Tuesday, 19 August 2014

My Belly and Food

One of the most common questions that people ask when I talk about my UC and FM is: “So, what can you actually eat?” Similarly, in support groups on social media, I have often seen people asking whether they can eat this food, or that food. However, these questions are not easy to answer, because as much food lists can be a guideline, everyone’s body is different, and can react to certain foods in very different ways.

For this reason, I thought that this week I would write about my belly’s reactions to certain foods, based on my experimentation so far. 


Whenever people ask me about my dietary requirements, I always say that first and foremost, I need to avoid apple, pear, onion, garlic, and wheat, as these three appear to be my top trigger foods. The other main food that I have a lot of trouble with is corn flour, which is where my belly seems to have a very individual reaction compared to most people with FM.

As previously discussed, there are some foods that contain higher amounts of fructose and/or fructans than others, and the amount of glucose in the same food can also make a difference. Not only do these foods all have quite high levels of fructose or fructans, they also have a very high fructose/glucose ratio, meaning that they are harder to digest. This table gives a good list of the fructose content and fructose/glucose ratios in common foods. When looking at the fructose/glucose ratio, if the ratio is lower than 1, the food should be easier for the body to digest. For example, you will see that fresh apple contains 6g/100g of fructose, and the ratio is 2.8 – the highest ratio on the table. In comparison, pumpkin only contains 1g/100g of fructose, and the ratio is 0.9. Interestingly, honey has a very high fructose content at 39g/100g, however it must also have a high glucose content, as the ratio is 1.1. According to this more extensive table, the fructose content of pear is also very high, at 6.2g/100g.

There is therefore little wonder that apple and pear cause a lot of problems for my belly! I first realised that apple was particularly problematic for my belly following my diagnosis with FM, as I realised that the reason I was feeling so sick was that I had been drinking apple juice all the time – apart from water, it was my main beverage throughout the day. Once I stopped drinking apple juice, my belly immediately felt much better. Now, if I eat more than one or two pieces of apple or pear, I start to have a stomach ache, and this can often lead to diarrhoea.

Onion and wheat also give me stomach aches and diarrhoea, which seems to be due to their high fructans content. According to this table, white onions contain 1.1-7.5g/100g of fructans and brown onions contain 2.1g/100g, whereas wheat contains 0.4-1.3g/100g. I have had problems with bread for many years, and initially thought I may have been gluten intolerant. Again, once I stopped eating bread, I noticed a significant difference. Garlic also contains a very high amount of fructans, at 9.8-17.4g/100g. I later realised that garlic and onion were major culprits, because they are cooked in almost every sauce you can think of, regardless of the cuisine! Now, I notice a significant difference in my belly’s reaction when I eat something with a sauce made with onion and garlic, compared to when I make my own sauces with just some herbs instead.

Finally, let me tell you about my belly and corn flour. After my FM diagnosis, I looked at several different lists of foods, all of which said that corn was fine to eat, as it has a very low amount of fructose – only 1.5g/100g according to this table. Therefore, one of the first things I bought to try was gluten free pasta made with corn flour, thinking that it would be a great alternative to regular pasta – one of my favourite foods. So, I joyfully made myself a large bowel of pasta with Bolognese sauce and sat down to eat it, only to unfortunately discover a few mouthfuls in that my stomach was starting to hurt, and I was also having significant trouble with acid reflux. Needless to say, my night was ruined, and I felt miserable.

I was confused about what had happened, so a few weeks later I saw a dietician, and asked her why my belly had reacted in that way to a supposedly “safe” food. She explained to me that everyone’s belly has a different threshold for certain foods, and that while eating the pasta made with corn flour, I must have passed my stomach’s threshold for corn. I have now discovered as well that corn flour, also known as maize starch or maize thickener, is used in many foods as a thickening agent, and to replace wheat flour in gluten free products, so this has complicated my grocery shopping even further!

Does your belly have a different reaction to certain foods? Please share below.


Despite the fact that there are several foods that cause strong reactions in my belly, I have also discovered along the way that there are still lot of my favourite foods that I can eat without too much trouble – and I am very glad that I don’t have to give them up! 

Here is a list of the main ones:
  • Mandarins and oranges
  • Bananas
  • Berries – In small doses. For example, I can only eat half a regular punnet of strawberries at a time.
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens (i.e. lettuce, spinach)
  • Cucumber
  • Sourdough bread – I can eat 2-4 slices without too many problems. My favourite sourdough breads in Melbourne are the ones made by Noisette bakery, and Irrewarra Sourdough.
  • Chocolate (phew!)
  • Peanut butter
  • Potato gnocchi – Though not completely wheat-free, this is still a good alternative to regular pasta.
  • Fruit and nut clusters – Another great snack and a good alternative to muesli bars, I like the ones made by Mrs. May’s Naturals and Wallaby Bites.
  • Dairy products – I am mildly lactose intolerant, so only one thing at a time. For example, some plain yoghurt with breakfast or a glass of milk is fine, but not if I have them together.

Are there any of your favourite foods that you can still eat? Please comment below.

No comments:

Post a Comment