Zoe is a young mum of one who has been living with IBS for many years and has followed the Low FODMAP diet with excellent results.
At the moment she is spending most of her time indoors like most of us due to the Covid-19 Pandemic Her answers to my questions reflect her feelings with the ‘new’ life we are adjusting to and certainly are different to what they may have been just little over a month ago.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you spend your day, work, social life, and in particular hobbies, holidays, projects
Hi, my name is Zoe. I’m 24 and I’m from a small town called North Shields, which is near Newcastle. I live with my partner of 6 years and soon to be husband Troy, our 3-year-old daughter Lily and our cat Zelda. I work 5 days a week in a busy café which I absolutely love. I’m always on the go – from doing the school run, cleaning my little flat, to working. I’m just a typical working mum keeping everything running smoothly. In my spare time I love reading and enjoy baking.
I’ve followed a low FODMAP diet for 4 months now and it has changed my whole life. I’m virtually pain-free and bloat-free – I no longer look 6 months pregnant every day!
I’m currently sat at home, relaxing on the sofa. My 3-year-old daughter is cuddled up with me and we’re watching 101 Dalmatians. My fiancé is in the kitchen prepping our tea for tonight – we’re having chicken in a lactose-free sauce with mash potato. I’ve just finished some gluten-free pretzels, which is my favourite snack!
I’m struggling with some abdominal pain this afternoon so I’m going to have a bath with some relaxing music later when my daughter goes to bed.
2. What do you do to relax and manage your busy life and any stress/anxiety which can often trigger IBS symptoms
As someone who has struggled with anxiety for over 10 years, being diagnosed with IBS was actually a huge relief. I had been suffering with symptoms for over 18 months and had been back and forth to the doctors – they initially diagnosed me with endometriosis because the pain I was in was so extreme. So, to learn my pain could potentially be managed with medication and diet really changed my outlook on life and helped lower my stress and anxiety levels.
When I’m feeling stressed my cramps come back and I’ve found that baths and an electric blanket work best – the blanket, especially as you can alter the heat settings, unlike a hot water bottle. Going for a walk along the seafront is very therapeutic as well and really calms me down.
3. Who’s your FODMAP hero?
I actually don’t have any friends or family who follow a low FODMAP diet – in fact, no one I know had even heard of it!
When I started it I felt like a deer in headlights. So I went on social media to connect with others in the same boat as me. Instagram is full of people who follow FODMAP – my favourite blogger is ‘Fodmap Phoebe’. She posts regular photos of meal ideas and relatable photos which have been super helpful. She’s my FODMAP hero!
4. Take us through a typical day
I start my day around half 7, take my medication (I take Mebeverine 3 times a day) then take my daughter to school. Breakfast after, which is usually gluten-free cornflakes with lactose-free milk, followed by housework then it’s off to work! My café doesn’t offer much FODMAP friendly food so I always bring my own in – ham and egg salad is quick and easy. After work, it’s time to pick up Lily and relax for the evening. My fiancé cooks every night from scratch so I don’t have to worry about making tea!
On my days off I enjoy meeting friends at Costa. They do a wide range of milk alternatives. My occasional treat is an almond milk white hot chocolate – delicious!
5. What do you say to friends cooking for you or restaurant staff when you need to approach the awkward conversation to request your meal to be FODMAP friendly?
I’ve been very open about my FODMAP journey with my family and friends and they’ve shown me so much love and support. My mum always makes the effort to cook something suitable for me – she even makes FODMAP friendly cake and custard so I’m truly not left out!
When it comes to restaurants, I automatically go for the gluten-free menu and ask for an allergens list to double-check. I only go to select restaurants now, such as Frankie and Benny’s because their gluten-free menu is huge!
6. What would help you make low FODMAP eating easier for you and your family and friends?
A bigger variety of options that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
7. Do you have a FODMAP recipe you couldn’t live without and you can wow your dinner guests with?
I’m not the greatest cook but luckily, I’m marrying a chef! He found a FODMAP friendly curry recipe and tweaked it because I’m a spice wimp haha!. He adds lactose-free cream to it to make it extra creamy and delicious.
8. Do you use any apps on your phone to help with your health regime?
Like many people, I do use the Monash FODMAP app. It’s not free but it’s worth the money because it has a ton of useful features that come very useful, such as a barcode scanner and recipes. I’ve found the Tummi app has a better food diary though and tracks trigger foods better.
9. Is there anything else you do to help with your IBS and stay fit and healthy?
Honestly, I’m not an exercise lover but I do enjoy my walks along the beach. I live near some beautiful ones so I’m never short of interesting walks.
I mainly cook from scratch because I know exactly what is going into my meal. You never know with ready meals and most of my reactions over the past 4 months have been from something I didn’t make.
Take-aways are out of the question – they aren’t worth the days of agony afterwards!
10. Do you keep a food and IBS symptoms diary or an app to track these? Is there anything you’d like to get support and would use FODMAP app for?
I planned and tracked everything in the beginning as it was the easiest way to feel in control and to stick to FODMAP. As the weeks went by it became the norm and I no longer needed to be so strict. However, when I started the reintroduction phase I started planning again to make things easier.
11. What’s the number one question you wish you could ask your FODMAP-trained dietitian?
‘Why do I still have bad days when I’m so mindful of what I eat?’
12. What would you like to see in the supermarket or restaurants in the near future?
I’d love for every restaurant to offer at least one FODMAP friendly dish that isn’t jacket potato!
13. What’s your best FODMAP life hack?
Well, I have a 3in1 machine that makes toasties, panini’s and waffles which I use every day – sometimes twice a day! One of my favourite products is Scharr gluten-free Panini rolls – they have a long shelf life and taste lovely once toasted.
For a quick breakfast on the go I make waffles using gluten-free flour, eggs and lactose-free milk (almond milk also works brilliantly) and put them in a sandwich bag to have later on. I like the free from instant porridge pots too but they definitely need fruit or sweetener added to them.
Interviewed by Erica Ascenza, RD
Erica Ascenza is an experienced Clinical Dietitian and Nutritionist with a demonstrated history of working in the NHS and health care industry. She works with people and organizations to help improve their health and wellbeing by adapting effective, evidence-based nutritional therapy to meet the clients’ individual needs. She is a specialist FODMAP trained dietitian and can support patients diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) using this clinically proven dietary treatment effective in reducing symptoms like pain, bloating and improving quality of life.