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Quest Bars, GI Issues, and MORE FUN!!!

Monday, May 09, 2016

Warning: This post is about my poop and farts and other gross stuff, that you may find ultra gross, so stop reading now if you don't want to hear about it! :)

A couple weeks ago, I started a new medication that sometimes has a side effect of gas/bloating/constipation. I didn't even know that until looking it up, after experiencing some gas/bloating.

I typically don't have issues with either of these things. Well.. I do tend to have gas, but a fairly normal/consistent amount, and it doesn't cause me to feel bloated. I have only felt NOTICEABLY bloated after a heavy meal. But the first week on the medication, I started feeling MEGA bloated. I also noticed that despite tracking food and exercise (and running a deficit), my weight was going UP. This is when I realized: Huh, I haven't had a BM in a while!!

This is not an issue I am used to having. I eat plenty of fiber, and drink a good amount of water most of the time (at least at work -- any excuse to get up and get some steps) so I was getting a little frustrated. Most of the advice says to eat more fiber. Not helpful!!!

I thought the side effect was subsiding, but this past Friday, it got really bad. I was so bloated that my pants were digging into my stomach.. despite being incredibly loose everywhere else. I felt incredibly uncomfortable, and finally picked up some Gas-X after work. This seemed to help.

Then over the weekend, I.. well.. had a couple of BMs in one day, and felt like I'd lost a few pounds (should have weighed myself!). I didn't feel bloated at all. The measurement around my belly button had gone down 2 inches.

Then, I remembered another variable I'd thrown in, other than the medication: Quest Bars.

I never had any interest in Quest bars, partly because I'm a cheap-o and they are super pricey. I first got them kind of accident, because my boyfriend's mom asked him and his brother what they wanted for.. some random holiday. My boyfriend didn't answer, but his brother said "Quest bars." So, she sent his brother two boxes of Quest bars, and she sent us two as well.

I was instantly skeptical and proceeded with caution when I saw they were filled with what I at least used to call "creepy fiber." When something is only 180 calories, 18+ grams of fiber is a LOT of fiber. Frankly it's a lot of fiber in a bean burrito, but at 600 calories in say, a Chipotle veggie burrito, that's still (per calorie) less fiber. In the past, I'd found that a specific creepy fiber - inulin/chicory root-- often caused me gastric distress. Sometimes, oat fiber did as well. In minimal amounts -- for example, the amount in a Kashi bar -- it was never a problem. But in "low-carb" wraps, where it's a main ingredient, I'd find myself having clear-the-room gas. Quest bars then had something isomalto-oligosaccharides (ISO fiber). This did not seem to cause me issues.

I'm not a SUPER snob about eating only whole foods products. I try to eat mostly that, but there are some days where I eat Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, have a microwave dinner for lunch, and then eat a processed snack bar in between. There are other days when I eat my homemade lentil soup, and eat raw carrots with organic hummus. Other times, I have that same thing with Cheetos! I eat everything in moderation, is what I'm saying -- based on current funds, time limitations, as well as general mood and patience levels.

When we got these Quest bars, I tried a half of one, cautiously. It didn't seem to cause me problems. I didn't love the taste, but hey, we had them, they were free, why not eat them?! Then, I tried a whole one. I don't think I ever ate more than one per day -- I was still cautious! I liked that they were a good work snack -- easy to eat, no refrigeration required, and better than other snacks at satiating my hunger until lunch. But I didn't love the flavor, so I still didn't eat them very regularly. I'm sure it took us 2-3 months to work through the two boxes (24 total).

Since I've been trying to up my protein (and struggling a little, as I don't eat a ton of animal products), I recently remembered Quest bars. I still don't like spending money on them, but when I got an Amazon gift certificate, I figured.. hey, why not?!

I started eating a couple of Quest bars right before I started the new meds. The week I started the new meds, I had one every day at work (M-F). I didn't have any over the weekend, and my stomach seemed to get more normal. Last week, I had one each day M-F, and as previously mentioned, by Friday, my stomach felt painfully distended with bloat. That was when I had finished the entire box (12 bars) over the course of 2.5 weeks. I had the last bar Friday morning, and then Saturday, had multiple BMs (which were basically normal, but.. well.. it was clear that I'd had a backup..).

Since the last bars I got from Quest, they switched from ISO to corn fiber. I didn't notice a change in flavor, but I also hadn't had them in a year-ish. I also didn't like the flavor in the first place, but had them as my mid-morning snack. I believe that good-for-you food can and should TASTE good as well, but I have an almost sub-conscious desire for my mid-morning snack to be "not TOO tasty" so as to prevent me from eating too much of it before lunch. Typically, it had been raw almonds-- which I DO find tasty, but not as tasty as roasted, salted almonds.

Quest points to a single study to confirm the fact that corn fiber doesn't cause GI issues ( onlinelibrary.wiley.com/
). Only "18 healthy volunteers" completed this study; no mention of size, gender, etc., at least in the abstract.

Conduct a Google search for "Quest bar bloating" etc. and you will see plenty of forums and other areas where people argue about what might or might not be the source of GI issues in Quest bars. Some suggest it's whey protein, some suggest that people just aren't drinking enough water. I can understand wanting to get to the bottom of what is causing you GI distress -- sure, you can just quit eating Quest bars, but isn't it helpful to know what SPECIFICALLY is bothering you? Considering I've never had any other product with this much corn fiber, I'd assume that it's that.

Sure, other people may not have any issues with digestion -- but if you have recently started eating Quest bars and also noticed an uptick in your GI issues, I'd encourage you to stop eating them and see how you feel. In fact, if you've changed your diet in ANY way and notice an uptick in GI issues, it's always worth assessing how your own bodies reacts to different foods.
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