This is a very happy Jessika. Now, I’ve been really happy for a while. It’s taken a lot of work and therapy and tears and hard work to get here. But there’s been part of my life that hasn’t felt good: my digestive health… although that’s not *really* what this post is about.
This is going somewhere, stay with me:
Since moving to London, I’ve been trying to make the most of the fantastic medical community here, and have been working with physicians and dietitians to get to the bottom of digestive issues that have plagued me for more than 20 years. You read that right: 20+. I remember being a teenager and feeling such terrible pains that I wanted to stay home and cry. The doctor at the time thought I was “faking who knows what” in an attempt to stay home from school.
In my 20s, I met my Canadian family physician, who is a proactive and fantastic doctor. He had me journal before seeing a dietitian, and worked with me to rule out many potential problems. I cut out gluten first, and saw improvements but they didn’t last. Next out was dairy: buh-bye milk, butter, cheese.. that was no fun. Without getting too much into it: I made many changes with limited success. I saw naturopaths, I tried tummy-assisting yoga and stretches, I tried enzymes and supplements and countless other remedies.
Pair tummy troubles with a move to a new country, a change in lifestyle and, perhaps most significantly, no more hiking in the Canadian mountains and BOOM- hello 2 stone (that’s 28 pounds). It’s bad enough when you feel sick and bloated almost all the time and even worse when none of your trousers fit.
After talking with my local physician about my digestive issues, he suggested a couple of options, ran some new blood work, and then asked me: “Have you heard of FODMAPs?”
Research out of Monash University in Australia in the past few years pointed to a link between my symptoms and what they call “FODMAPs.” FODMAPs (which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) are short-chain carbohydrates that ferment in the stomach and can’t be processed very well by some people. These exist in a range of foods across all of the food groups, as revealed by the efforts of Monash and now the wider medical community.
His question began a year of exploration, referrals, gradual dietary changes, dietitian consultations, and then 6 weeks ago, the full restrictive phase of the FODMAP diet. I have followed it REALLY carefully, weighing my fruit and restricted veg and almost all of my food, and I’ve seen loads of improvements. It’s not been a cure-all for me (I can’t have even the “allowed” amount of tinned lentils, and it seems ALL cheese is off the table for now). This is normal: for some, the fix is drastic and complete, for others there are no significant changes. Through this process, I’ve learned so much about what works for me and what doesn’t.
But here’s the best bit and the real point of this post: I’ve done it! For 6 weeks I have not let myself down, I’ve not given into temptation, I’ve not had a cheeky bowl of Pho or a single bite of cauliflower or even a tiny nibble of fresh white bakery bread (sainthood, you say? I can’t say I disagree) 😉 and sooooooooo, in celebration (drumroll please):
I bought a new coat!! It’s a stunning wool coat, locally designed and sewn by the talented Nicola Quilter. It features a lovely asymmetrical collar, a contrasting back panel and rainbow-thread embroidery work. Even the lining has personality with its lovely satin, featuring a ‘London buses and taxis’ print.
At £169 quid it was a bit of a splurge, but great value when you consider how easy it is to spend that kind of money on an inferior synthetic coat from a high street shop. Besides, I’ve learned to be more mindful about my purchases after buying too many cheap, on-trend items that ended up in a charity shop within the year when they’d worn out or I had gotten sick of them. I’m committed to practicing what I preach: choosing sustainable, locally made, slow-fashion items that are truly an investment in one’s wardrobe.
Unsurprisingly, when I wore my new coat today, I received a few compliments and even had someone ask if I had Nicola’s card (which thankfully I had, tucked into one of the pockets). FYI, for those of you not from around here… this is London, where most people don’t talk to strangers, so that’s really saying something!
Thank you, Nicola, for your talent and your artistry. I wore my coat with such pride, feeling like my insides and outsides were matching. I was positively beaming!