A couple years ago, I started college and actually changed my diet when I came into college for the better--unlike typical college students. It wasn't that I ate complete crap beforehand, I ate pretty much regular homecooked food (Chinese), but at the dining hall, there were so many options available to me that I started to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables (and I mean a lot). For a while, I actually turned into quite a health freak, but then I realized I was being a bit obsessive and that scared me so I loosened up. Don't get me wrong-- I LOVE food of any kind, but my palate has changed over the years so now I mostly eat healthy whole foods because that's just what I crave. At the same time, I also started to get really into fitness, and basically picked up a new lifestyle, which I really love. The problem is that over the years, I've also been experiencing a lot of digestive issues that seem to keep getting worse. Intense bloating and abdominal distension, extreme gas pains, loud rumbles, etcetc.. To be honest, I cannot remember what it feels like to have a normal stomach. I have done a bit of research and am pretty convinced that the excess fruits and veggies from my diet change caused this bacterial imbalance in my gut. It was really a drastic change. I went from eating only a few fruits a week to eating like 6 fruits a day... (but i have since cut it down from that and am now not so extreme)
Anyway, the point is that I am finally starting to concede that I need to change something. But I am scared of change. I always considered that fruits and veggies and whole foods were the "healthiest" because even beyond their nutritious value, they've always made me feel mentally 'sound', if that makes any sense. I started to really adjust my diet because I believed that "healthy" was better, but then my palate adapted to the healthy foods and now they are my favorite foods. Hence, I am scared to change my diet. I am scared of the thought of giving up apples and onions and other FODMAP foods. I know that sounds ridiculously silly, but food is such a huge part of my life. I love cooking and preparing my own food and literally look forward to every single snack/meal/thing I put in my mouth. I am honestly unsure and downright afraid of accepting limitations. I realize that a positive attitude is essential, and that it would be best to approach the issue by thinking about the foods I CAN eat instead of those I cannot. But that sort of attitude takes time to build, and I am not there yet.
I would like some advice on how to get started in this journey of healing myself. I really don't know what to do. Should I seek a specialist to take some tests? (Is that a waste of money?) Or should I just start a new restrictive diet on my own and see how things go for a few weeks? Can anybody give me a good place to start? And for those who had successful experiences with restrictive diets, how long did it take to "heal" your symptoms and were you able to go back to a normal diet or have you always had to limit some foods? (Please don't tell me I have to avoid fruits forever.) Also, I'm a very physically active person and fitness is really important to me. I really really really don't want to have to compromise on that, so that is another reason I'm scared. I've seen some of these intro diets and living on chicken broth is not ideal if you're burning like 500 calories a day...
I think this post has been long enough, but I would really appreciate any advice that anybody might have, especially if you have a similar situation as me. Thanks so much in advance; I really appreciate it!
This book is a good starting place:
FODMAPs are very likely what is causing your problems.
You may also need to stay away from ground meat. If you are stuck with college dining hall type foods, look for fish, whole cuts of meat, eggs, etc... I used to go for the watermelon and hamburger patties at summer parties, but I can't do that anymore.
Do a search on PaleoHacks for a user named Norm. He's Norm Robillard of the Digestive Health Institute and knows more about SIBO/IBS than anyone! His website is: http://digestivehealthinstitute.org/ He's very into Paleo, too.
I had a lot of digestive complaints last year that only got worse the more limited my diet got. I discovered 2 important things:
1- the FODMAP elimination diet was very helpful for me. I learned to steer clear of onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and too many apples.
2- It took me a long time to discover this but I was not eating enough calories for my amount of activity, which caused my digestion to slow down, and therefore, causing constipation, gas, loud growling noises, bloating, etc. I was not eating enough fat at all. I stopped training for awhile and upped my calories in an attempt to fix my metabolism. I gained some weight but the digestive issues went away so long as I avoided my problem foods. I'm now losing the weight easily by eating proper amounts and training smartly.
So, its worth seeing if your calories are high enough, and I definitely recommended FODMAPs. I wish I would have done both sooner!