The Top 15 Lessons I Have Learned From Starting A Blog About Fructose Malabsorption:
In August of 2017 my daughter and I visited a local bakery to pick up a piece of cake. This cake and bakery are well known in the Minneapolis area. It truly is divine, delectable and downright sinfully good. Our plan was to share the piece of cake and watch the movie "Titanic". My daughter had been begging me to watch the movie all summer. I kept putting off her request because who watches a movie in the middle of August in Minnesota? August is fantastic in Minnesota. Most of us spend our days outside boating, swimming, hiking, golfing, playing tennis, picnicking..you get the picture. August is all about enjoying the glorious weather before the winter hits and we are back to hibernating. My son was off at overnight camp, my husband was playing golf and I decided to embrace her movie request. It finally occurred to me that, yes, my daughter was asking to spend 3 hours with me watching a ship sink. I didn't just need to watch this movie with her; I was lucky she asked me.
Anyway, back to the cake. As usual I always ask for the ingredient list in a bakery item when I order it. Even if I have ordered this same item 1000 times before I always ask. Trust me, both my daughter and I know what a fructose volcano feels like and don't want to make that mistake again. The bakery assistant gave me one of those looks when I asked for the ingredient list, "it's one of those ladies, can't she just order the cake and move on." I held my chin up high and didn't let her annoyance annoy me. We diligently waited for her to return from the kitchen and hand us the ingredient list assuming it would contain the same ingredients we use at home to bake a cake: flour, eggs, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, butter. This time I was completely shocked when she handed me the list. HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP was the second ingredient listed! Yes, HFCS! How could our favorite bakery cheat on us? We felt betrayed. Needless to say we did not purchase the cake and have not returned.
Even though both of us were somewhat heartbroken we decided not to mourn the loss of the cake. We chose to take on the challenge and bake an even better cake. Flash forward four hours later, both us were crying as Jack couldn't fit on the rather large piece of floating door, lamenting the fact that Rose would be all alone, and devouring our cake. To be honest, it wasn't as pretty as the bakery's, but it was delicious and totally safe. As I was tucking Grace in that evening I said out loud for the first time, "wouldn't it be fun if we had a website all about Fructose Malabsorption?"
These are some of the most famous last words in our house. Somewhat of an, "oh no, she didn't really say that out loud did she? " Just so we are clear when I say something out loud that typically means it is going to happen and it is most likely something I have been considering for sometime. When I say it out loud it basically means I have already created a google doc on the how, why, when and where of my new idea.
My family was shocked when I told them about my idea. I am the least likely person to start a website because my tech skills are not savvy, they are almost nonexistent. For example, today I could not figure out how to turn the flashlight on on my phone. I usually solve my technological misgivings by texting my kids. They are the resident "Best Buy Geek Squad" at our house. Typically, they make fun of my lack of tech prowess. I constantly need to remind them that I didn't have email in college or a cellphone until after the birth of our first born. Yes, I used to live in the dark ages.
Why did I speak those words out loud? Because, I felt called to do it for my daughter. It is really hard to live with Fructose Malabsorption, especially when you are a little kid. I wanted to find a way for her to own her food intolerance and share her frustrations and discoveries. I, too, needed an outlet. Somedays I don't want to have Fructose Malabsorption. I just want to wake up and go to that local bakery and gorge myself on a piece of cake. But, I can't.
This idea kept gnawing at me, finding ways into my dreams and filling up all of my thoughts. Honestly, I was super scared to take on this challenge. But, I kept coming back to images of my daughter not eating at school and social events, sitting in the corner feeling like she was different. I needed to do this for Grace. I wanted her to see that I am willing to do things I am scared to do. If I can tackle the technical/website component of this adventure than maybe Grace can start tackling her fears and frustrations. The more I thought about it the more I wanted the challenge...I kept thinking you don't grow in life unless you try new things.
On March 1st Families Balancing Fructose will celebrate our one year anniversary. In the last year I have learned how to back end edit a website, upload pictures, analyze google data and navigate social media. Almost one year in I feel like a tech genius! One year ago I didn't even know how to create an embedded link in a document. And, now my kids even ask me tech questions!
As I reflect on the last year I realize there are so many lessons learned beyond website editing. I have learned so much about my gut, other people's guts, my daughter's determination and grit, and how to embrace Fructose Malabsorption and celebrate it
Lesson 1. Everyone has a unique gut and unique gut voice. Our individual gut is like a second set of fingerprints. We need to find this voice and listen to it. We can learn what works and what doesn't work. We know how to feed our guts, how to make healthy choices and how to find joy in safe eating habits. Fructose Malabsorption makes us intuitive eaters.
Lesson 2. All sorbitol including natural occurring sorbitol in stone fruits is a definite no for my gut and my whole body. I try to eat a very diverse diet, but choose to avoid sorbitol at all costs. On the flip side gluten and other foods on the FODMAP list work for me. I can eat small amounts of garlic and onions. A few times a month I enjoy green beans. Back to lesson #1, each of us has a unique gut. We all react differently to FODMAP foods and need to use this protocol they way it was created. The FODMAP program was created to help us determine are gut fingerprints. It wasn't created as a safe diet for all of us. If you want to learn more about FODMAPS take a closer look at my blog.
Lesson 3. Protein is so good for my body. Eating protein sources with essential amino acids aids in the digestion of fructose. For the last few years I have intuitively known that protein is my gut's friend. I have even figured out that if I want to eat vegetables or fruit that are higher in fructose eating a protein source with it helps. I never knew scientifically why this worked, but I intuitively knew why. Recently one of my new Fructose Malabsorption friends shared an article from the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition that proves my theory. Amino acids, found in proteins, have been scientifically proven to aid in fructose absorption. This discovery has caused me to change my breakfast options. Occasionally I add sausage links or whole milk cottage cheese to the breakfast rotation. This discovery has also changed the lunches I pack for my daughter at school. Grace and I wrote a blog about school lunches and it includes 6 lunches that are low in fructose, kid friendly and easy to make.
Lesson 4. Eating a diverse diet is good for me and my body. The more I try to eat in moderation, not eliminate a lot of foods, and balance my daily fructose intake the happier my gut feels. My gut is not happy when I limit my diet to only a few items. My gut flora is diverse and craves a diverse diet. In one of my earliest blog articles, Cliff Notes® on Sugar Digestion, I begin to explore this topic.
Lesson 5. Most days I eat the same thing for lunch. I am very utilitarian when it comes to my midday meal. I don't want to think about Fructose Malabsorption and the fructose content in food. When you have Fructose Malabsorption eating can become a pain in the you know what! You constantly have to research and plan and think and prepare what you are going to eat. However, let's look at lesson 4. I need to switch up my daily lunch routine. Over the last year I have added new protein sources, a different collection of vegetables and have created many new salad recipes and simple vinaigrettes.
Lesson 6. My new Facebook Fructose Malabsorption friends have taught me a lot about gluten and glyphosate, and why organic flour can be different especially if it comes from a European country. My grocery purchases have considerably changed due to these lessons. I am now purchasing imported pasta and have decided it's ok to give your child white bread.
Lesson 7. My brother had an unfortunate agave incident this summer. Much to his dismay we learned a lot about the agave plant.
Lesson 8. I have always wondered why balsamic vinegar gives me a tummy ache? And, why has it taken me 10 years to find the answer? Balsamic Vinaigrette used to be my go to order out at a restaurant and consequently my go to way of leaving the restaurant feeling yucky. My thought was vinaigrettes are healthier than dressings like ranch or caesar, dressings with more fat and; therefore, a better option. Why then was I feeling bloated and why was my gut yelling at me when I was choosing balsamic vinaigrette? I had no idea what was in balsamic vinegar and to be honest didn't realize I needed to know. It hadn't occurred to me that my healthy choice was not healthy for me. I didn't know that balsamic vinegar could contain anything other than vinegar. And, I assumed it was a healthy choice because it was low in fat and I was putting in on a salad.
Lesson 9. Are you like me? Do you feel like the words "COCONUT SUGAR" are everywhere? In your Facebook and Instragram feeds? At your favorite restaurants and bakeries? What's the deal with coconut sugar? Can we believe all of the health claims about coconut sugar? Is it a healthier option compared to table sugar?
Lesson 10. Over the last year Grace has finally owned her Fructose Malabsorption and wants to write about it. Grace's first article details how to navigate social outings when you have a food intolerance.
Lesson 11. In addition to Facebook I have connected with a lot of fellow FM patients around the world. They have given me a lot of great advice, including new ways to explain Fructose Malabsorption to your friend, neighbor, relative and restaurant waiter.
Lesson 12. Recently I’ve been revisiting old cookbooks that have been collecting dust on my shelves. I found the Strawberry Shortcake cookbook my grandmother gave me in 1980 when I was four years old. What I love most about this cookbook is that it encourages kids to get in the kitchen, make a mess, and start experimenting with flavors. There aren't any complicated directions that need to be followed. Truly, the whole goal is to engage kids in new and unusual smells, textures, tastes and sights; and to be proud of something they created with their own two hands. I also own my mom's Joy of Cooking cookbook that was published in 1964. You will not find any glossy pictures in this book, just simple recipes and tips on how to cook fresh in season food. This last year I have made a lot of recipes from these two cookbooks and highlight them on our website.
Lesson 13. Last fall my cousin, Cari, a millennial, told me about a conversation she was having with her friend about fructose and my rotisserie chicken blog. Cari was shocked to find out that rotisserie chicken necessarily wasn’t a safe food and that a multitude of mass produced additives could be hiding in chicken. Honestly, I was shocked, too. I had no idea Cari and her friends cared about their food choices as much as I do. Cari doesn’t have a food intolerance; and is a healthy 26 year old who loves trying new workout classes, going out to dinner with her friends and exploring Minneapolis. Why does Cari care so much? Do other millennials like her make food choices based on similar convictions? The answer is, YES. According to the Washington Post, “millennials are the largest U.S. age demographic, and as such they are key tastemakers.” Millennials are savvy eaters. They demand transparency on food labels. They want to know where their food is sourced and do not want any hidden ingredients. These are my kind of people. I, too, demand transparency. I want to know exactly where my food comes from, what is hiding in it and how my health could be negatively or positively impacted by my food choices. The millennial population knows 6 truths about fructose that we all need to know.
Lesson 15. I have also learned this year that it is really hard to take a good picture of food. If you live in the Minneapolis area and want to be my photography intern contact me. I am in need of help. I actually wrote a blog about my photography issues.