The Food Diary in the Wild: handling dairy and gluten intolerances
Have you ever felt like your stomach was a 'disgustingly grumpy troll'? I certainly have...and Laura from Leeds certainly has!
Read how she manages her stomach troll and its moods with the help of her diary and some ingenious colour-coding...
"I’ve been using my diary for a while now, usually being more consistent with keeping up with writing in it when I’ve had some symptoms. I go through good and bad times with my stomach. Whenever I’ve been cross contaminated I go through a period of time afterwards - often a few weeks - of feeling awful with my stomach, moods and also brain fog, which I suffer with when I’ve had gluten. I strictly keep away from dairy and gluten, so it is frustrating during these times when my stomach is extra sensitive, but realistically I know that I’m quite lucky to be able to manage my food and symptoms. And it’s during these few weeks (post-glutening) that the diary really helps me.
I’ve learnt that when my stomach is sensitive, I can’t drink coffee on an empty stomach for example. It’s a simple fix but one that’s really hard to pick up on without having recorded my food to see a pattern.
Since having stomach issues, I’ve always talked about having a disgustingly grumpy troll that lives in there and bangs on the wall of my stomach when he’s unhappy with any gluten or dairy! I eat to keep my little troll happy: I eat a super bland diet when my stomach’s upset - a staple diet of toast, pasta, McDonalds chips and Lucozade. But the diary helps me slightly branch out of this (maybe the troll would like some pizza today?!) If he doesn’t, at least I can write it down in my diary, and be aware that next time, that he’s not a fan of pizza on his bad days.
I’ve always been a huge stationery nerd. I was the kid in class that was obsessed with my pens and needed a new set of fine liners every term, so I do enjoy colour-coding my diary. I do this by meal - breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, then code even further by using different colours for symptoms! A green smiley face if I was fine, orange straight face if I was a little unsure if it agreed with me, and a red unhappy face to represent that little troll.
I also find it good here to be recording more than just stomach-related symptoms. Obviously these are the most noticeable to me, but I also record things like mouth ulcers and brain fog, which I get when I’m run down with gluten contamination, or an acne outbreak if I’ve been contaminated with dairy. This just helps me keep on top of what’s happening with my body and manage the symptoms so I can go back and re-check everything I’ve eaten and where contamination has taken place to work out if it was preventable. Since this is more often than not when I’ve eaten out, it’s not always preventable but something I do consider when picking a restaurant next time!
I went through months of being ill daily before the doctors could see me. After tests we figured out together that I had to give up gluten as well as dairy, but before these diagnoses I was eating a pretty gluten-heavy diet. Weetabix or a bagel were standard in the morning, which was followed by laying on the floor in agony for a few hours before lunch rolled around and I’d typically eat soup and a bread roll before spending the afternoon in the foetal position before –ahem - visiting the toilet. Looking back I’m shouting at myself ‘IT’S THE GLUTEN DUMMY!’ but hindsight is a fabulous thing and at the time I was crying because I’d already given up dairy a year or so before, and was developing these agonising new symptoms which were unexplained at the time. Without recording symptoms, which are then easily compared to the food eaten, it’s really hard to figure out the triggers.
I do think looking back if I’d had the diary earlier it really would have helped as it’s got the great symptom tracker and encourages you to write the timings of the meals and then the symptoms suffered. My doctor always wanted to see what I was eating in an attempt to find the source of the issues and it would have been great to be able to take the diary along and not just be super vague about my eating, because there’s not anything as good as this diary out there - I just wish I’d found it sooner!
I’d recommend getting the diary if your food vs symptoms are all over the place and hard to track - especially if you’re going to regular doctors appointments, so you can show your doctor exactly what you’ve eaten and when. When I was seeing doctors a lot I was a little shy and didn’t always feel like they had time for me to tell them my daily food…so it would have really helped if I could have let them have a little read so they could see exactly what I was eating. I’d say if you think you might have Irritable Bowel Syndrome or anything like that, it would also be good to replace where I write the ‘acne and ulcers’ tracking and instead maybe do some sort of key to monitor your stress levels.
Overall it’s great diary, super stylish and one I’m definitely playing about with all the time to find the best way to use it for my needs; always altering how I’m filling it out and colour coding to work best - especially when on the go!"
- Laura, Leeds, UK (@the_dairyfree_coeliac)
From one stationery nerd to another (and one Laura to another!) thank you for sharing your story with us! We love *love* love getting these stories - and we love hearing how reading them helps you too! So, be brave and share your story with us...you never know who it's going to help, and who'll feel less alone reading it. Email us with 'my diary story' in the subject line at firstname.lastname@example.org!