My interest in food began after suffering an array of diet related problems for most of my life. I strive to learn from experts, breaking down their knowledge into easily digestible information (excuse the pun) and passing it along.
Due to my own experience with food-related issues, The Green Machine promotes a wheat-free, low sugar, low FODMAP, unprocessed, whole food diet. Here’s why:
For most of my life I suffered from the following symptoms on an almost daily basis:
- Foggy head, lack of concentration and low mood
- Cramps and bloating
- Digestive issues
- Reoccurring mouth ulcers
- Spots and blemishes
- Tingly limbs
In 2012, a friend was diagnosed with coeliac disease and upon speaking about the symptoms, I appeared to suffer similar problems, so I tried going gluten free, which dramatically reduced my symptoms.
I wasn’t aware at the time but I want to stress that it is not recommended to put yourself on a gluten free diet if you think you may have coeliac disease. Please see your GP before changing your diet. If you have a blood test for coeliac disease and are already on a gluten free diet, the results may come back as a false negative. Your tests may say you’re not coeliac, even if you are, because you haven’t eaten gluten.
Have the blood test before going gluten-free and only undertake this diet under the instruction of a doctor. My blood tests for coeliac disease and skin prick tests for food allergies came back negative but I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in early 2016.
Wheat is unlikely to do you any harm if you do not suffer from coeliac disease (an autoimmune condition), wheat allergy or IBS. There is speculation around the reasons why many people “feel better” when going gluten free and it is believed it may be due to the amount of processing wheat goes through and how much refined food we eat, rather than wheat itself. For more information on coeliac disease, visit Coeliac UK.
Upon my IBS diagnosis, I discovered that whilst I am not allergic to any foods, I am unable to properly digest a group of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in many foods. They are called fructo oligosaccarhides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs). Whilst the causes of IBS are not fully understood, it appears that food intolerance (not allergy or an autoimmune disease), caused my symptoms. It’s not the same for everyone, so get checked by a suitably qualified health professional. IBS can be triggered by other factors such as stress or medication side effects. A low FODMAP diet has reduced my symptoms further and massively improved my quality of life.
Foods high in FODMAPs include:
- Cows milk
- Soy products
- Beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas
- Fruit and juice high in fructans, including apples, mango, watermelon and fruits with a stone
- High sugar foods such as honey, corn syrup, canned and dried fruit
- Certain root and brassica vegetables including onions, garlic, leek, asparagus, mushrooms, beetroot, cauliflower
- Chewing gum and sweeteners
Interestingly, not all of the foods listed above cause me pain and discomfort. I was advised to keep a food and symptom diary and carry out an elimination diet to identify trigger foods. My trigger foods are sugary fruits, wheat, some types of beans, a number of the brassica vegetables, large quantities of soya and products with cows milk. Hard cheese does not cause me any digestive issues, possibly because lactose is mostly present in whey, which is separated out during the cheese making process. For more information about the Low FODMAP diet, check out Montash University, where the diet was developed.
In 2014, one of my back teeth crumbled and broke off. I went straight to the dentist, who said it had rotted. I very rarely consumed fizzy drinks or sweets but since I had eliminated gluten from my diet, I’d been compensating with all kinds of fruit to eat as a snack. I worked out I was eating over 60 grams of sugar from fruit on an average day. That’s 15 teaspoons of sugar, more than twice what the World Health Organization recommends.
As it turns out, the high fructose fruits I was eating were also possibly contributing to my digestive issues so since I lost a tooth, I followed a low fructose diet, with the help of I Quit Sugar.
I won’t deny that diet changes can be difficult. Eating out can be especially hard and it can be quite alienating at times. Take a sensible approach to food, consult a doctor and join the community here, at The Green Machine, where you can find recipes and information that are inclusive to those who suffer from food related issues as well as those who don’t.
A photographer, writer and founder of The Green Machine