Do not rejoice, Israel;
do not be jubilant like the other nations.
For you have been unfaithful to your God;
you love the wages of a prostitute
at every threshing floor.
Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people;
the new wine will fail them.
They will not remain in the Lord’s land;
Ephraim will return to Egypt
and eat unclean food in Assyria.
They will not pour out wine offerings to the Lord,
nor will their sacrifices please him.
Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners;
all who eat them will be unclean.
This food will be for themselves;
it will not come into the temple of the Lord.
- Hosea 9:1-4
These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: …
- Leviticus 11:13 (just as an example)
“FODMAP is an acronym, derived from “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”.”
I just love that definition. It reminds me of my old chemical engineering days, back, oh, a lifetime ago, or so it seems. Basically, FODMAP is a combination of some reasonably long-chained organic chemicals. FODMAP can be found in almost everything that is natural food, especially the mono-saccharides, but the polyols usually are artificially introduced in processed foods. And the Oligo-, Di-, and Mono- are all prefixes for saccharides. On the bad, high FODMAP side you’ll find almost all dairy products, except hard cheeses. You will find processed meats and sausages. You will find all cruciferous vegetables, except broccoli. You will find all beans and peas, except green beans. And absolutely wheat is a no-no, except in a tortilla chip. And speaking of no wheat, you would think that gluten free is safe. Gluten is a protein and FODMAP, as a group, are carbohydrates. All wheat has gluten protein, but some gluten free products can use naughty, high FODMAP ingredients when substituting for the wheat. It gets tricky. After that, the world is your Smorgasbord, except for cashews and pistachios. Sure, there are other things… It gets complicated.
What is a FODMAP diet? Well, that takes me back to college, maybe even high school, chemistry classes, sort of. You get a list of low FODMAP foods and stick to that for about three weeks. Then you can introduce a small amount of something on the naughty list that you like. You can introduce ever increasing dosages (bigger bites) of that favorite food until you discover your tolerance to that food. This is pure sound experimental practice, at its best. Of course, to all mothers out there or the person feeding an infant, (this being a reminder from my wife) this is also the way you introduce solid foods when shifting to solid foods with an infant. You don’t necessarily start with low FODMAP, but each food that you introduce, you introduce slowly to be ensured that the infant can handle it. Just don’t call me a “baby!” I might pout or cry…
Some foods that are on the naughty list may not be naughty at all, depending on what your digestive system does with it. But I discovered in a very painful way that some things, that I loved when growing up – even less than a year ago, do not love me back. I’ll explain in a bit.
First, I have been complaining to my doctor that I have been belching uncontrollably for about a year and a half, maybe two years, from the time I get up until I go to bed. We are talking one belch and before I can get two breaths another belch, after a barrage of this for an hour or two, maybe an hour or two without any problem, then it starts again without warning. It does not seem humanly possible to have that much gas. The FODMAP diet is designed for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), but I had no symptoms for that disorder. Mine was all upper GI (Gastrointestinal). What made the symptoms worse was eliminating the ranitidine since there is a connection between that drug and cancer. Thus, I suspected GERD, but until recently, there was no increase in heart burn. I took ranitidine every morning for nearly twenty years. Yay!
With my antacid medication cut in half (still taking Protonix before bed), my GERD has returned on occasion with severe chest pain, but not indicative of heart failure. And my EKG is okay.
So, my good family doctor thought outside the box (no lower GI issues, but why not try this lower GI diet for an upper GI problem) and suggested the FODMAP diet. With my wife in Tennessee, I was in total control of what I ate. A typical day, at least for me, starts with fruit. (The 13 Gala apples are now gone, but in true Gala form, one was rotten.) Then an early afternoon snack of a real meat sandwich-slice or two (nothing processed) covering cheddar cheese (usually cheddar), and heated, melting the cheese. One of the worst FODMAP villains is wheat bread. I do not like the taste of some on the gluten free breads, nor do I like the price. So, I have a sandwich on a plate with just the things that are between the slices, no bread at all. (I love hamburger salad with mayochup or thousand island.) Then, for the late meal, I have been experimenting with a variety of things that are on the low FODMAP side. I finally bought a cookbook.
Now for my first confession. I was feeling great about a week ago. I had bought a Zero bar at the checkout a few days earlier. I know, an impulse aisle weakness. Instead of eating a single bite (although most of the ingredients were not on the naughty list), I ate the entire bar. Chocolate is allowed on the low FODMAP list, but in moderation. Starting ten minutes after I had enjoyed the last morsel, I belched until I went to bed several hours later. Then, at 2:30am, I was awakened by a horrible abominable abdominal cramp. It was so bad that my head was spinning, getting dizzy from the pain. I staggered to the bathroom. I felt like the guy who had the alien rip its way through his belly to get out, from the movie Alien. Even then in my case, it took a while, finally trying to go back to sleep at 3:30am, and giving up. Note: I had never had any lower GI problems until I had detoxified my body. Now, foods that I loved became toxins.
Wow! The next day, I had something with sausage in it, another FODMAP no, no. There was little belching, but enough to tell me I had done wrong. I thought I was safe, but at 2:30am, abominable abdominal returned for a second night in a row. I got back to sleep after that bout.
It got me to thinking about clean and unclean foods. I used to eat a wide variety of foods. In some of my travels around the world, I had no choice. I had to eat what the customer offered as a courtesy. Note to self, if cornered again, do not eat the sea cucumber or the chicken beak and foot soup – and those are some of the tame things. Some foods, when at home, I chose not to eat due to taste or texture, my wife grumbling that I was ‘picky,’ but I had only gotten really sick, due to allergies, eating grapes, of all things.
As for those who might say that I do not like Zero bars – now that I know to stay away from them, I say that when I was growing up and my MawMaw (my mother’s mother) gave me a dime, I would run to the corner grocery, Mr. Henry’s store, and get a Zero bar. No other candy would do. They were my favorite. But something has happened inside me in my old age, and Zero bars do not like me. I love chili dogs. Before I left Tennessee, my wife fixed them for the grandchildren. I knew that onions were a naughty thing on the bad FODMAP list, so I sacrificed the onions, but I ignored the fact that a hot dog is a processed meat, a sausage if you will, and the bread was wheat bread. The sad thing is that there may be things in the chili that do not like me anymore. I may test chili by pouring a little over cornbread, but maybe not.
So, must I return to Levitical dietary restrictions? It might not be a bad idea. If you read Leviticus as a food safety person, it avoids dangers on the unclean foods side of things, and in the preparation of clean foods, like no blood.
I started this diet so that I would not have a belching fit while at church or other social encounters. But I have dropped over ten pounds in only a couple of weeks – after not gaining or losing for three years. Yes, I would feel better with less weight to carry around, but my main goal is to have no more returns from abominable abdominal.
As for the end of the Hosea quote, may I misquote that “I am not mourning such sacrifices of bread, for if I ate it, I would be unclean.” Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Let us not allow our freedom to eat anything to get in our way of worshiping God. Let us not worship the food that we eat, for God made it. And in this fallen world, remember that anything can suddenly change and become our enemy.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.