In my early 40s I had episodes of stunning “gas pains” in my lower left gut which I later realized were episodes of diverticulitis. I also began to develop a tendency toward constipation, but never due to hard, dry stools. I also had a very serious lactose intolerance since childhood. The smallest amount of milk or yogurt in some sauce or other would leave me doubled over in pain.
Throughout my life I was athletic and careful to maintain a good diet, heavy on fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains and got most of my proteins from beans and complex carbs. Never processed food. But often I would be bloated and my gut was full and heavy with a soft stool that would not move. And there was copious bleeding from the rectum.
My doctor seemed skeptical that I was reporting accurately and told me to add more fiber. Although I was already eating about 35 grams a day of fiber in my diet, I added psyllium husk capsules because I couldn’t add more dietary fiber without an increase in calories. I was now up to 50-60 grams of fiber and feeling gradually worse and worse. I began taking a laxative every day because as soon as the bowel emptied, the relief was enormous and the bleeding would stop.
Over the next ten years I began to keep a food journal and to carefully document how I felt and what I had eaten every day. I changed doctors a couple of times, I had two colonoscopies and three hemorrhoid ligations. I spent three hellish months on Miralax – the worst I ever felt – and tried probiotics (several) and Amitiza, to no avail.
When I found the FODMAP diet almost three years ago, I immediately felt better than I had in years. The previous GI didn’t believe in it but the next one did, and that one also told me to cut fiber down. The new GI also refuted the previous one’s claim that laxatives are dangerous and would eventually cause cancer.
Over the course of three years I gradually cut dietary fiber back from 55g a day to less than 10g a day and I felt better and better. At less than 10g the bleeding stopped, the stools began to have some form and were much easier to pass. I was able cut my laxative use in half by cutting my fiber to a fraction. That is not supposed to happen.
Over those years I had two bad episodes, which followed a high fiber intake. The first was a simple cucumber salad, the second was a handful of nuts. In both cases, I had been feeling great for weeks but then within two hours of eating the salad or nuts, I had the old familiar sensation that my guts had gone flaccid and distended and had fallen in a heavy, tender pile in my body cavity. Bleeding and gas began within two hours of eating and did not abate until after the next bowel movement.
I don’t know what’s going on and clearly my doctor’s don’t either. But years of debilitating symptoms were reversed by adopting a diet that is exactly the opposite of what is so widely recommended that it is considered common knowledge. I hope someday science will catch up and common knowledge will be replaced by real knowledge.