Ahh, the bliss of being on your honeymoon... A tropical vacation with your honey, long strolls on the beach, sipping on pina coladas, eating to your heart’s content, staying in bed all day. Such wonderful memories it creates. On my honeymoon to Mexico, indeed I did stay in bed all day for days on end, but it was because I felt so sick and was in unbearable pain! After indulging in all you can eat buffets and drinking alcoholic beverages starting at 10 am for a few days, it all caught up to me. (Not the best decision for someone with IBS, I know, but sometimes you just want to pretend you are like everyone else, you know)?
Monkeying around in
Mexico before I got sick
My sweet hubby ventured off into Mexican grocery stores looking for my stand by foods for IBS flare ups; rice cakes, crackers, dry cereal. Not exactly the romantic memories we were hoping for. I vowed then that if I didn’t die in a hospital thousands of miles away from home from some parasite that I was sure was invading my intestines, I was going to have to make some big changes.
I had suffered from IBS for decades. Though I ate a healthy diet of legumes, veggies, whole grains, and fruit, it seemed the healthier I ate, the worse I felt. As a registered dietitian, I was aware of dietary approaches to improving IBS, though I also knew that it was all trial and error and there really was no one diet that could help it. I tried many diets and supplements for my IBS over the years but nothing worked, at least not for very long. Sometimes you just get used to feeling so terrible and you forget what feeling good is like. But then sometimes you reach your breaking point and you know you must find a way to fix your life. And I reached my breaking point, sadly, on my honeymoon. After getting tested for parasites and bacterial infections when I returned from my trip, and being told all tests were negative and that the pain and sickness I experienced in Mexico was “just” my IBS, I knew I had to try something entirely different. That is when I remembered that a few years ago my GI doctor had told me about this weirdly named diet.
At the Gluten Free Expo 2015
When she told me about it then, I had looked at her like she was crazy and said, “I’m a vegetarian — and you are suggesting I cut out my beans, onions, garlic, wheat, and many of my favorite fruits and vegetables?!” And so I ignored her advice for several years until I was desperate enough to try it.
I wish I hadn't waited so long. The low FODMAP diet truly changed my life because of how significantly it reduced my symptoms and made me feel better than I had in decades. But because of how hard it can be to cook so many foods from scratch, I went on to start the first low FODMAP food business in the US (now incorporated by FODY foods). My husband and I had a vision that someday there would be pre-made FODMAP friendly foods for people like me, and that dream is becoming a reality as there are now several low FODMAP foods brands in the US and internationally!
Over the years, I have had my share of health burdens. Besides IBS, I have valvular heart disease brought on by some childhood sickness (I had my second open heart surgery in 2016), I had debilitating endometriosis and adenomyosis which forced me to have a hysterectomy, I suffer from migraines, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression — the list goes on, you get the picture.
All that is to say that I know exactly what it feels like to have an "invisible illness" because I have many of them. I know what it feels like to be told by doctors (or have it implied) that your physical problems are “just in your head”. I know what it feels like to endure costly test after test only to have each come up negative, and to waste hours going to specialists who don’t help you at all. I know what it feels like to tell each doctor your whole medical history in detail, over and over, and feel unheard or even judged by your healthcare practitioner.
Over the years, I left many doctor's appointments crying because I just wanted someone to listen with their full attention, to take me seriously, to trust what I’ve learned about my body, to give me some hope and some direction. But instead I was often left with despair and a sense that I was in this on my own.
Day 2 post op open heart surgery
It took me years to build a team of healthcare providers who I trusted and who patiently helped me on my journey back to health. I think it's so important that everyone with complicated health conditions including IBS have a team of providers who support them in feeling heard and understood.
Though I'm not currents seeing patients at this time, I am continuing to work behind the scenes in the digestive wellness area. Ultimately, I hope to help many more people with IBS and food sensitivities than I can individually. It is also my hope that in reading my story you may feel a sense of shared reality, and see parts of yourself in my story. I want you to know that you are not alone in this!
If you are about to embark upon a low FODMAP diet, I always recommend doing so with the help of a Registered Dietitian who has been trained in the low FODMAP diet. To locate one, please check the Monash app "Find a Dietitian" tab. Or check out these resources for FODMAP trained dietitians:
I wish you much success on your health journey!
-Kate Watson RD
Credentials and Experience
Having spent 8 years of my career working in hospitals, skilled nursing, and dialysis centers, I have extensive experience and background in clinical nutrition. My real passion is in digestive health, which is where I have focused my career since 2014. At that time, I left my job in dialysis to pursue my private practice and start a low FODMAP food business, Nicer Foods (since acquired). My own struggles with IBS and lack of results with traditional medical approaches led me to further my education in gastrointestinal disorders and functional/integrative nutrition.
Education in FODMAPs and Integrative Nutrition:
Monash University FODMAP Dietitian Training: July 2018
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: FODMAPs, Fat, Fiber, Flora CEU by Kate Scarlata RDN Completed - Aug 2013
One-on-one mentoring on FODMAPs Kate Scarlata RDN - June 2014
FODMAPs and IBS: Beyond the Basics Patsy Catsos RDN - Aug 2014
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Integrative and Functional Medicine Digestive Health Module - Sep 2017
Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy Foundations Program - April 2017
Next Level Functional Nutrition Functional Nutrition Foundations Course - July 2018
Next Level Functional Nutrition Certification of Training Program - expected completion March 2020
Other relevant experience:
Co-moderator of large Facebook FODMAP groups: Low FODMAP Recipes and Support and Low FODMAP USA
Taught FODMAPs seminar for dietitians at Greater Seattle Dietetic Association: FODMAPs for RDNS: Going Beyond High and Low FODMAP Lists: March 2018