Shepherd said shes sold almost 200,000 copies of her eight cookbooks, which include Irresistibles for the Irritable, that help people choose bowel-friendlier foods. The recipes avoid sugars that arent well absorbed in some peoples bowels, found in products ranging from onions to yoghurts. Too Much Gas These foods can cause bloating, excess gas, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea in some people — hallmarks of irritable bowel syndrome experienced by at least 10 to 15 percent of adults, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, a research and education group in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I pieced together what was an experimental diet, said Shepherd, who began teaching the regimen in her private dietetics practice in early 1997. I wasnt randomly picking these foods — they all had something in common: they were all potentially not absorbed in the small intestine. Peter Gibson, gastroenterology professor at Melbournes Monash University, helped coin the term Fodmap to describe the molecules people with irritable bowel syndrome have difficulty stomaching — fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols found in dozens of everyday things from apples and wheat to milk, high-fructose corn syrup, and sugarless chewing gum. Fell Off My Chair Shepherd, who has celiac disease, tested her diet on 25 people, preparing all their meals herself for 22 weeks in a study that formed part of a PhD thesis at Monash. She found the diet quelled symptoms in at least 70 percent of participants, compared with 12 percent given a placebo meal resembling typical Australian fare. I honestly nearly fell off my chair because it looked just too good to be true, said Shepherd, who now employs 13 dietitians in a practice that sees about 4,000 people a year. I still pinch myself at how successful it is and how big its become. Its literally gone global. The research drew attention to the role of diet in medicine and gastroenterological diseases especially, said Josh Butt, a gastroenterology fellow at Monash. Slow Diffusion The diet has gained popularity in the U.S. since Gibson and Shepherd spoke on the topic at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting a year ago, said Patsy Catsos, a dietitian and author in Portland, Maine, who keeps a list of more than 90 dietitians who feel comfortable delivering the diet. Nutritionists here in the U.S. are thrilled with the diet, happy to have something to offer their patients that has scientific backing and good results, said Barbara Bradley Bolen, a clinical psychologist in Farmingdale and Northport, New York, who has written two self-help books on irritable bowel syndrome. Some gastroenterologists are recommending the diet to their IBS patients, Bolen said.This is a big deal, as traditionally, mainstream medicine has downplayed the role that diet has played in IBS, she said.
A diet for a normal life
It all started when she was diagnosed with the condition as a 19-year-old. She was told by her specialist she had an incurable disease, that she would have to be under a specialist and on medication for the rest of her life and that not even changes to her diet could help. “At 19, being told you have an incurable disease and that you’ll have to be under medication for the rest of your life is really a sense of doom,” says Ms Elliott. “To feel that you have no control over it or no options on how to help yourself rather than take medication, which can have side effects, was all very scary.” Determined to better control her condition alongside the medications, she began playing with her diet in an attempt to identify the foods that made her symptoms worse. “It was all through trial and error. There was no-one out there who could help diet- wise, it was a matter of identifying foods that made me feel uncomfortable.” Today, with the help of medications and through careful manipulation of her diet, the 33-year-old has Crohn’s well under control. In fact she’s been in remission for seven years. Not only has she gotten to the other side of Crohn’s, Ms Elliott has also discovered a career path to help others like herself along the way. At the time of diagnosis she was studying for a Bachelor of Education, wanting to become a teacher, but once she developed Crohn’s she changed her mind. “Being told a flat out ‘no’, that diet wouldn’t help my condition, and then finding that manipulating my diet did impact quite significantly on how I felt on a day-to-day basis made me realise I wanted to become a dietician. It was out of frustration really, and it just made such sense.” After 4 1/2 years of study, in 2002 she became a qualified dietitian. These days she splits her time between her job as an immunology dietitian at Wellington Hospital, in private practice trading under the Food Savvy banner and as a mum. While she focuses on food allergies, food intolerances and eating disorders, she specialises particularly in diets for people with bowel disorders. “It’s become my niche because of my own condition.
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