I’d like to start this off with a big fuzzy cyber hug. THANK YOU for visiting my lil’ corner of the world wide web and for wanting to know more about me. It’s damn good to have you here.
What’s my deal?
I’m Ashlyn, Ashlyn Anne Lincoln if we’re getting real formal. Leo by the Sun, Mercury and Venus; Taurus by the Moon and Mars. I’m a University-qualified nutritionist, an aspiring food photographer and stylist, and a total sucker for anything Italian. I adore plants, doggies, the sound of rain, and all shades of orange. I believe in the connectedness of all things and a power far greater than my own. I believe in eating as whole and organically as possible, 80% of the time. The other 20% is for choc-chip cookie dough and baked brie. I don’t believe in mustard or wasabi. Oh, and I have this weird thing where I have to know what everything smells like.
Some time ago, after 20 years of seemingly perfect health, I developed a myriad of digestive woes. I’ve been transfixed on learning about the ever-incredible ecosystem that is the human gut ever since.
How did I get here? (a not so glamorous food story)
Those last few points are what first brought me to the blogosphere six or so years ago, and they’re ultimately why I’m here now. This website, known as Nourish by Ashlyn back when the word nourish hadn’t begun rivaling moist in terms of cringeworthiness quite yet, essentially started off as a frustration mitigation project to help me navigate the early days of my own digestive misadventures.
2012 was a year characterised by gastrointestinal grief. I subsisted through constant pain and discomfort, several elimination diets, countless ‘specialist’ appointments, laxative abuse, a gastroscopy, a colonoscopy, and a trip to the ER, all to no avail. My doctor concluded that since it wasn’t Coeliac or bowel cancer, it was “probably just a fiber deficiency – drink Metamucil!” Yeah, sweet. I knew I’d have to take matters into my own hands.
Typically, I took to Google for answers and pretty much concluded that I was plagued with every digestive autoimmune disease under the sun. Not willing to accept my ill fate, I dug deeper into my symptom research and started seeing the terms ‘Fructose Malabsorption’, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) pop-up more and more. During my search engine rampages I also started reading about the bizarrely termed ‘Low FODMAP Diet’, a three-phased eating plan developed by Monash University to relieve symptoms of IBS by limiting the dietary irritants. The jaw-droppingly restrictive nature of the diet’s ‘elimination phase’ was met with a fair bit of inner resistance, but I was getting desperate and decided to give it a shot.
LO AND BEHOLD, within just three (!!!) days of eliminating all FODMAPs from my diet, most of the ghastly symptoms I’d been experiencing daily for the last eight months subsided. So, I self-diagnosed Fructose and Sorbitol Malabsorption and IBS, the former of which was confirmed by clinical hydrogen breath testing a few months later. Because, you know, I’m neurotic and needed quantified closure.
Side note: If you’re currently screwing up your face thinking, “is this girl even speaking English?! What the hell is a FODMAP?!”, then I’d recommend jumping over here first and having a read…
The diagnosis was bittersweet. Sweet because I felt semi-human again; bitter because all the first-world inconveniences of being a die-hard foodie on a super restrictive diet took a toll. Not to mention that it was still 2012, a time when terms like ‘fructose’, ‘IBS’, and ‘FODMAPs’ were pretty much untouched by the food industry, disregarded by chefs completely (“A recipe withoud onyon and gahlic?! Fahhhhhget aboud id”), and met with puzzled possum-eyes from family and friends. After a few months I became insanely frustrated. All. The. Damn. Time.
I was frustrated with my digestive system for suddenly rejecting what felt like 90% of my favourite foods; frustrated with how unpredictable my attacks could be; frustrated with no longer being able to cook the beautifully styled and photographed meals from my favourite cookbooks and blogs; frustrated with the lack of genuinely healthy -let alone aesthetically appealing- FODMAP friendly recipes out there; frustrated with not being able to order straight from menus anymore; frustrated with all the inconsistencies and misinformation regarding food sensitivities from one ‘expert’ to the next.
All this bratty self-pity led to a light bulb moment and a subsequent kick up my ass: if I was so desperate for FODMAP and fructose friendly recipes that were tasty, wholesome and easy to prepare, I mustn’t be alone. I began playing in the kitchen with the ingredients I could eat substantial amounts of without being debilitated/spewing/smelling like a septic tank afterward and quickly discovered how liberating it was. I could FINALLY cook and eat meals that contained more than three ingredients again and didn’t taste like a wet sock.
With zero knowledge of what it meant to ‘blog’, I took to WordPress, downloaded a really bad free theme, and started posting my recipes – along with a lot of tragic iPhone 4 photos in all their over-filtered glory. After living low FODMAP and blogging about it sporadically for a few years, I became more and more curious about the physiological roots of food sensitivities. Even though the prevalence of IBS meant that the amount of decent FODMAP friendly recipes, products, and menu items were becoming increasingly available, I was still unsatisfied with the lack of comprehensive information out there. It also concerned me that I was still relying on the diet quite heavily to keep symptoms at bay.
I began noticing that my general wellbeing was going downhill as time passed. My mind would race for no apparent reason, and anxious thoughts of self-doubt, fear and insecurity would creep in unannounced. My energy levels were up and down, my moods unpredictable. I found it difficult to stay focused. My muscles were generally tight, sleepless nights were common, and hangovers became unbearable. Eventually, I began losing my appetite and forgot what it felt like to be genuinely hungry. I stopped cooking, writing recipes, and blogging as a result.
Deep down I knew it all had to be related. There just had to be more to the IBS story than simply developing food sensitivities “out of nowhere” with “no known cause or definite cure”. Why were these so-called ‘intolerances’ becoming so common throughout Western society? What was the root cause of the ‘malabsorption’? What physiological processes were determining whether I could digest apple and raw onion or not? Why did I STILL rely so heavily on limiting most FODMAPs in order to keep my gastrointestinal symptoms at bay, despite initially reading that severe restriction should only be necessary during the elimination phase? What was the link between what was going on in my gut and the onset of my psychological and emotional challenges?
Past experience told me that I wasn’t going to find answers from conventional practitioners or publications, so I began looking elsewhere. I’d always been interested in alternative heath approaches and Eastern medicine, but hadn’t had much exposure to them. In 2016/17 I started reading books and research papers on topics such as intestinal microbes, chronic inflammation, the gut-brain connection, holistic nutrition, naturopathy, fasting, and medicinal plants. My mind was opened up to a whole new realm of science and way of thinking.
Once I combined my existing knowledge with all the concepts and practices I’d been learning, and tweaked my existing low FODMAP diet accordingly, I noticed a quantum shift in not only my digestive health but also my general wellbeing. I’ve been obsessed with learning about the incredible ecosystem that is the human gut —and its far-reaching impact on the rest of our health—ever since.
What’s my goal here?
“People who love to eat are always the best people”
– Julia Child
Amen, Julia. That woman really knew her shit. I can’t name one person who is utterly in love with food that I don’t like. Food is SO much more than a means of sustenance – it’s celebration, connection, and comfort. It’s nostalgia, joy, and the ultimate sensory experience. When I lost my appetite for a year or so, I was not the kind of person I wanted to hang out with.
My ultimate goal for this website is to help you rekindle your love affair with food, and encourage you to begin your gut-healing journey.
I want to show you how to cook home-style, FODMAP friendly meals that are wholesome, tasty as hell, and promote long-term gut health. I want to help you eradicate the anxieties and overwhelm associated with restrictive low FODMAP eating. I want you to be able to play, convert and adapt recipes to suit your own preferences with ease, confidence and JOY. I want to teach you how to dine out without getting FOMO over what everyone else is eating at the table. I want to teach you how to eat whilst traveling without a shadow of worry. I want you to understand the difference between eating for short-term symptom reduction, and long-term gut healing, because let me tell you my friend, there’s a BIGGGGG difference. I want to debunk the bullshit and filter out the noise so that you are equipped with information that is up-to-date, accurate, and digestible (soz I had to).
I really hope you find something on here that adds a little magic to your day, whether it’s a simple smile, a knowing nod, new knowledge, or a whipping of your ass into the kitchen.
Here’s to saying adios to overwhelm and FOMO, and holaaaaaa to happier tastebuds and bellies!