Better Care

Delight as diet brings pain relief at last

Mechanical engineer Zakera Reyes was at work when she suddenly felt severe stomach pain.

Like many people with busy lives, the mum-of-three needed to keep going both at home and at work.

Zakera’s GP referred her to hospital for further tests and, although a gall stone was found, that diagnosis did not account for the increasing severity of the pain.

Conditions such as coeliac and Crohn’s disease were ruled out. But within months, the still undiagnosed pain had become unbearable.

“I was in agony,” recalls the 41-year-old.

Zakera Reyes

“I was so frustrated with the situation, going to see a gastroenterologist at hospital but not really feeling like we were making any progress in identifying the cause of the pain.

“But I had a bit of luck because my sister is a community dietitian. I’d had a few conversations with her and she couldn’t understand why I hadn’t gone down the route of a referral to a dietitian.

“She told me she had a colleague who had had some really good results with sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I thought it had to be worth a try.”

Zakera had an initial consultation with BCHC’s community dietitian-led gastroenterology service and they helped her set up a diet plan to follow. She embarked on an eight-week Low FODMAP diet to eliminate foods containing non- digestable carbohydrates and was amazed by the speed with which the condition settled down and the IBS pain disappeared.

She then completed a systematic reintroduction of food types to identify her true symptom triggers. 

Zakera says the diet has had a hugely positive effect on her symptoms, though it was challenging at first, particularly when eating out with her family.

“Although I was obviously delighted, at the same time I was kicking myself for not having gone down that route earlier,” says Zakera.

 “I’ve had a mixed experience eating out - some restaurants don’t seem to have the flexibility to produce simple food, such as plain rice or a boiled egg with a few vegetables or a bit of salad, at short notice. On the other hand, some places are absolutely amazing and can‘t do enough for me - so I’ve written glowing reviews of those ones!”

“For me, this experience has been quite revolutionary. The stomach pain caused by IBS is now controllable and I used to suffer from migraines sometimes – it’s really helped with that too.

“The effect on my quality of life has been huge. I think there’s a lot that could be done quite easily to raise awareness.  Now I just want to spread the word about how effective this can be.”

Zakera’s treatment was led by community dietitian Chloe Adams, who said:

“Zakera’s story is a great example of a dietitian-led community-based gastroenterology service can be of value to individuals who experience irritable bowel syndrome and other functional gut disorders.

“The service provides education and support to empower individuals to take back control over symptoms which may have been controlling their life for some time. The service is proud to have made such a difference for many people like Zakera.”

Zakera’s typical daily diet:

Breakfast: Rice Krispies with lactose-free milk.

Lunch: Jacket potato and cheese.

Dinner: Stir-fried low FODMAP vegetables with rice or wheat-free pasta.