trader Joe's tends to have quick and healthy products, and this partially pre-cooked brown rice is no exception to that trend. It was ready in about 15 minutes in my rice cooker, which is the normal time it takes to cook white rice. The taste was alright... a little different than other brown rice that I've had before. If you're looking for a fast-cooking brown rice, this stuff is suitable. However, I think I'll stick to my white rice.

Brown rice? More like beige rice.

I brought my own food? how is that relevant to anything?

I thought you would never ask!

Sarcasm aside, I find myself frequently telling people that I brought my own food along with me since I shouldn't expect to be able to eat anything that anyone else has prepared. Why do I torture myself like this when delicious entrees are thrust in front of me? Well, because when you prepare your own food, you know how you made it and what you put in it. If you're on a crazy diet like I am, knowing every ingredient is crucial to maintain my sanity and prevent abdominal discomfort. But, it's a little difficult to refuse food without being rude. I explain my food problems, and usually people understand, but I still feel rude asking another person, "Are there onions or garlic in this? Are you sure? How about milk? Oh and I can't have spicy things either." To avoid this issue, I bring my own food. That way I don't go hungry, I don't feel like I am insulting another person's cooking abilities, and my guts can rest in peace.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dear Rice Cooker, I Love You

Since tomorrow is about sharing love, I am dedicating this post to my most used kitchen appliance.

Let's be honest here. I can't and don't cook. I think this apathy toward creating food has come partly from my lack of enjoyment from eating (since it usually would lead to pain and misery) and my need for instant gratification. I do not want to spend an hour creating something that I will scarf down in 5 minutes. I'd rather be looking up cat videos.

Pre-FODMAP diet, I heavily relied on eating out as a backup plan. There is this awesome dining commons at my college that has a wonderful assortment of entrees and make-it-yourself food. If I forgot to pack a lunch, I usually went there to get a nice, filling meal. However, the FODMAP diet has forced me to make food to take with me or suffer the consequences of eating rice cakes. For some reason, 60 calories of blah just doesn't hit the spot. So I cook quinoa, rice, and amaranth in my rice cooker as my main meals every day. It's a great asset for those like me who don't cook but want something reliable to make quick meals.

I bought this rice cooker at Target for $15. It's a small one, meaning 2 cups of uncooked grain is about its limit before the water starts spilling over. But, I don't mind making things in multiple batches, and it's small enough to take on vacation. The non-stick pot is also great for easy clean up.

Rice cooker, please don't die on me like the last one did.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Story

My name is Heather, and I have been a long-time sufferer of IBS. And I'm 21 years old.

When I was about 10, I started having major anxiety attacks. These manifested into stomach pain and later abdominal pain, but since I was young, I didn't think that maybe this constant nerve firing and stress in my guts would have major consequences. In high school, I started having infrequent bouts of IBS-D, usually due to stress from important events. But my main problem was IBS-C. In order to relieve the incessant backup, my doctor told me to take this home remedy called Black Magic. It was horrendous tasting, but a scoop every night made me more regular.

Things went from slightly annoying to pretty bad starting in my second year of college. I noticed that some things I ate (mainly lettuce and garlic) wrecked havoc on my stomach and intestines. Severe stress also made my IBS-D come back. I needed to carry Immodium with me at all times. Also I felt like most things that I ate ended up making me sick, so I started eating the blandest meals. And even that didn't help. If bananas, bagels, tortilla chips, and peanut butter couldn't make me feel good, then what could?

About a year ago I went on an antidepressant to manage my stress, and my IBS-D completely disappeared. It's amazing how the mind and the intestines are connected like that. Life was grand because I didn't need to pack Imodium in my bag every day, nor was I constantly leaving class to go to the bathroom. However, that was the only thing that got better. I could not gain weight, I had constant abdominal pain and bloating, I burped profusely after eating anything, and drinking alcohol caused me to have terrible cramps and awful bathroom visits the following morning.

It's difficult to enjoy college life when you constantly tell your friends, "Oh I can't eat that. I can't drink that. What's in that?" And then they make fun of you for not being able to eat anything. I wish I could go to Chipotle and get a nice, fatty burrito and follow it with some Corona's and mixed drinks, but I can't. I've eaten enough things and felt like crap afterward, which is not normal. I've also had terrible experiences with small quantities of alcohol. For us IBSers, eating and drinking isn't usually a pleasant experience.

However, in an effort to stop feeling miserable, I've switched to the FODMAPs diet. Surprisingly, things have gotten better. It's not one of those Joe-Schmo diets that you can find on someone's website that advertises that it WILL cure ALL of your problems. If you look on google scholar, a few papers come up showing that the FODMAPs diet has had a positive impact on many IBSers' symptoms.

It's easy to get caught up in the pain and the symptoms and the fact that most doctors don't know what to do except prescribe you Levsin (an abdominal pain pill) and an antidepressant. This is a frustrating condition to live with. However, I hope my experiences, and the things that I have found that work, can help others find answers to their own IBS problems. It sucks that there's no clear solution, but through a lot of trial and error, things can get better. Here's to happier intestines.