My IBS Journey

I’m Vanessa Hummel, as a dietitian I love serving women who also have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

I help women who are newly diagnosed with IBS relieve bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. If you’re struggling with bloating and aren’t sure what to eat, I’ll show you clients step by step how to follow the FODMAP diet to eliminate bloating and live your best life. Being diagnosed with IBS does not have to be a punishment when you know what to do, how to eat and how to live your best life and I’ll show you that when we work together.

I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and I am the oldest of 2 children and have a younger brother. My heritage is Italian, and I have a large Italian family. My childhood memories include my grandmother and I spending time cooking together. She taught me how to make all the traditional Italian foods like pasta, pizza, bread and biscuits, which is where my passion for food and cooking began. This came in very handy after being diagnosed with IBS as I had to get creative in the kitchen and now love being able to create new delicious recipes.

I have always grown up with pets in the house and am a huge animal lover. My first pets were ducklings named Peter and Dudley. When I was in my mid 20s I really enjoyed attending and helping run sled dog racing events with my Siberian Huskies.

When I was 16 years old I started experiencing severe gut issues and struggled with constant stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea to the point where I could not keep any food down and was vomiting after every meal.

I lost a lot of weight, nearly 30kgs, which I was not trying to do. At this point my mum became really concerned and took me to my local GP. Despite me explaining how sick I was feeling, the GP basically told me that it was all in my head and that if I didn’t start eating they would admit to hospital as they thought I had an eating disorder. I was shocked and annoyed at the threat! I felt so upset and alone that no one believed me, so I tried to determine what was triggering my symptoms on my own and eliminated bread, pasta, dairy & certain fruit & vegetables from my diet.

3 years went by and I could not take it anymore so I thought I would try another GP. After going over my symptoms and medical history with them they said, “you have IBS”. I thought FINALLY, I’m not crazy, it’s not all in my head! They gave me some basic information and told me to avoid “gassy foods” but didn’t give me any specifics. I wasn’t really satisfied, but thought at least I have an answer. Back then the internet wasn’t so easily available so I couldn’t just “Google” what IBS was or what foods I should avoid and was still trying to pinpoint trigger foods myself.

In 2015 I completed a Diploma of Children’s Services. I am a qualified early childhood educator and worked in childcare for 5 years until I unfortunately had my nose broken numerous times by a child in my care. This led to my decision to pursue my passion of science and in 2010 I graduated from my Bachelor of Science, majoring in biochemistry and pharmacology, at Monash University. I wanted to go in to research and development of drugs to treat cancer due to my mother being diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a teenager.

During my studies, my symptoms gradually became worse to the point where they were interfering and preventing me from going to university and work. I was also now experiencing frequent migraines, severe eczema, extreme fatigue and all over body pain.

I was at the point where I did not go out much because I was constantly stressing about whether a toilet would be close by or available as I seemed to get symptoms as soon as I ate again. I was now also frequently vomiting. I finally had enough and went back to the GP, but by this stage I was a bit more forceful and pushed for a referral to a gastroenterologist as I was sick of not getting the answers or information I needed. They also referred me to a gynaecologist and rheumatologist to investigate my other symptoms to see whether I may have endometriosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The gastroenterologist confirmed that I had IBS and recommended I undergo some tests and procedures to eliminate any medical causes of my symptoms such as coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. After these I was diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and was told that everything else was “normal”, which was a relief, but still did not get to the bottom of what was causing my symptoms. This process took almost 2 years, all medical tests were now exhausted so they recommended I see a dietitian to see if they could help.

I didn’t know much about dietitians back then so was very sceptical about whether they would be able to help. I was surprised by how understanding the dietitian was at our initial appointment. They recommended that I trial a low FODMAP diet to see if this would assist with my symptoms. I trialled this for 6 weeks and although I had some improvement in my symptoms, they were still significant enough to impact my everyday life.

The dietitian then recommended I trial an elimination diet to investigate if I had a sensitivity to natural food chemicals. After 3 weeks on the diet I felt amazing and “normal” for the first time in years. So, I went back to the dietitian to complete the “challenge” phase of this diet and started reintroducing the different food chemicals to help determine which ones were causing my symptoms. I reacted to all the challenge groups which included wheat, dairy, soy, salicylates, amines and glutamate.

The dietitian then recommended I see an allergy specialist to rule out food allergies to gluten, dairy and soy. The allergy specialist found that I have non-IgE mediated food allergies, also known as whole food protein intolerances to dairy and soy and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

Finally, after more than 10 years of doctors not believing me I had the answers I had been looking for, which never would have happened if I had not been referred to a dietitian. After years of seeing numerous doctors and having endless tests I have been diagnosed with IBS, GORD, endometriosis, adenomysosis, fibromyalgia, NCGS and food intolerance’s to dairy, soy and natural food chemicals.

This was where my passion for becoming a dietitian started and I worked hard until I reached my goal! I wanted to be able to offer support and guidance to other women with IBS in the same situation as myself and help them find relief from their symptoms and get back their quality of life.

In 2012 I achieved a Master of Human Nutrition at Deakin University. I then worked as a nutritionist in private practice, but always wanted to pursue a career in dietetics. I then graduated from a Master of Dietetics at Monash University in 2017 and have since become a specialised IBS and gut health dietitian.

As an Accredited Practising Dietitian & Accredited Nutritionist, I am dedicated to my continued professional development and building on my knowledge and skills to be able to further help women with IBS find relief from their symptoms. In 2019 I completed the Monash University, The FODMAP Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Course and became a Monash trained and certified IBS and FODMAP expert dietitian.

I have also mentored dietitians who are provisionally accredited to move through to full accreditation as part of the Accredited Practising Dietitian Program and supervised student dietitians on their university placements.

If you are ready to eliminate your bloating, constipation or diarrhoea so that you can live your best life, then apply for my IBS Master Relief Program. You are not alone, let’s do this together!