Thursday, March 14, 2013

Battle of the Bloat: Margarine

Photo Credit: Roberto Verzo
The longer I live the more I realize how important it is to listen to our bodies.  Our bodies were designed to tell us when something is wrong, when it requires rest or nourishment, and when we have reached our limits.  However, so many people have learned to simply ignore the signs and signals that our bodies communicate so feel.  We continue on with our busy lives until suddenly this communication becomes so loud it CAN’T be ignored and starts interfering with our lives.

Obviously, it is much more logical and useful to train ourselves to perceive the subtle signs than to wait until our bodies are screaming at us.  Yet, it isn’t always easy to know where to start.  My doctor explained to me that fibro suffers have to make many lifestyle changes if they want to better the quality of their lives.  Any number of things could be causing symptoms or making them worse.

One of these critical areas is diet.  Although research hasn’t pinpointed any foods that are specifically detrimental to those with fibromyalgia, many doctors believe that diet can affect fibro symptoms.  "A lot of people with fibromyalgia have sensitivities to particular foods, but it varies from person to person," Liptan tells WebMD. "They might be sensitive to MSG, certain preservatives, eggs, gluten, dairy, or other common allergens."

As such, paying attention to our bodies' reactions to various foods can help us weed out foods that may be making our symptoms worse or even causing additional symptoms.

Noticing that I get much more bloated and gassy now since my major fibro flare started 4 years ago, I decided it was time to pay closer attention to my body and the foods I was eating.  In time, I started noticing a link between margarine and my bloating.

I was raised on margarine and taught that it was much healthier than butter.  As such, I just adopted this dietary habit without much thought as an adult.  Of course, I wasn't a huge fan of margarine and liked butter a WHOLE lot better.  But I reasoned that sometimes we have to compromise for the sake of the greater good.  Little did I know that this choice, which I hoped would spare me from my parents' heart disease and high cholesterol), was actually causing me discomfort and stomach cramps.

As I started to pay more attention to my eating habits, I noticed that on days when I ate margarine, I had considerably more gas and bloating and sometimes even stomach cramps.  Of course, since I try to get the most nutrients out of my diet, what I eat can vary greatly from day to day.  Consequently, I couldn’t say conclusively that margarine was the actual culprit.  To explore my theory further, I decided to stage a little experiment.  For a whole month, I would avoid margarine and only use butter.

By the end of that month, I realized that my stomach had been telling me all along that it didn’t like margarine.  In fact, it had been telling me within minutes of consuming this food, but I just didn’t notice.  A lot of my margarine usage was when I ate eggs and toast for breakfast.  Each time I ate eggs and toast I got this blah feeling in my stomach, and I had always assumed that it was because my stomach hadn’t been ready for such a big or rich meal.  But guess what happened when I continued to eat eggs and toast but with butter?  That’s right!  I didn’t get that feeling at all…and still don’t over 2 months later.

Some people with fibromyalgia may have no ill effects from margarine, but I know it is one food I should avoid.  Since my switch to butter, my gas and bloating has lessened some.  No, it isn’t completely gone, but that is one less food causing me additional symptoms and taking away from my quality of life.

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