Vacation, fructose malabsorption and patience.

A vacation, discovering fructose malabsorption, and patience. Not necessarily in that order.

Recently, I enjoyed a wonderful vacation with my boyfriend. We went to Puerto Vallarta on a much needed getaway vacation.  I needed to unwind from the daily monotony of life. Work, workout, eat, and sleep (oh and watching too much TV). God, I almost put myself to sleep just thinking about it! We enjoyed the sun, water, excursions, and food.

Dune buggy excursion!

Dune buggy excursion!

Yes, I was able to enjoy the food with little disturbance to my digestive conundrum.  Fortunately, buffet was the ideal way to go at the resorts.  We had all inclusive. You have to wear this annoying little wristband, like you’re entering a nightclub, at all times, to prove that you belonged to the hotel and then the food and drinks ended up being free.  The drinks were most definitely watered down.  I enjoyed 8 specials in a row and was at the most buzzed.  I figured the resorts did this due to control over inebriated tourists and obviously it reduced their overhead costs.

At times I ordered food and requested ‘NO DAIRY’, but it didn’t help. I left a few full meals behind for the waiter to scratch their heads and wonder why this Canadian was so wasteful.  I felt it wouldn’t have helped if I knew how to say it in spanish either.  The idea of no dairy to many cultures is probably absurd.  I still think it’s absurd that I will never taste the melting decadence of a nice blue cheese over my tongue again.  Food is melded into our memories and an integral part to every culture.  So, it hurts me more when I can’t share part of a culture through their food.  I have to focus on my digestive needs over my enjoyment of food always. But, as I mentioned earlier, I did pig out on the buffet whenever possible. I still crave these yummy chicken tacos they had one day.

Before we left for a week of fun in the sun, I stumbled across something called Fructose Malabsorption.  After having another appointment with my family doctor and being completely frustrated with getting little help and results she ended up getting frustrated with me. So, I decided to get mad at her. I wanted to know why my doctor thought she could tell me I have all these problems at such a young age and then expect me to walk out the door and act like my life is all sunshine? I need to mention that she referred to herself as “not being God”. I always get a kick out of people when they refer to themselves as ‘not’ being a biblical character. If you’re not God then why reference him in the first place? It would be more appropriate for my doctor to ‘not’ refer herself to a prominent medical expert. God and tangent aside, I told my doctor that I expect to receive professional medical advice when making appointments with medical professionals.  I have read so much literature on IBS and now I have no clue on how to progress. Oddly enough, she sat down and had a wholesome conversation with me about where to begin.  I agreed with her recommendations (food diary, less stress, and trying the FODMAP diet) and told her that I will follow through but if there is no resolution of symptoms then I will be back in 3 months. Not a threat but a really good promise;)  I also requested, after finding out that my referral to a GI specialist had been denied, to see a nutritionist or dietician.  I left with some hope that day and started a food diary all over.

A week into my new food diary I was becoming considerably baffled as to what could be causing all this excess gas and abdominal pain. The bloat makes your tummy look and feel like a shelf being created from your own body. The symptoms interfere with my work, social life, love life and over all emotional health.  It’s depressing not knowing why and oppressive when you are unable to attend to life in a normal fashion. I remembered my doctor mentioning how she has problems with a particular type of pear. Nothing else, just that one type of pear. So, I thought to myself, I don’t eat pears but what if it is fruit because I have looked at all other food groups? My discovery came as swiftly as passing gas.  APPLES!!! It’s motherf***ing APPLES! While tolerable for most people it’s problematic for the rest of us due to the sugars that are broken down once past your small intestine.  Think of lactose intolerance but with apples. Now I had to google this discovery. Much to my surprise, I stumbled upon Fructose Malabsorption. It’s a well-documented digestive disorder and is easily tested for. So, again I wonder if I have IBS after reading the symptoms relating to fructose malabsorption. I have them all:

  • Diarrhea (and/or constipation)
  • General Stomach/abdominal pain
  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings, fatigue
  • Stomach gurgling

I then stumbled across a wonderful website called: The Farting Pear.  It has general information and is an online community database of all the foods that are either tolerated or not tolerated within this digestive disorder.

I stopped eating apples, coconut milk, honey etc. I still have bad days (mostly due to me being a bad girl) but have found a remarkable improvement.  Then it got even better for me. I ended up getting a consultation with a GI specialist (4 months from now) and will being seeing a nutritionist by the end of the month. My patience paid off due to my persistence.

Never give up,



When it all started

About four years ago I ended a terrible relationship with a guy who left me in a poor financial state.  There is no blame here but it is at this point where I noticed some serious health concerns.  Between picking myself up and moving on, finishing a degree and working two jobs, my health took a turn for the worse.  The break-up was the straw that broke the camels’ back.  I have always considered myself from a young age to be somewhat sickly with constant health problems. They range, from asthma, fatigue, environmental allergies, severe menstrual problems, and now I have acquired major food allergies, been diagnosed with IBS, and had my first ocular migraine.  Needless to say, that stress is most likely the underlying culprit.  Getting rid of stress is key but next to impossible in the world we currently live in.

I have tried so many things to tackle these symptoms and health problems.  I have also encountered many obstacles within the healthcare system in British Columbia.  It’s unfortunately a terribly managed health system out here and extremely short staffed in all medical fields. If you are not 80 years old or dying then your health problems are of no immediate concern.  My primary physician actually told me that I am too young to get a colonoscopy.  That was literally a criteria preventing me from getting further treatment or meeting with a GI specialist, even with all my pain and consistent symptoms.  One time I ended up in the ER at the Royal Jubilee Hospital due to major abdominal and back pain. We had to argue with the ER nurse to get better treatment than sending me home with a laxative.  They finally sent me for an X-ray and I waited hours to see a GI specialist who was nice enough to fit me into his schedule. He did his routine check-up and finally told me that (and I quote), “years ago I would have put a scope up there and checked everything out but now if you don’t go to the bathroom for a year I won’t be concerned unless your anus falls out during a bowel movement”.

So, what do you do? Increasing symptoms, IBS (an extremely broad diagnosis with no actually testing), new health issues, surmounting food allergies,  a diet change that is beyond overwhelming, and you cannot slow down your life because you have to pay the bills.  This is my self-help guide to you based purely on personal experience.

1. Get a primary care physician or ensure you constantly go to the same walk-in clinic. Do not go anywhere that is convenient. You want a history with the same person or medical centre.  As far as I know there is no primary database where all your past medical history can be accessed.

2. Go see a naturopathic doctor. They are essential in helping with your symptomology.  I found my ND gave me a direction and could provide temporary relief and actually figured out some of the underlying causes to my health issues.

3. First thing I did with my naturopathic doctor was to get a food allergy test done. You need to find “secondary food allergies”.  A primary food allergy would lead to anaphylaxis and possibly death.  These secondary food allergies are found through certain proteins. You will have to get bloodwork done after eating specific foods on a list.  These foods need to be eaten in 10 and 3 day intervals. I don’t care how much this test costs. Go get it done. This is the first step to feeling healthier.  After finding out my allergies (and there were several) I was put on a detox/cleanse.  By removing wheat, dairy, and eggs I dropped over 20lbs and most of it in one month.  My fatigue improved and the fog that always clouded me lifted.

4. You could try an elimination diet.  This is time-consuming and probably should be monitored by a physician. My mom did an elimination diet and she figured out all her food issues. There was major weightloss with her progress but it was well worth it and she is back to a healthy weight since she can now absorb nutrients.

5. Since you are new to this process of food allergies and/or IBS then you need to keep a food journal. I am back to keeping one because I still have not figured out all my sensitivities. They do seem to be changing and I have become increasingly sensitive due to cleaning up my system.

6. Share your struggles with others. I had my mom. If I didn’t have her to talk to then I feel like I would have lost my mind. Doctor’s would try to put me on anti-depressants. I would cry constantly due to the frustration of not knowing what is wrong with me but being reminded everyday that my health is taking a nosedive.  Ironically, stress triggers IBS and the symptoms then cause more stress.  You are stuck in a vicious cycle. I cannot stress that enough.  Talk to someone right away about all your problems or it will overwhelm you and make everything worse.

These were the small steps I took over time. I am hoping that by sharing these tips that it will speed up the process for you in finding a solution and ultimately a happier life.

Don’t give up,