By the end of my second year of studies, I wasn’t fermenting anything anymore– I didn’t have the energy or creative spirit. I was drinking at least three nights a week (for free!), and I was incredibly stressed. It got to a point where I no longer just had “the bubbles,” (my attempt at making old man burps cuter), but I looked pregnant every night I was so bloated. I began alternating IBS (“A-IBS”), which means nothing is consistent. I began to bloat at everything, even foods I had tolerated in the past, which told me that my intestines were very inflamed and likely “leaky” (more below).
I’d brought this up with my doctor, who recommended me to a intestinal specialist…who wasn’t taking clients she was so busy. I decided I would journal everything and just start fresh.
The first week, I kept my macros fairly consistent with my general pattern of eating, and included cheaper staples (remember, I’m still poor AF this whole time), such as rice and quinoa. My bloating was possibly worse and A-IBS turned into D-IBS, which was disheartening after eight weeks of no alcohol impact. I went home, drank heavily on Sunday because it was cheaper than antibiotics, and started Keto on Monday.
My rational was that a low-carb (very low) diet following a wipe would prune much of what was left of my biome, and starve out a good chunk of the rest. I did two weeks of keto with simple bland foods, such as eggs, avocado, tuna, zucchini. These are foods that I know I don’t bloat to. I avoided gluten entirely because gluten contains a molecule called zonulin, which opens inter-cellular connections in the gut lining– even not being gluten intolerant, I wanted to reduce all inflammation to heal myself. Reacting to foods you aren’t intolerant to is usually a good sign that you have ‘leaky gut’. (N.B. one of the papers posited that autoimmune diseases, such as crohn’s, require a leaky gut before it can manifest itself–that is, inflamed intestines and poor gut biome precede autoimmune disorders. If that is the case, then MS, psoriasis etc, could be prevented with gut health first. THAT is exciting to me!).
Also, low-carb for an extended period of time is not good because it does encourage the less beneficial bacteria to thrive in the gut (which reduces butyrate production,which is broadly therapeutic) but keto is definitely a tool in managing IBS short term (the issue is reduced fiber, broadly).
I began to slowly introduce more fiber into my diet, like chia seeds and green bananas. Chia was tolerable, but the resistant starch in green bananas was not, so after two days of bloating again I removed it. Resistant starch is a post for another day.
FODMAP is a tool I have gone back to often, but FODMAPs are usually lumped together and the advice is “add them one by one until you find what bothers you!” Which isn’t helpful if you’re looking for patterns. Finally this chart popped up and it has helped me narrow down that Fructans are something I react to — this includes beets, onions and garlic, cabbage, wheat (not gluten–you can see how some overlap would manifest as ‘getting better’ with a gluten-free diet) and some fruits.
So in addition to avoiding fructans (and lactose, which I knew I was intolerant to), gluten and irritating foods (e.g. spicy), I have been avoiding kombucha and fermented foods. Kombucha can be very yeasty (looking at you Candida overgrowth) and fermented foods are generally KinderSurprise. So right now I’m just letting the gut do its thing.
FODMAP is a tool to help you avoid foods that irritate you. I plan on avoiding fructans for the foreseeable future,* with an emphasis on fermented beverages (like ginger beer). It’s finally starting to heal and I’m very excited about that 🙂
One last thing is that people with distended stomachs often have anterior pelvic tilt which is partially due to weak transverse abdominal muscles (these are deep tissue muscles not targeted with crunches). These can be strengthened with stomach vacuums. This is largely aesthetic, but I am of the opinion that constant bloating makes it too painful to engage these muscles, so it’s important to restrengthen once IBS is under control.