Low-FODMAP First Aid for Flare-Ups and Setbacks
First and foremost: Please, Please, Do Not Panic. And Do Not Despair. This is NOT your fault. I know—it’s a heartsick, incredibly lonely, what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this sensation. But TRY to relax. That’s easier said than done, but is it any easier to take from someone who has shared your frustration? I hope so. Pray, if you are the praying kind. If you’re not, contact a friend who is, and ask for the comfort of prayer. Just knowing that somebody cares HELPS. Truly.
Some of our insides are helped to relax by a mug of warm watered wine: ½ cup red wine in a coffee mug, filled with water and microwaved, and then sweetened with a teaspoon of table sugar or a sugar-dextrose blend. Sip slowly. The Apostle Paul told his young friend Timothy, “use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (I Tim. 5:23). I wonder whether Timothy had IBS. But take just ONE mug of w.w.w. Alcohol is no friend to an irritated intestinal lining.
Next: Get out a package of chicken drumsticks (free-range and organic, if possible—I can’t promise that will make a difference, but I don’t know that it won’t). Toss them into a soup kettle and add water to cover. Also two teaspoons of salt and two tablespoons of cider vinegar. Not the super-healthy vinegar with the cloudy residue; just plain old vinegar. And if you have it on hand, a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil. Lacking that, extra-light olive oil might be nice. Fats are soothing. The vinegar and salt will help draw healing nutrients out of those nice fat marrowbones in the drumsticks, or so I’m told.
Now cook some white rice. Not the wonderfully healthy brown stuff. For the moment, you want gentle. White rice is gentle. Eat a bit now, if you’re hungry. Monitor your symptoms. What’s your “transit time”? Does it usually take 24 hours for food to go through? When will you know whether the rice is decelerating the flare-up? Knowing that will help you find your patience.
Meanwhile, do you need an Immodium or some Pepto-Bismol? Take it. Does a whole one shut down the works for days? Cut it in half. Or quarters. But relax. Please, try to relax. Give yourself some slack. This happens. You are not a failure when your IBS is acting up. Try to get some rest.
Let the soup simmer overnight. If you or your housemate can’t stand the smell of chicken boiling all night, COOK IT IN A CROCK POT IN THE GARAGE (I’ve already had one person tell me that this tip was a marriage-saver, if not a lifesaver).
When morning comes, have some more white rice if you feel like eating. Maybe warmed, with a bit of butter or almond milk and sugar. Black tea might be comforting. Just don’t brew it too strong. Take the meat off the chicken bones and put it back in the broth. Toss in some diced carrots and celery and parsley and sage. Add zucchini if you like. Now let the veggies cook until they’re MOOSH. I know, I know … tender-crisp vegetables have more food value. Dear friend, if you can’t keep that food inside you because it irritates your intestines, it does you no good. FOR NOW, cook it till it’s dead, so you can get your strength back. There will be some nutrition left if it hasn’t turned grey. When the veggies are truly soft, have some soup. With rice, if you like.
Here are some other suggestions for waiting out the flare-up.
I’ve heard that creamy peanut butter is also soothing to the intestines. Try a little, if you don’t have a peanut allergy.
You must take charge of monitoring your own sensitivities. Write down what you ate, and when, and how it affected you. You might eventually take this food log to a doctor or a dietitian. It will be an invaluable help to them … and to you. So write everything down.
Are you tempted to eat nothing but rice for a month? The patron saint (almost) of FODMAPers, Dr. Sue Shepherd, says in her wonderful book, The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: “Another approach is to abandon the FODMAP restriction and undertake an elimination diet, followed by a food rechallenge process. This method is time-consuming and tedious. It should be attempted only under the supervision of an allergy doctor and/or registered dietitian.”
So get professional help if the flare-up lasts. Don’t tough it out alone. Be kind to yourself. This is NOT your fault. Even if your family doctor can’t figure out what has gone wrong with your insides, the low-FODMAP diet helps about 75% of the people who try it. It helped me within a week. If you’re among the other 25%, consult a gastroenterologist, or a dietitian, or a naturopath. Meanwhile, you have a wonderful pot of chicken soup to see you through tomorrow. Most flare-ups are temporary. Wait it out. There’s a great deal of nutrition, and healing, in a good rich chicken soup.
And God bless you, my friend. You are not alone.