Firstly, I have to put a huge disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, hold no qualifications related to diet or nutrition and am not in any way intending to give out any specific or tailored medical or health advice. This is completely general and is simply me sharing what I've found helpful and what's worked for me. As always, I suggest working with a qualified healthcare professional (like I did and am still doing) to address any health concerns.
The main reason I wanted to write this out is to give any of you suffering with digestive issues right now some reassurance that what you're experiencing is temporary and you won't always feel this way. I know some of you have probably been told it's all in your head, had your bloating dismissed as 'normal' (which it can be...but it can also be really debilitating) or have been given the poor advice to haphazardly cut out entire food groups without real reason to.
I can't recommend enough the importance of fighting for your health and demanding answers. You know your bodies better than anyone - so if something feels off and is affecting your quality of life, don't settle. I think I ended up seeing 4 different GP's in the span of a few months last year, plus a naturopath, gastroenterologist, endocrinologist and nephrologist. Trust me, the right help is out there, you just have to keep searching till you find the person who can help you (it's an expensive exercise but an undoubtedly valuable one).
To make things easier for you when you do see a professional, I've included a template for a tracking sheet I personally used to try to map out where my symptoms were stemming from and what could be triggering them. This cut out a lot of the guess work, and meant I could say with confidence in an appointment what my symptoms were, when they occurred the most frequently or intensely and keep an eye on whether there were any patterns occurring.
You'll notice that this tracking sheet is not just food-focused. This is something I'm really passionate about conveying - blaming food is not always the answer, nor a healthy approach. For me, some of my abdominal distension and pain was food-related, but it turned out a lot was also due to poor liver function and huge hormonal changes. If I hadn't tracked things like my energy levels, pain elsewhere in my body, congestion, breakouts, stress levels, exercise etc, I would have been stuck trying to pinpoint every little piece of food that entered my mouth and blame it. At this stage I'd already eliminated gluten, dairy, soy, legumes, FODMAPs, histamine-rich foods, eggs....without any real relief. Trust me, you don't want to get to the point where you've really damaged your relationship with food. Plus, restricting will only cause more stress to a body that is clearly imbalanced and needing some proper care.
You don't have to follow this template completely - it's meant entirely as a guide! You may not want to track some things, you may want to add things like your weight changes etc. I just want to show you how simple it is to take ownership and approach what you're going through in a methodical & rational way, and reduce some of those feelings of helplessness & despair.
I would use this for at least 3-4 weeks and please, don't self-diagnose. Take this with you to a qualified professional - whether that's a GP, specialist or naturopath (I'm not going to tell you what's best for you, but remember to search till you find the right fit).
**** Download the template here.
While you're on your journey to improve your symptoms and hopefully improve your relationship and mindset toward food, here are my 2 biggest tips that you can do as of today, without a professional (but seriously - please see one ASAP if you need to):
I really do hope this was helpful - I know I didn't offer a magic solution or quick fix but in my opinion, a strong mindset and drive to feel better is the fastest way to getting better. I promise - I never thought I would make it to the other side of all my health issues or that anyone would take my symptoms seriously. I am obviously still working on my health and have my really 'off' days, but I am thriving now more than I have in over a year and I can't tell you how rewarding it feels. So don't give up, be kind to yourself, and seriously - seek that professional help when you need it (even if you don't think you do).