Chocolate Dessert
Chocolate Volcano Pancakes from NaYa Dessert Cafe, San Francisco, CA

I LOVE food. Now, I’m talking about food that makes memories in my DNA.

Food that takes me back to my childhood.

Food that’s so good I shed a tear. Or twelve.

Food that makes my heart stop, for a few seconds.  

Food that inhabits my dreams.

Food that guides my travels.

I travel to eat great food.

That’s what makes FODMAP so tragic!

But then my favorite foods that used to bring me joy made me ill. I lived on air-popped corn and apples, with the occasional sleeve of saltines, for months. I made and drank gallons of honey-sweetened, ginger tea. I knew the location of every public bathroom from home, to work, to Mom’s and most places in-between.

My social life suffered and I missed important meetings. I could only run if I knew a restroom was nearby and usually woke with morning sickness. That terrible diet and lack of calories not only led to severe anemia but also constant dehydration. 

Even worse, my travel life suffered! I was constantly worried that my diet would lead to a humiliating public event. I turned down opportunities to dine at new restaurants and try new dishes. It was hell.

I finally realized my home remedies weren’t working and went to see my gastroenterologist. That’s when those terrible letters were spoken to me: FODMAP!!

Bathroom door

“You have IBS and a spastic colon,” she calmly said.

“What???” I replied.

“You’ll need to start a special diet and you’ll eventually feel better.”

“Special diet” is never something a food lover wants to hear. But it was true. I was given a list of medications and a sheet of paper with two columns listing my “naughty foods” and “goodie foods.” I created that terminology to help me emotionally understand this special diet.

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols

WTF??

Essentially these things in our foods contribute to digestive distress and gastrointestinal disorders. So, what was the number one naughty food for me? WHEAT!

Which meant those saltines I ate for months to help my stomach were actually making it worse. AND ginger is on the naughty food list so all that ginger tea I had been drinking….. Yeah, bad. ALL BAD!

My easy food list looked like this:

Goodie ListNaughty List
Apple, peach, mango, pearBlueberry, grapes, honeydew melon
Honey, fructoseMaple syrup, golden syrup
Milk products, yogurtLactose-free milk, hard cheeses
Artichoke, asparagus, broccoliBamboo shoots, bok choy, corn
Brussel sprout, cabbage, garlicEggplant, green bean, tomato
Wheat productsGluten-free products, rice products
Chickpeas, legumes, watermelonStrawberry, carrot, kiwi, orange
Avocado, onion, mushroomLemon, lime, passion fruit
Sweetener ending in “-ol”Glucose, sugar non“-ol” sweetener
Empty plate
This is what my plate looked like after my FODMAP food plan. Yum.

Everything I ate on my mostly vegetarian diet was on this list! And this was the abbreviated list! The comprehensive list is 4-pages long! Goodbye mushrooms, lentils, broccoli. No Chilton County peaches for me. No White Mountain bread from Publix.

Worse, no chocolate cake, no brownies, no Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream on top. But I will not give up my dark chocolate.

I was stunned.

And saddened.

And delighted that my stomach problems had a name and a plan of attack. Or rather, plan of healing. 

Managing my IBS and SC has been challenging at home. I’ve adapted to the diet but I still have unexplained and unexpected symptoms. I can eat the exact same thing every day and still have an “event.” Sometimes I think it’s because I ate eleven grapes instead of six or half a cup of rice instead of three-quarters.

Eating while traveling has been particularly difficult because MENUS ARE LIARS. I’ve had several incidents at restaurants where I’ve read the ingredients, asked if they were correct and then received food with ingredients on my naughty list. I’ve asked for meals to be prepared WITHOUT ingredients on my naughty list and was ignored. I treat my food plan as if I have a food allergy but restaurants aren’t always accommodating. It’s hit or miss which is why I always travel with a FODMAP friendly protein bar.

Travelers requiring accommodations should not be shamed, ignored or made to feel as though we are disturbing the Universe. And menus should be accurate and truthful. And hey chefs, ask us before you add a surprise ingredient THAT IS NOT ON THE MENU! It may actually send us to the hospital or kill us.

Do you need accommodations when you travel? What is it and how can I help you receive it?