Friday, 31 October 2014

Bad Bellies and Appetite

This week I have experienced some loss of appetite, which is not usually something I have trouble with. Therefore, this week I would like to explore the causes of loss of appetite, particularly with a bad belly like mine, and share my thoughts on how to manage this symptom.


There are many possible causes of loss of appetite, and I have listed the most common ones below (summarised from here, here and here):

  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Stress
  • PMS
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Pregnancy
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Side effect from medication
  • Depression
  • Kidney, liver or heart disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Eating disorders

When looking at this list, I think that my problems with loss of appetite this week have been mainly caused by stress from work, as I have taken on a new role at work recently, and it has been very tiring. I am pretty sure that I do not have an infection or cancer, am not pregnant or suffering from an eating disorder, and do not have kidney, liver or heart disease. Also, I am generally excited about my new role, so I don’t think depression is a factor.

As previously discussed, stress can also exacerbate the symptoms of IBS and IBD, and I did also have quite a bad belly week in general. Additionally, loss of appetite is also common with both IBS and IBD. In particular, loss of appetite can be caused by many of the other symptoms or complications of these two conditions – bloating, nausea, pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and even mouth ulcers. You can read more about the relationship between appetite and IBS here, and with IBD here.


Although some people might say it can be useful to lose weight, and look for appetite suppressants when on a diet, loss of appetite is generally not a good thing. It is especially problematic for people with bowel conditions, as the body may already be missing out on some nutrients.

Therefore, I believe it is important to find ways to increase appetite when experiencing loss of appetite. Here is a list of possible ways to treat loss of appetite (summarised from here, here and here):

  • Treating the underlying condition, usually with medication
  • Eating smaller meals, to help avoid bloating
  • Eating food you enjoy
  • Eating bitter foods, which can stimulate digestion
  • Eating foods that can help settle the stomach
  • Maintaining a regular meal schedule
  • Creating a relaxing environment when eating
In my situation, I found that my appetite improved when I was more relaxed, and also when I was eating foods I liked. Stress relief activities also helped, such as dancing to my favourite music, or talking things out with people close to me.

Additionally, there are ways to prevent loss of appetite from occurring, as discussed here and here. In particular, these methods include changing your eating habits, avoiding stress, exercising, keeping hydrated, changing your routine, or adjusting medications.

Do you have any tips for managing your appetite? Share below.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

FM and Going Gluten Free

When I was diagnosed with FM, my dietician suggested that “going gluten free” may help, as this would also help to decrease my intake of fructans. This is because wheat contains high amounts of fructans, as discussed in this previous post, as well as gluten. However, gluten free is not always fructose friendly, and this is something that I often struggle with, particularly with the current popularity of gluten free foods. This week, I will discuss the possible connections and differences between gluten free and fructose friendly foods, and my personal experiences with this.  


It is very common today to find gluten free variations of many foods which are typically made with wheat flour – bread, pasta, wraps, pizza bases, cakes, biscuits, and even Weet-Bix! I have to say that in my experience, these gluten free foods are sometimes unpleasant – they can be dry, heavy, and even tasteless. Additionally, I find that gluten free pasta does not fare well as leftovers, as they often lost their consistency. However, there are also some things that are very well made – flourless cakes, for example.
Here are my favourite gluten free products so far:


In order to make things gluten free, i.e. wheat free, there are many different flours that are used. This website gives a comprehensive list of possible alternative flours, but the most common ones in my experience are as follows:

  • Maize/corn flour
  • Potato flour
  • Rice starch
  • Spelt flour
  • Tapioca flour

These flours are often made in combination to help get a good balance of textures, like in the recipes listed here. If you are mixing your own gluten free flour, the basic formula to follow is 40% whole grain flours, and 60% white starches.

The problem for those with FM is that some alternative flours are high in fructose or fructans. As previously discussed, I am very sensitive to corn flour. This can also be a problem when different flours are used as thickeners in sauces or stocks.


In my experience so far, it is sometimes better to find other alternatives to gluten free foods. For example, I find that sourdough bread is a good alternative to gluten free bread, as it does not contain problematic ingredients like corn flour, and still tastes good. On the other hand, when ready-made gluten free foods are not suitable, a good option is to make your own flours, stocks or sauces.

What are your experiences with FM and gluten free foods? Please share below.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Recipes for Bad Bellies: Fructose Friendly Mason Jar Fruit Salad

Following on from last week’s post, this week I decided to try making a Mason Jar Fruit Salad.

I adapted this recipe for Triple Berry Nut Salad. In order to make the salad more fructose friendly, I substituted maple syrup for the honey. And, just because I like them, I added in some kiwi fruit, swapped the whole almonds for shaved almonds, and had some Greek yoghurt on the side. Greek yoghurt can also be generally better for bad bellies than other yoghurts, as it is less likely to contain thickeners made from wheat or other ingredients with high amounts of fructose or fructans, and tends to contain less lactose than other yoghurt.

Here is my recipe:


For the dressing:
Juice from half an orange
Juice from half a lemon
2 tsp of olive oil
1 tsp of maple syrup

For the salad:
1 punnet of strawberries, quartered
½ cup of blackberries
½ cup of raspberries
1 kiwi fruit, sliced
½ cup blueberries
Approx. 2 tsp of shaved almonds
Greek yoghurt


  • Combine the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil and maple syrup for the dressing, and mix well. Add this to the bottom of the jar.
  • Add the blackberries and raspberries.
  • Add the strawberries.
  • Add the kiwi fruit.
  • Add the blueberries.
  • Because the shaved almonds will quickly become soggy from touching the fruit, put them in a zip-lock bag. Then, fold up the bag, and put it in the top of the jar.

  • During your lunch break at work, tip out the salad onto a plate, add the yoghurt to the side, and enjoy.

Note, however, that this recipe does not work with frozen berries! I learned this the hard way when the time came to eat the salad, and I discovered that there was now a lot more juice in the jar than before. Below is a photo what happened when I tipped the salad out onto a plate. It was a little difficult to eat like this, but still tasted okay. I realised that the frozen berries must have released more liquid as they defrosted overnight. Additionally, the fruit had compacted down quite significantly since the day before when I had prepared the salad, and I believe this is because the fruit had also softened during the night, possibly also due to the berries defrosting. I have therefore also concluded that this salad must be eaten quickly, and can only be made with fresh fruit!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Recipes for Bad Bellies: Fructose Friendly Mason Jar Salad

Last week, I discovered a new phenomenon – the Mason Jar Salad. By layering ingredients into a Mason Jar (or something similar), this is a very clever way to make a salad, especially to have for lunch at work.


The basic principle of a Mason Jar Salad is the way you layer the ingredients in the jar, particularly to keep wet and dry ingredients separated, to ensure that the salad stays fresh. Additionally, after you then tip the salad out onto a plate or into a bowl, the ingredients should mix together well, i.e. with the dressing on top, and leafy greens on the bottom. Here is a summary of the basic formula:

  • First layer (bottom of the jar): salad dressing
  • Second layer: “hearty” vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, capsicum, broccoli, celery)
  • Third layer: other vegetables (e.g. beans, mushrooms, corn, avocado)
  • Fourth layer: grain layer (e.g. pasta, rice, couscous, quinoa)
  • Fifth layer: protein (e.g. chicken, fish, eggs, other meat) and cheese
  • Final layer (top of the jar): leafy greens (e.g. lettuce, spinach, cabbage), nuts and seeds

As long as you keep to this basic formula, even if you are not using ingredients from all the layers, the salad should keep fresh in transport to work, and fall out of the jar correctly.


There are many websites that provide a good range of recipes for Mason Jar Salads, such as this one, or this one. Just by doing a search on Google, you can find even more. However, most of these recipes are not completely suitable for those with fructose malabsorption, or IBS in general – but they are easily adaptable.

This week, I chose to adapt this recipe for a Greek Chicken Mason Jar Salad. Most of the ingredients in this recipe are on the low-fructose content list, but I still made a few small changes. First, I did not put in any salad dressing, because pre-made ones tend to contain ingredients that affect my belly, such as garlic. Additionally, I am not a big fan of olives, so I substituted them for carrot. And finally, I added in parmesan cheese, for a little extra flavour, and pine nuts, for a bit of crunch.

Therefore, here is my recipe:


1 small-sized chicken breast fillet, cooked and sliced into small cubes
5-6 mini Roma tomatoes, chopped into halves
½ half of a cucumber, sliced and chopped into halves
1 medium-sized carrot, sliced and chopped into halves
1 small piece of feta cheese, chopped into small cubes
Approx. 1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese, shaved
Approx. ½ tablespoon of pine nuts, roasted
1-2 handfuls of lettuce leaves, chopped into medium-sized pieces
1-2 handfuls of spinach leaves


  • Add tomatoes, cucumber and carrot to the bottom of a small- or medium-sized Mason Jar (or similar - must be a glass jar with an airtight screw lid).

  • Add the feta cheese and parmesan cheese.
  • Add the chicken.
  • Add the pine nuts, lettuce and spinach.
  • Ensure that the ingredients are packed into the jar tightly, and then put on the lid.

  • During your lunch break at work, tip out the salad on a plate or in a bowl (you may need a fork or spoon to help), and enjoy!

I was very happy with the result - the salad was still very fresh, and tasted really good! And my belly was completely fine. This is something I will definitely try often.

Have you tried making a Mason Jar Salad? Please share below.