- August 2013 I sat outside a white, standard door at Lovisenberg hospital. Say from the three-digit room number on the front door, it was just like most the other doors in the hallway. All the same, it was a special door to me. It marked the entry to a new chapter. Inside there, I would learn what was wrong with me, why, and how to get well again. What this word “FODMAP” really meant.
Then it was time. We were a handful of women gathered around a conference table, and a nutritionist in a white cloak. We were handed binders filled with papers, and received a lecture on FODMAP-intolerance. And we were given instructions for diet plans and documentation for the project. We were given a very limited diet, which was supposed to make us symptom free. And then came the bomb, we had to eat a normal provocation diet for three weeks beforehand. Meaning: eat all the things we believed made us sick, and document both the food and the symptoms. It was an important stage for the project, but we all sat there dreading the weeks to come. I said what we all were thinking: “I’m really looking forward to starting on the diet and be finished with this first part.” Each head around that table nodded in agreement.
The following three weeks were anything but fun. Even though I was relatively ignorant, I did have some ideas as to what made me ill, and focused on eating those. It was a pain, three weeks in hell. Additionally, we had to deliver fecal samples, which had to be stored in the freezer. It was rather awkward to store that alongside the even if packed within double test tubes and a cardboard box. My only way of keeping cheerful was to focus on enjoying all the good food I perhaps never would eat again, attempt to forget the pains, and see the light in the end of the tunnel.
Beginning a life on FODMAP-diet
Then finally, the diet period began. The object was to be relatively symptom free after three weeks on the diet. And it was a very limited diet at that. There was meat, fish and egg, some citrus fruits, root vegetables, lactose free dairy products, not really any bakeries. I could also use salt and pepper for the sake of flavor. This first period I hardly ate anything but gluten free oats in rice milk for breakfast, and lactose free yoghurt with grapes for lunch. The dinners were just as sad. Just a piece of meat or fish in the pan, some lactose free sour cream and rice or potatoes. However, none of this bothered me at all. My symptoms disappeared! It took only a few days to stop vomiting, and the constant sickness feeling faded. After some time I experienced a normal hunger feeling again. After two weeks the belly cramps went away, and I got more energetic. It was like being reborn. The whole world felt lighter. I was happy.
However, it was not completely without complications. In the beginning it was impossible to memorize what I could and couldn’t eat. Shopping trips had to be done with a diet list. And still we bought things that at a second glance was discovered to not be suitable for me. I hung up that list in the kitchen at home, and another one at mom’s. And still, from time to time something went wrong. I had reactions to something in the food and we had to do some old school detective work to figure out what was the cause.
At the end of the third week everyone but me had gotten sick of boring food. My mom and boyfriend were both very sympathetic and mostly ate the same as me. The result was a large amount of various spices to be sprinkled ontop at the table, just go get some flavor. The diett period ended with a new fecal sample. This time it had to be so fresh it needed transport by taxi.(!). I must admit, handing that package over to the taxi driver felt akward. Though, it would have been even worse if he had known about its content.
I was thus nearly symptom free. And I could hardly touch any kind of food. The nest step was to begin testing foods. That will be in the next entry. This is also where things began to get more complicated, so stay tuned.