STOP DOING KEGELS.

This week I’m bringing you a very important post. We’re going to be talking about pelvic floor dysfunction and the part it could be playing in your IBS-C, specifically.

Here I’m mainly talking to the ladies. We have a big problem with women’s posture in our society. It’s deemed correct to stand tall, chest out, stomach pulled in and bum tucked. Even if none of us remember being taught this as such, a lot of us are guilty of positioning our bodies in this way without even thinking. This isn’t good – it has the capacity to seriously mess with your pelvic floor.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the pelvic floor is the muscles, the ligaments and the connective tissue in the ‘floor’ of your pelvis. Guess what these muscles are responsible for? They support your downstairs organs! That’s your bowel, your bladder and, ladies, your uterus and vagina. As IBS sufferers, we need to know about these muscles and ensure they’re functioning properly as if not, this could be a big contributor to your IBS related symptoms.

We’ve all been told to do kegels for one reason or another. I read the first instruction to adopt these exercises in a teen magazine when I was about 14 (which awful in itself – but that’s a different battle altogether). I was told more explicitly about the importance of kegels when I took my first pilates class, age 17. It seemed the entire practice of pilates centred around ‘activating the core’ – which begins by pulling up on the pelvic floor and maintaining this at about 30% (at least the way I was taught, anyway). When I become pregnant, I will be told again I’m sure, of the importance of pelvic floor exercises to strengthen those down-there muscles. It’s absolutely true of course that you need strong pelvic floor muscles when you’re pregnant and indeed in all stages of life.  It’s just that tight, toned muscles can often be confused with strong ones.

Tight muscles doesn’t necessarily mean strong muscles.

Picture the pelvic floor muscles as a perfect tightrope; running from below your belly button to your tailbone. It has a little elastic to it, and all your lovely organs are arranged on this perfectly.  When you pull up on your pelvic floor repeatedly (as in kegels) and tuck your bum in as part of  this posture many women have adopted habitually, over time this tightrope is pushed inward from both sides, drawing tighter and tighter, creating slack in the middle.  Instead of being a strong, supportive tightrope with a healthy amount of give, the pelvic floor becomes more like a hammock and is in a state of dysfunction. Combine this with weak glutes that can’t support the back of your pelvis, and you’re even more susceptible to associated symptoms, which can be:

  • bloating
  • constipation
  • urinary symptoms including: frequency, hesitancy, urgency, dysuria and bladder pain
  • pelvic pain
  • lower back pain or pain in the thighs and groin
  • pain during sex / vulvodynia

Here’s a baby donkey in a hammock to make this all a little less distressing.

donkey hammock

hammocks aren’t always bad

 

For anyone who suffers from IBS-C, like me, I’d urge you to consider your pelvic posture. Do you tense up and tuck your bottom in when you stand, or is your tightrope a thing of beauty? It doesn’t matter what headway you might be making on the low FODMAP diet – if a pelvic floor disorder is causing your symptoms, nothing will change until your muscles are supporting your organs in the right way. The steps below, more than anything else, have helped cure my IBS.

Step 1: listen to katy

Watch Katy Bowman speak on the subject in this short video. She explains it far better than me and is an expert on the subject. She includes some exercises here on how you can lengthen those pelvic floor muscles.

STEP 2: see your doctor

Although this might lead you to seek a more specialist opinion down the line, you should see your GP as soon as possible if you have any of the above symptoms, or if you think you might have a pelvic floor disorder.

step 3: stop doing kegels

Stop it. Today. Unless your pelvic floor muscles are in great shape, these will not help you – they will just shorten the muscles further!

Stop the kegels

Stop the kegels.

Step 4: squat

In addition to those lengthening exercises Katy Bowman shows us, you need to start squatting. Squats will strengthen your glutes, supporting the back of your pelvis (helping it to stay untucked) and help lengthen those tight pelvic floor muscles in the process, creating proper support and strength for your organs where it’s needed.

step 5: and remember …

TIGHT MUSCLES DO NOT EQUAL STRONG MUSCLES.

Read some more helpful insights from Katy Bowman, queen of perfect alignment, here:

– ‘Real pelvic floor advice for women‘ – particularly helpful advice for those in pregnancy

– ‘1, 2, 3, 4. We like our pelvic floor‘ – a very good illustration of the problem with kegels and the butt tuck when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction

 

 

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The FODMAP free challenge: two weeks to go!

So, I’ve been following the elimination phase for almost four weeks now. It really is much easier the second time around. My body doesn’t crave the things it did the first time, i.e. wheat, sweet fruits etc… but that’s not to say it’s been easy or that I’ve been a saint.

I have slipped up once or twice, as expected … although it made me feel considerably worse than it has done previously. I put it down to ruthlessly cutting out the FODMAPs again; I guess my body has become especially intolerant to these things for not being exposed to them at all in recent weeks.

The times that I have cheated have been when I’m out and about, and in need of sustenance. This is always my vice: if there isn’t a totally low FODMAP option, I tend to take the next best option, which normally incorporates some lentils, or some garlic, or some fructose… FODMAPs I choose because generally I know I tolerate these relatively well.

One key message, which if I could, I would illuminate with blinding, flashing bulbs?

SMALL PORTION OF TOLERATED FODMAP + ANOTHER SMALL PORTION OF TOLERATED FODMAP = HIGH FODMAP PORTION 

That is to say, me diving into a lentil salad with a very large portion of red cabbage alongside it in order to avoid all the wheat-smothered cafe foods whilst out in London last weekend might actually have done me more harm than if I’d just scoffed the scotch egg, with its delicious (but negligible) breadcrumbed exterior.

As soon as I’d been FODMAP free for three days though, I felt fine again. And so onwards with the elimination phase, with the revised knowledge at the front of my mind for reintroductions: only challenge ONE FODMAP at a time, and do so in regulated portion sizes as instructed by Monash and your dietitian. 

Lunch in a flash: Fennel and tuna salad

Fennel and tuna salad

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find low FODMAP lunchtimes can be a tedious affair if you’re prepping meals at work.

If I haven’t made anything ahead, lunchtime means looking for quick fixes; an easy lunch that I can throw together with minimal ingredients and fuss. The trouble is, to stick to a raw low FODMAP lunch, the options open to us are few. I only really ever eat salads, sushi, or oat and rice cakes slathered with cheese. All of the above are great! But it’s easy to lose the variety, meaning often I’ll fall in love with one kind of salad, eat it until I can’t stand it, and so begin to search for the next option.

This isn’t a great way to eat of course, especially when options are so limited for us low fodmappers. So, since deciding to re-do my eliminations, I’ve been trying to embrace some different ingredients throughout my week.

For salads, I like to keep a few staples at work like olive oil, vinegar and a lemon, so that there’s always a something to form a decent dressing – no matter how bland the salad beneath! This salad is anything but bland though. By slicing half a fennel bulb finely, stirring through tuna and lemon zest, it’s instantly so much more fresh than what I usually serve myself up at lunchtime.

you will need:

1/2 a fennel bulb, raw.
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 small tin of tuna
olive oil

method:

Finely slice your fennel and place in a bowl. Grate your lemon zest over it, then squeeze the juice in. Add your tuna, and finally drizzle with plenty of olive oil. Season well, and enjoy!

6 Week FODMAP Elimination Challenge

6 week fodmap elimination challenge

Happy New Year to all of you!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything … of course it’s been crazy over the holidays with family, friends and a tonne of other distractions I won’t bore you with… and all of a sudden, it’s all over!

As I woke up bleary eyed in 2016 I started reminiscing a bit about all of the mince pies, sauces, sausage rolls, crackers, Christmas pudding, cream and excessive amounts of booze I consumed in December. If you can check a couple of these guys off your list of FODMAP containing foods eaten over the holidays, you might know how I’m feeling.

The New Year is always a time for rethinking diets and lifestyle choices. However for us fodmappers it’s doubly hard I think. Not only do we feel guilty about the regular December indulgences, the cheese, the wine, the chocolate … we have to feel guilty about the onion gravy, or the chutney, or the honey roasted cashews we ate too.

Upon reflecting on my December choices I remembered it wasn’t the first time I’d slipped up with the diet. I started my low FODMAP journey in February 2015 and within a couple of weeks of my eliminations, I felt amazing. I had more energy, I felt slimmer, I didn’t get any IBS related pain or symptoms. It was like a miracle cure. But once you’ve been on a diet for some time and you start to see results, it’s easy to get complacent. This is what happened to me. I started eating the odd FODMAP containing food, a muffin here, some houmous there. When I ended up in Italy, of course I ate all the wheat I could get my hands on! And when it came to my reintroductions, I got them wrong, which led to inconclusive results. It made me feel lousy, and I was really annoyed at myself.

These experiences taught me a few lessons, though:

  1. We all slip up sometimes. This is a really hard diet to keep up with. It’s relentless, inconvenient and awkward. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall down, but be conscious of how it made your body feel.
  2. Slipping up doesn’t mean you have to go back to square one. You can (and should!) return to the diet if you eat any illegal food. Be sure to follow it strictly from that moment and take a few days to monitor your symptoms. As soon as you’re symptom free for 3 days, you can continue monitoring things as normal.
  3. Listen to your body. This experience is different for everyone. The only person who can truly tell you what works and what doesn’t, is you!
  4. Reintroductions = scientific experiment. i.e. you have to follow ALL of the rules during reintroductions or your results aren’t conclusive. A key mistake I made during reintroductions was introducing the foods that I had tested and tolerated straight away, while carrying out the remaining reintroductions. This can cause a build up of FODMAPs and essentially void your results. This is the main reason for my number one New Year’s resolution…

my new year’s resolution

Having been through the elimination diet once, I have decided it’s time for me to re-do it. I constantly find myself dreaming of the way I felt back in March – so why not try again?

It’s so daunting, especially after enjoying so many forbidden fruits recently (literally…) but it’s going to be worth it I’m sure.

If you want to join me, please do – and let me know how you’re getting on!

Rosemary and sea salt buckwheat crackers

Rosemary and sea salt buckwheat crackers

Today was a VERY special day for me and the low FODMAP diet. It was the first day that I could chow down on some cheese and crackers in a relatively normal fashion, thanks to these flavourful friends of mine.

I find free from baking very challenging, but this recipe gets my stamp of approval for ease. I got them right first go, and I’m sure you will too!

You will need:

150g buckwheat flour
1 tbsp rosemary (you can use dried, I used freshly chopped)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 x eggs
3 x tbsp coconut oil (melted then cooled)

method:

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Melt coconut oil either for a very short time in the microwave or on / near the stove. If just leaving on a warm surface it doesn’t take long at all. Once melted remove from heat and allow to cool.

Mix together your flour, rosemary, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Crack two eggs into a smaller bowl and whisk in your coconut milk and combine. Pour into the dry mixture and mix well with your hands to form a dough.

Your dough needs to hold together and stay in a ball if you roll a piece in your hand. Mine was too dry so I added a small amount of water – just have a play until you get a good consistency.

This dough is quite sticky – so line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and cut another piece the same amount. Sandwich your dough between these two and then you can roll the dough out to the edges without losing half of it to your rolling pin!

Once rolled, peel the top layer of paper off and slice the dough with a pizza wheel into any shape/size you like. I used a palette knife to then just separate the pieces gently, before popping them in the oven for 15 minutes. Give them a flip halfway through so they get a bit golden on both sides.

These are really yummy on their own, and you can experiment with all sorts of flavours and flours. No more naughty midnight snacking on cream crackers for me!

Rosemary and sea salt buckwheat crackers

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

These gluten free and low lactose Portuguese inspired custard tarts are quick, easy and tasty – adjectives I don’t tend to associate with free-from baking!

While food shopping last week I spotted a product I got really excited about.

Silly Yak gluten free ready to roll pastry block

Silly Yak’s gluten free, Ready to Roll Pastry Block.

That’s going straight in my basket.

This is something I haven’t really seen before, and because every homemade GF dough/pastry I’ve attempted so far hasn’t really worked, I was definitely ready to roll with this.

One thing I will say is that this isn’t suitable for freezing, so you will need to buy it and use it within the sell by date. Seeing that I had reached this date and the pastry was indeed starting to look a little sad, I decided to make some quick little Portuguese style custard tarts, inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe video from 30 Minute Meals. These are gluten free, low in lactose (just a little yoghurt but we’re allowed 2 tbsp a day, so even if you went ape and ate all the tarts at once… you’d probably be ok). They’re almost totally low FODMAP – be aware there is soya flour in the pastry block.

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

You will need:

1 x block of Silly Yak Gluten Free Ready to Roll Pastry Block
sprinkle of cinnamon..
butter (for greasing)

For the custard:
1 large egg
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
2 tbsp caster sugar
grated zest of 1/2 an orange
1 tsp vanilla paste

Method:

Makes 6 custard tarts.

Heat your oven to 200C.

Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface – I used gluten free but a little plain flour would have been ok too. This pastry is quite sticky so you may want to flour your rolling pin too. Roll it out to about a centimetre thick – and then sprinkle a good pinch of cinnamon over the pastry.

Using a large circular cookie cutter (or floured glass if you don’t have), cut out as many tarts as your pastry will allow. I made six, but had some leftover custard so just see how you go – it’s likely that if you stick to the sell by date (unlike me), you won’t have to trim any pastry away (like me!)

Now grease a muffin tin (or better yet, use a silicone one) and press each pastry circle into the base of each hole and pull them up the sides too. Blind bake for about ten minutes.

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

Now it’s time to make the custard.

In a bowl, whisk together your custard ingredients. Again I can’t stress enough how much better this recipe will be if you use the vanilla paste rather than just vanilla extract. Trust me – invest in the paste, it’s so much more potent and will go way further than vanilla extract anyway in anything you’re making.

Once the tarts are almost baked (prick the bottoms to see if they’ve firmed up before adding the custard), spoon your custard into each one – be brave and fill nearly to the top! The custard will set and they will firm up once in the oven.

Bake for about 8 minutes – just keep your eye on them.

These really are so quick and easy to make and it feels like a real treat to be able to eat something warm and comforting straight from the oven – I think largely because it’s a very convincing pastry – which I’m not used to nowadays. I think this kind of product is a testament to the fact that wheat free products are really coming along – and it’s exciting!

Gluten free, low lactose Portuguese custard tarts

Easy peasy Pad Thai

Easy peasy Pad Thai

This easy peasy, low FODMAP pad thai is top drawer comfort food. Once again I slightly cheated with peanut butter, but why not – life’s too short and my beloved peanut butter needs to be put to use now that I can’t have lashings of it on fluffy white bread (sob). If you feel this pain, I suggest you channel your grief for peanut butter sandwiches with this delicious pad thai like I did last night.

you will need:

1 x nest of thick rice noodles
2 x spring onions (green parts only, you know the drill)
3 x tsp fish sauce
1 x small chilli / smattering of chilli flakes
2 x tsp tamarind paste
2 x tbsp crunchy peanut butter
garlic oil
1 x lime
optional: a portion of fully defrosted prawns or chicken, bean sprouts, or other veggies – I used some bok choi which was nice! Coriander finishes the dish off nicely too.

Slice your spring onions, and any additional ingredients such as chicken or vegetables that need it. Pop your rice noodles in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.

Add some garlic oil to a pan / wok and fry spring onions with the chilli and any meat that you’re using. Add any vegetables in once your meat is cooked. Mix together the tamarind, peanut butter, fish sauce and a good squeeze of lime in a mug. When all ingredients are cooked to your liking, add this to the stir fry. Stir through as best you can, removing the pan from the heat if necessary.

Drain the noodles, reserving a little water, and add them to the pan. The water will loosen the stir fry and sauce a little bit. Stir until the noodles are well coated, and dish up. Serve up with a slice of lime and some fresh chopped coriander.

Beetroot and orange quinoa, millet and red rice salad with fried halloumi

Beetroot and orange quinoa salad with fried halloumi

How cheerful does this blushing beetroot salad look on an Autumn day?

Our family had a rare girls-only dinner last week when all the males were away – so we wanted to make the most of it with a meat-free dinner that was healthy but still hearty. Enter this little number.

This used a lot of weird, lonely looking ingredients in our kitchen which is extremely satisfying: three pitiful portion sizes of quinoa, millet and red rice, dwelling miserably at the bottom of three separate plastic packets… as well a sad looking orange, some parsley and some halloumi which, although it was well in date, was on its way to becoming a fridge relic, in danger of soon being forgotten about I think.

Beetroot and orange quinoa salad with fried halloumi

Herby, earthy, zesty, salty and dare I say it… wholesome.

YOU WILL NEED:

200g mixed quinoa, red (or brown) rice, millet (whatever you have really)
4 cooked beetroots (unpickled), and remember to keep portions down to 4 slices
1 orange
handful of chopped parsley
handful of chopped mint
glug of olive oil
big squeeze of lemon juice
1 x packet of halloumi, sliced.

Firstly, rinse and cook your grains / psuedocereals / whatever they may be, so that you have a filling, comforting cooked base for your salad.

While they are cooking, chop your beetroot and herbs. Zest your orange, then chop it up into smallish, bitesized chunks. Heat a griddle pan on a very high heat. Add your salad ingredients to the grains and mix well. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over it, along with a good squeeze of lemon, adding pepper, but not too much salt (remember halloumi is going on top).

The grains will turn a gorgeous pinky colour (thanks to the beetroot) – be sure to taste it and play with the dressing depending on what you think it needs. The orange I used turned out to be very sweet which was a bit of a shame, so I had to compensate with more acidity – but if your orange is particularly tart and the zest is coming through, then you may want to add more oil, or indeed nothing at all.

Once it’s hot, toast some mixed seeds in the dry pan. Remove from the pan once popping around a little. Now it’s time to add some oil and fry your halloumi. This is best done in a scorching hot pan – be careful with the oil, which will spit as you add it, and you just want to sear both sides of the cheese, at which point you can turn down the heat if you want to.

Add the halloumi and the seeds to the salad when you’re ready to serve.

 

Butternut squash and sage risotto

butternut and sage risotto

Since I learnt to cook, risotto has been my go-to comfort food. I always find it more satisfying than pasta (which no longer ranks highly on my comfort food list, sob). Sometimes it’s nice to earn your comfort food; risotto has to be made with love but you are deeply rewarded (I think often because you can eat it with a spoon if no one is watching. Or if they are…who cares). Risotto is a great post-Sunday roast dish when you have the leftover chicken bones for chicken stock and a few little bits of meat left over.

Now, do not fret about the star ingredient in this dish. Limit your serving to a 1/4 cup of butternut squash and this will be low FODMAP. That may not seem like a lot, but you really only need a very small amount of roasted / cooked squash to stir through the risotto towards the end. The flavour here comes from a good chicken stock, a good parmesan and sage.

butternut and sage risotto

You will need:
1/3 cup aborio risotto rice
1/4 roasted butternut squash
small bunch of sage leaves
1 litre chicken stock (or vegetable)
knob of butter
25g parmesan
garlic oil
splash of white wine
handful chopped chicken (optional)

See our recipe for low FODMAP chicken stock – it takes less than 10 mins to prep and can just bubble away on a low heat with the lid on in the oven for a few hours or even overnight. Once you have stock to hand, go go risotto!

Start by roughly chopping your sage leaves (leave in fairly large chunks) and frying them in a small amount of butter. Remove a few pieces of sage when crispy and set aside on some kitchen towel. Add in the chicken. As this will already be cooked, this is just to infuse the chicken with the sage so you don’t need to cook it for long really. Give it a whiff and if it smells deliciously buttery and sagey you may remove, and add to a bowl.

Add another dollop of butter and a glug of garlic oil to the pan and melt together. Add the rice and stir so that it is coated, at which point you can add the white wine. After a minute or so, add enough stock so that the rice is covered. Keep stirring constantly and each time the liquid is absorbed into the rice, top it up again. It’s time consuming, but important because you don’t want it to be a soup (which happens if you add all the stock at once) or stodgy (which happens if you just add a bit and don’t stir it).

After a few top ups, and usually about 20 minutes, test the rice and see if it’s cooked. If it isn’t, keep adding stock. If it is, wait until most the liquid is absorbed but so that it still has movement and stir through half of your parmesan. With a fork, mash up your butternut squash and stir this through too. You can leave a few pieces to top the dish with if you like. Add the chicken, removing any sage pieces as these might have gone soggy.

When ready to serve, add the remaining parmesan and crispy sage leaves from before. Season if it needs it, and enjoy your well earned comfort food!

‘Miso hungry’ red cabbage and black rice salad

Miso hungry red cabbage and black rice salad

This Asian inspired (and it’s a complete fusion… I guess of Japanese and Thai) black rice salad is a recipe to celebrate my finding out that Monash has recently announced 1 cup of red cabbage is low FODMAP. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … if you haven’t already, please get the official app. I also recently heard on the FODMAP grapevine that they’re about to announce a new wave of low FODMAP foods that they’ve recently tested. Huge.

The diet is changing constantly – things once condemned are now allowed. Often it’s just a case of thinking harder about portion sizes. And that’s fine, because usually 1 cup of red cabbage is plenty.

Miso hungry red cabbage and black rice salad

Mmmmmm… miso hungry!

You will need:
For the red cabbage salad:
3 x cup shredded red cabbage (only eat 1/3 of this at a time remember!)
1.5 x finely sliced green parts of spring onions
1 x cup black Thai rice

For the dressing:
1 x tbsp dark miso (sometimes called red miso)
1 x tbsp soy sauce
1 x tbsp sugar
1 + 1/2 x tbsp walnut oil (sesame would work too)
1/2 tbsp garlic oil
1 x tsp grated ginger
juice of 1 lime
few shakes of Tabasco (yes really!)

Put your black rice on to boil but be careful – it turns the water very dark almost instantly and looks like it would stain clothes.

Place your shredded cabbage and spring onion in a bowl. Mix up your dressing and be sure to taste. Once happy mix through the cabbage, let it sit for a few minutes before sprinkling with some black sesame seeds.

Drain the rice when cooked, and serve with the salad. I made up an extra batch of rice and had this for my lunch at work for the following couple of days – it just soaks up the yummy dressing and is super filling. The cabbage is raw remember, so be careful – limit your portions if you’re not sure it’s your thing.


 

10 things you previously thought were illegal

  1. Black tea with 250ml cow’s milk
  2. Chocolate Bourbon, shortbread and Digestives – 1 biscuit (I KNOW!!!)
  3. Savoury crackers (e.g. Ritz) – 2 crackers
  4. Chutney (without onion/garlic)
  5. BBQ sauce
  6. 1/2 tbsp pesto (enough to coat a whole three of your gluten free pasta pieces)
  7. Milk chocolate  & WHITE CHOCOLATE – 1 fun-size bar
  8. Haloumi – 2 slices
  9. Coconut – 1/4 cup shredded
  10. Celery – 1/4 stalk

Miso hungry red cabbage and black rice salad