This is a post that I have been wanting to write for a while now as I felt it was time to give an explanation as to why I follow a low carb diet as well as a diet low in fodmaps and free of gluten. A close friend said to me early last year: “what is there left for you to eat?” Well, if you take out grains, processed foods and sugar then we are left with the simple things that people have been eating for many thousands of years – vegetables, meat, eggs, a little fruit. And lets not forget chocolate which deserves its own food group (do you remember that I make my own chocolate without sugar?).
When I started the low fodmap diet three years ago I wondered how I would be able to stick with such a restrictive diet and yet I have and it gets easier each day for a simple reason: it works for me. I feel energetic and pain free. The same goes for being free of gluten for seven months now and counting: it works for me. I am free of brain fog and the draining weight of fatigue.
I was told by my doctor last March that I had PCOS and my first reaction was relief as I am so glad I didn’t realise this earlier in my life as no doubt I would have fretted and worried about its impact on my fertility. Blissfully ignorant, I was fortunate to be able to fall pregnant and maintain my pregnancies and for this I am eternally grateful. My pregnancies weren’t without their own issues as I suffered gestational diabetes. Again I find myself feeling grateful for this as it opened my eyes and heart to the suffering of those with diabetes type 1 and 2 (I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy) and I would not be aware of this if I hadn’t experienced it for myself even if only for short periods of time. My experience with gestational diabetes increased my awareness of what I ate and how it made me feel in my body. I adopted a low GI diet and thought this was the best way. When I started following the low fodmap diet I found it more of a challenge to eat low GI carbohydrates as most gluten free or wheat free alternatives are highly processed which I found very concerning. I eventually found suppliers of wholegrain spelt products which I incorporated in my recipes and meals and felt relief that it was possible to eat low GI on the fodmap diet.
Fast forward to March last year and my doctor’s diagnosis of PCOS. He reassured me that it wasn’t a sinister illness and that there are things I can do to minimise symptoms (which for me at the time were irregular cycles). 1. Keep your weight down (lucky for me I am in a healthy weight range); 2. Follow a low carb diet based on natural, unprocessed food.
Now, I was very surprised at the comment about low carb! I went away and did some research and found evidence that supports the link between PCOS and insulin resistance and increased risk of diabetes type 2, as well as research that shows a low carb diet improving PCOS symptoms. I was already very aware of the impact of food on my blood sugars but that it could influence my hormones so signifcantly was news to me. And so began my experiment of low carb eating.
The result: two months later my cycle returned, albeit a little irregular for a while. 6 months on I won’t look back: it works for me. My cycles are regular, my moods are significantly more stable, and oddly enough, my body fat has subtly re-distributed itself to different places! Now when I eat something high in carbohydrates (like a regular-sized chocolate bar or regular gluten free bread) I have an uncomfortable dis-ease with my body like I am having an out of body experience – it is not pleasant. The only cure is to go for a long walk and eventually I start to feel normal.
I am not perfect as it is very hard to remain vigilant and restrict sugar and foods high in carbs (along with the fodmap restrictions). However, as with the low fodmap diet, I manage to stay on track 90% of the time. And right now, for me, that is good enough. I am also getting more and more creative in the kitchen and finding ingredients that work for me – I currently have a mild obsession with flaxseed meal of all things! Instead of asking “why?” I am finding myself asking “what?” and this is helping me to move forward and start to accept myself as I am with all my dietary idiosyncrasies…
I am also grateful that this journey is leading me away from a future with diabetes type 2 (which I have many risk factors for) and taking me to a future of health for me and my children. I can’t change their genes (I have been told this is all genetic) but I can have a positive influence on what we eat as a family and the type of life we want to live.
All the best,