The Food Diary in the Wild: managing PCOS and IBS symptoms

Every story that comes to us of how you use your diaries and feel better, healthier, happier, gives us the warm fuzzies. Just knowing that this diary is helping people across the world, is a big piece of gluten free cake for the heart. So when we got Sarah's story...well. Have a read for yourself: it's just brilliant.


"Gosh, where do I start? I’m still in the middle of my journey but this diary has changed my life.

That seems a very bold statement but when you’re constantly complaining of stomach ache, fatigue, unable to lose weight. You get paranoid that everyone around you will think you’re making it up. I even started to wonder if it was all in my head - maybe I didn’t feel this rubbish every day? Surely there were some good days?

At the beginning of this year I decided to start recording how I felt each day and listing everything that I was eating so that I could go back (again) to my GP and show him a record. I was using the notes section in my phone and then I spotted the Food Diary in a post on Instagram and decided it was exactly what I needed. Best decision ever!

I’ve had digestive issues since my teenage years but no-one, no doctor, ever really decided what was wrong with me. I have sketchy memories of tests but the worst was having a Barium Meal at hospital. I feel sick thinking about it – if you know, you know!

Anyway, I was diagnosed with IBS back in 2013 and sent away with the suggestion to try something over the counter to relieve symptoms. Over the past 5 years my symptoms have gotten increasingly worse -fast forward to the beginning of this year and I was working my way through at least 2 packs of medication a week, never leaving the house without Imodium, Buscopan and pain killers. I’ve been avoiding most dairy products since 2013- I had gall stones and dairy was one of the key triggers for an attack. I’m still not able to tolerate it now, even after having my gall bladder removed and it’s become more apparent that there are so many other foods that cause me issues and I felt even worse because I was still gaining weight without fail every week despite working out every day.

Late last year I was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and insulin resistance. It explained the difficulty losing weight (and the moustache, ha!) but once I started researching how to live with it my mind blew apart. How was I going to manage the symptoms of IBS, not really knowing what was triggering symptoms, plus navigate weight loss with PCOS? What was I meant to eat? I convinced my GP to refer me to the Dietetic centre at the hospital thinking they could help me figure it all out. I had been recording what I ate and then I saw the Food Diary on Instagram.

As soon as it arrived I excitedly filled in the details - the diary literally has a space for everything you need!

As soon as it arrived I excitedly filled in details I had been recording on my phone and then started recording more comprehensively everyday (yes, including how many times I pooped and how stressed I felt that day), the diary literally has a space for everything you need. I took the diary to my hospital appointment the following month. The student nutritionist I saw didn’t even look at it, not even a glance! I left the hospital in tears after basically being told yet again to ‘eat less and move more and you’ll be fine’.

I went back to my GP, explained what had happened at the appointment: he DID look at the diary and suggested that I needed to have further tests to find out what exactly is going on. Hurrah! I tested negative for Celiac Disease and negative for an allergy to cow’s milk protein (those are the only tests offered at my surgery) but I’ve not been consuming anything with gluten or dairy in it so its unsurprising. We have concluded that I have fat malabsorption and that I am intolerant to gluten and dairy – even if I’m not allergic I feel so much better when I’m not having them.  

I realised I’m intolerant to much more than I knew - apparently kiwi fruit is on that list!

My GP wants to hold off on referring me to gastro clinics at the hospital as my symptoms started to improve after eliminating so much. For the past month I have experimented with reintroducing things, and the diary has been amazing for this. I can pinpoint exactly what I’ve eaten and come to an educated conclusion about what triggered the symptoms. I have realised that I’m intolerant to much more than I knew– apparently kiwi fruit is on this list! - again thanks to the diary I know exactly what caused 2 days of nausea and numerous bathroom trips. No more tropical fruit salad for me!! I think I will need to consider some comprehensive testing sooner rather than later.

I’ve tailored my pages a little and record my weight loss/gains in the diary. I’ve learned that when I have too many carbs, especially refined (inc. gluten free), my weight goes up. Without fail. The same with fruit, too much = weight gain. The diary has helped me to figure this out and for that I will be eternally grateful – I am finally starting to lose weight after years of struggling. The doctor can also see that I’m not overeating. I am following a nutrition plan, but I’ve been able to tailor it to my needs thanks to the diary. The diary I bought to help with my symptoms for IBS!

If you’re thinking about buying one I’d say go for it! The cover is beautiful and so discreet you can take it anywhere with you. I love that no one needs to know I’m journaling about how many trips I’ve had to the bathroom or how much gas I’ve had that day lol. Recording my symptoms has helped me so much – It could do the same for you!

- Sarah Finch, London, UK (@_sarah_finch)

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