For six years, Anne Freeman, 33, struggled with the misery of bloating and pain after eating certain foods — undergoing a series of negative tests and biopsies for everything from coeliac disease to bowel cancer.
Her problems started in her 20s, following a couple of severe bouts of food poisoning.
‘I would swell up like a balloon after eating cakes or bread and have lots of pain, it was miserable,' recalls the university administrator, from London.
A GP suggested Anne try cutting gluten out of her diet. ‘I got so dramatically better they started to think I was coeliac, but then tests came back negative.'
Three years ago, she was finally referred to her local hospital's dietetic service, and the real cause was spotted. ‘They discovered I had FODMAP sensitivity.'
This is a reaction to sugars (FODMAPs) in certain foods, including carbohydrates in wheat, and some fruit and vegetables.
Anne has followed a low-FODMAP diet ever since. ‘The hospital advised me on how to cut out FODMAPs and how to reintroduce different foods. I can eat dairy, mushrooms, cherries and chickpeas now, but avocado, onions and garlic are not coming back!'
She stresses that the low-FODMAP diet isn't a lifestyle choice. ‘This is a treatment path I was put on by medical professionals — it's not something I'd do by choice.
‘It's really hard to eat out and I cook everything from scratch, but if I don't then I end up too sick to have a job or a social life, so it's worth it.'