Healthy Foods Can Cause Digestive Troubles...and More?

Ever since I first began this health journey, I was convinced that foods would be by solution. I had been battling digestive issues for a long time and fourteen years ago, I began making changes to our diet. By 2011, I still was having some issues so I dedicated my energy to eating as much fresh and organic food that I could possibly get my hands on. I shopped at local farmer's markets, I purchased (at minimum) organic poultry, grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish.

YET, I had bladder issues...

In 2013 I noticed that I was having bladder trouble. Actually, everyone in my family really took notice while we were on a vacation. We were trying to take a mini road trip adventure. But I had to interrupt our activities much too frequently for restroom breaks. From that trip on, I was hesitant about taking road trips. Stopping every hour is quite annoying! I would try not to drink water but that didn't seem to help much. 

In 2015 I decided that I should have my bladder checked. The diagnosis was that I had bladder cystitis which is a diagnosis that doctors give when they cannot find anything else. Yet, the doctor did suggest that it must be something in my diet that was irritating my bladder. So I put further appointments with the urogynecologist on hold and decided to have a colonoscopy and an endoscopy.

...and chronic constipation

My main complaint was that I was experiencing chronic constipation. There just had to be something blocking my colon. At that point, it had been 3 years since I had stopped eating all grains, but I was still having reactions to, what I could only guess, were many foods.  (Yes, I did have a food allergy blood test, but it didn't reveal much.) I just could not figure out a pattern. The only thing I knew was that I felt more energy when I would eat/drink fresh "live" foods, so I consumed as much of these foods as possible. The GI doctor told me to eat more fiber. She had no idea (and didn't bother asking) of exactly how much fiber I was eating. I don't think the doctors believe us anyway. They don't think we know our own bodies.  I was practically on a raw food diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds with just a few cooked vegetables.

Allow me to back up just a bit and tell you about another issue!

A few months earlier in the same year (2015). I was still having trouble with my submandibular gland which have been ongoing intermittently since 2012, but by then the condition had become high FODMAP foods were causing the gland to work overtime. The diet allowed me to eat some foods with a reduction in pain. (More about the Low FODMAP Diet later.)

extremely painful. While researching anti-inflammatory herbal remedies, I came across an article that said that these glands are part of the endocrine systems which releases immune-regulating peptides to help control inflammation.  (Hmm.) I cannot remember all the full details but I do remember being on the phone with a friend praying and she said that I should do a Low FODMAP Diet. Immediately, I followed the Low FODMAP Diet and discovered that I did indeed receive some relief from the pain and swelling in my submandibular glands. Apparently,

My energy levels were on the way to being renewed.

After surgery to remove the stones that had formed in my submandibular gland, at exactly a week later, I experienced renewed energy. Energy I had been missing for many years! And actually from that point on I have had energy. Once pain is removed we feel so much better and I'm convinced that the fresh, live foods must have really been contributing too.

So the submandibular pain was gone. I had more energy. But, the colonoscopy didn't show anything. I had also undergone ultrasounds of major organs and an MRI - but none of them revealed anything. And the bladder tests didn't show anything, yet I continued to have bladder urgency...but just three days after my colonoscopy, this symptom seemed to disappear and during that time my chronic constipation seemed to be diminishing. At that point I had forgotten about the Low FODMAP Diet. Instead, I was following yet another diet. This time is was the RAW FOOD DIET. I was eating a total raw food diet and along with that I changed my drinking water. (See the link at the end of this article to find out about the drinking water change I made.) After all, I had always experienced good benefits by eating raw foods, so totally eating 100% raw should benefit me (was my thought at that time). My experience with solid, dense foods was that they made me feel tired and quickly zapped away all of my energy. I wanted to sustain my new found energy levels.

Yet, the bladder issue slowly returned and it seemed to worsen with the more fruit that I would consume. I was still experiencing great energy and stamina, but I had to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about the timing of my restroom breaks while away from home. This was just becoming too much. The only way that I could continue on this RAW FOOD diet was to consume large amounts of fruit to obtain the required calories that I needed daily. So, I decided to make minor adjustments. By this time I was consuming fruit like never before in huge quantities at many meals. So I backed off a bit from the 100% RAW FOOD DIET. I added cooked beans, cooked vegetables and quinoa to achieve my necessary caloric intake instead of increasing fruit.

Suddenly, another one of my on-going issues that had only been mild before became a MAJOR PAIN. I had stomach bloating/gas with pain that was still in the same spot as before but it seemed to be constant. I couldn't pick out any particular foods that might be causing such symptoms. It seemed that everything I ate would cause stomach upset. If I had pushed the issue with my GI doctor (or just returned for a follow-up visit), she probably would have just labeled me with IBS.

As a result of all my dietary changes I had undoubtedly experienced health benefits and improvements, but I felt like I could barely eat anything without some sort of reaction to my food. This time around I was no longer experiencing brain fog (more info in my health journey), but now I had major stomach distress! So it had all just moved from my brain to my stomach. Many scientific research shows that the stomach and the brain are very closely affected by each other, and I believe it! Yet, still I was holding on to my idea that food mattered. That no matter what my condition, I should continue to eat beneficial foods to prevent any condition from getting worse any quicker than it already might be progressing.

You see, my issues began when I was only 31 years old...or that's when I recognized that I had health issues. Now I know that they started way before then. (More info in my health journey.) So, I had to catch up on my nutritional needs after missing out on them for so long. 

I was just about to try the GAPS diet again because I recalled that everything seemed to feel better on that diet, especially in the beginning when I would only eat soft boiled meat, bone broth and softly stewed vegetables. But, it seemed I had lost all tolerance for meat. My experience was that after eating meat I would feel extremely fatigued and eggs (even organic eggs from pastured chickens) were causing headaches.

I had already removed gluten/wheat, sugar and dairy. What could possibly be causing these problems? But after only two days into the GAP Diet and with a desire not to consume so much meat, I recalled the Low FODMAP Diet. Hmm. So I investigated further.

FODMAPS stand for Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. These are specific sugars (short-chain carbohydrates) that are either poorly absorbed or not absorbed by the intestines; and as a result, are fermented by bacteria in the large intestines. But people with digestive issues, such as IBS, have an even more difficult time digesting these foods.

FermentableThe process through which gut bacteria degrade undigested carbohydrate to produce gases (hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide)
Oligo-saccharidesFructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) found in wheat, rye, onions and garlic
Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) found in legumes (beans)
Di-saccharidesLactose found in; milk, soft cheese, yogurt
Mono-saccharideFructose (in excess of glucose). Examples: honey, apples, high fructose corn syrups
PolyolsSugar polyols (eg. sorbitol, mannitol) found in some fruit and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners (Xylitol). Specific food examples are avocados, watermelon, cherries.

So I began evaluating my diet in comparison with the Low FODMAP Diet. The goal of the Low FODMAP Diet is to avoid high FODMAP foods.

Breakfast: Everyday I would have my "Go To Smoothie" which included large amounts of high FODMAP foods (cashew/almond butter, avocado, celery and sometimes honey). 

Lunch: Lunch would consist of a huge bed of salad leaves topped mostly with vegetables which were also high FODMAPs (more avocado, a clove of garlic, beets, mango, fresh corn & peas and usually beans for protein)

Dinner: I would eat cooked high FODMAP vegetables such as cauliflower, butternut squash soups made with broth containing onions, garlic and celery.

Fruits: My favorites were watermelon, mangos, apples, grapefruit, peaches, pears, and dried fruits - all high FODMAPS!
Then it hit me. Something I had never thought about. That my healthy eating could be causing stomach distress. Could I possibly be eating too many healthy foods?
Well, the most precise answer is that too many high FODMAP healthy foods can be problematic for some of us!
I had been eating way too many high FODMAP foods for my digestive system. My stomach just could not handle the load. These high FODMAP foods were making up 1/3 to 1/2 of my diet! Whew! Discovering this and applying the low FODMAP guidelines are a wonderful blessing for me. I finally have more answers and more remedies to add to my health journey so that I can continue to manage these symptoms through my diet. And I just had to share with you! The greatest thing about the Low FODMAP Diet is that it can be applied to any diet lifestyle which you choose! Read more on the Low FODMAP Diet Page.

But, just one more thing: Carrageenan is a poly-saccharide that is also indigestible and it can also cause many health issues in some individuals. To find out more about carrageenan, you can read this post concerning carrageenan in ice cream.

And as promised, here is the article I wrote when I changed my water