This is my true story - how I discovered Tummy Fiber for IBS and started Heather's Tummy Care!

“Did you coin that term?"

I looked at the doctor blankly, trying to understand exactly what he was asking me.

Me: "You mean soluble fiber?"

Doctor: "Yes."

Me: ""

Doctor: "Ok, have a nice day."

What was I supposed to say? There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Doesn’t everyone know this?

Well, actually, they don't. To be fair, the day I learned this was one of the biggest a-ha! moments of my life. Suddenly so many things about eating for IBS made sense. But I was to find out that even people in the GI world had never heard of the difference either.

Anyway, back to this doctor.

As he walked away I was glad I had stayed quiet. Embarrassing him wouldn’t have been productive and would have only made an enemy during this trip.

What trip? This happened at the Digestive Disease Week conference my husband Will and I exhibited at in San Francisco in May 2002. This is the the largest international conference in the world for digestive disorders. This doctor was a gastroenterologist attending the conference.

I was there to exhibit the first editions of my bestselling books, Eating for IBS and First Year IBS. Will and I had the wild idea to spend every dime we had to travel to and attend this show to promote the books to GI doctors.

Day One

Will and I rented the smallest possible table at the conference, laid out my two books in our empty booth, and sat back to see what would happen.

We were swarmed by doctors looking for help for their IBS patients!

My goodness, I never had to answer so many questions in my entire life.  They were all genuinely interested in what I had to say. I kept hearing the same things over and over:

"I'm so glad I finally have somewhere to send my patients."

"I'm constantly heartbroken as I really don't know what to tell them."

"Nothing my patients try seems to work. In fact they seem to be getting worse."

Will asked one doctor, "What's your single biggest problem helping your IBS patients?"

This doctor, who actually seemed to be a very nice person, looked to her left and then to her right to make sure no one could hear her, and then said:

"Getting rid of them."

On the whole the doctors were wonderful. They really wanted a way to help their patients.

And then up walks...

The Purple Pill Lady

A woman dressed all in purple stepped up from the circle of doctors around our table. She had been standing there for quite a while. When the crowd thinned she leaned forward and asked:

“Who are you?”

By this point Will and I were getting a lot of odd looks and questions. Will answers her, "Hi, I’m Will and this is my lovely wife Heather."

The woman, a little impatiently asks again:

"No, really, who are you?"

Will elaborates a little and says our names again and explains that I wrote these books on IBS.

We could see this woman trying to size us up. She finally says, "Well, nice to meet you, I’m so and so. Do you see that booth across the aisle?"

We both looked at the Nexium booth. You know, "the purple pill." Their booth was gigantic. Now I knew why she was dressed in purple.

The woman continued.

“Do you know how much our display cost?”

Neither of us could even venture a guess. She goes on:

“Almost $250,000!”

Will and I gasped. She said:

“That's just the booth. That's not the cost of renting the floor space, shipping, setup, and flying out all our staff.”

"I’ve been watching you” she says, "you must have had 20 doctors around your little table all day long. We’ve had a fraction of the visitors you've had. Just look," she says, pointing at her purple booth.

We look over and see 3 or 4 doctors milling around their enormous display. Huh.

We chatted with her for a little bit and then another swarm of doctors surrounded us. She says, “Well, have a good show,” then wished us luck as she walked back to her booth.

That was the first day.

Day Two

Will and I see that Metamucil and Citrucel are exhibiting at the show as well. We decide to talk to them.

I’ve been telling thousands of IBS folks to avoid the garbage ingredients and IBS triggers these fiber companies are adding.

I say to Will, "All they have to do is take out all the junk they're putting in, and make something simple I can recommend for IBS."

(In hindsight I'm laughing at how naive I was.)

We spent considerable time talking to both two companies. They followed up with emails and phone calls and picked my brain over the next year or so. I gave them my wish list for a fiber, hoping they might listen to me.

(I wasn’t looking to get paid. I just wanted them to make a better product, one that worked for IBS. And it would have been nice to have a little credit from them, perhaps a thank you for my help. At the very least I was waiting to hear from them when their new product launched, so I could let folks know about it.)

I had asked them for something that was pure soluble fiber, no psyllium or insoluble fiber.

I wanted something odorless, tasteless, that didn’t thicken in water, that wasn’t gloppy or gloopy or dyed bright orange.

I didn’t want artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, citric acid, or anything else in there at all.

And I wanted to be able to add it to anything I was already eating or drinking. I wanted to put it right into foods I was cooking.

I had a dream...

Then they ghosted us and we never heard from them again.

Fast forward another year or so. An employee of ours comes running up to me and says, “Look at this!”

She's holding a magazine ad for a brand new product from one of those fiber companies.

Introducing Free and Clear Fiber!

Now, finally, a fiber that is free of all additives and just pure soluble fiber.


You can cook with it!


I couldn’t believe it. They stole my ideas without even a thank you. Yep, they had listened all right. Made a pure soluble fiber, no other ingredients added, showed people you can add fiber right into meals, even cook with it...and then they used a manufacturing by-product that’s industrially extracted from chicory.

They used inulin.

What the hell?!?


A fiber that ferments so rapidly in the gut it can cause extreme bloating and gas and spasms, and even set off urgency and diarrhea. Just what we need, right?

The real blow was that I’d been playing around adding plain soluble fibers to my grandmother’s lemon meringue pie filling - with killer results. I’d told the fiber companies all about this.  The picture they used for the Free and Clear ad? A slice of key lime pie. Ooofff.

I still can’t decide if they were sleazy or just stupid to take my ideas and run with them...straight into a wall.  Free and Clear disappeared off the market quietly and quickly.

I realized I was on my own if I wanted a fiber supplement that was a perfect fit for IBS.  And I admit, now I was getting angry.

I was right back in the same boat. First, I couldn’t find books that gave people with IBS the dietary information and lifestyle guides they needed. So I had to write my own.

Now, I couldn't even get fiber manufacturers to make a simple soluble fiber supplement that was a fit for touchy tummies. So I had to make my own.

If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself. 

I was determined to find the most perfect fiber for IBS folks.

I spent months researching and tracking down suppliers of every type of soluble fiber powder I could get my hands on.

The kitchen was filled with different samples. I went into mad scientist mode and tested everything in water, foods, meals, that lemon meringue pie.  I was actually amazed at how few fibers passed muster.

I’d assumed that just plain soluble fiber powders could be used pretty interchangeably. Wow - was I wrong.

Most of them had such a high viscosity they thickened an entire bowl of water to gel. Others were chalky, gritty, or didn’t dissolve at room temperature.

One of them was brown and tasted like mud.  Another was white but smelled like fish.

A few of them were passable.

None of them were perfect.

Then I found the company that made Acacia Senegal. Their story was amazing.

I can't quite explain it, but I just knew I had found something special. I felt like I might have discovered the Da Vinci Code.

I was so excited. Their research was ground breaking. This seemed to be everything I'd been looking for.

I called them right away and ordered a sample. Then I waited.

About a week later the sample arrived. Remember, by now, I'd been trying all kinds of soluble fibers. All of them were failures.

If I wanted the Acacia Senegal to succeed...

I had to put it to the ultimate test...

The Sweet and Sour Shrimp Test

Do not do what I did. Seriously.

I’m only telling this story because it actually happened. I would not do this again. But I needed to know if my new Tummy Fiber would work under duress.

After establishing my regular twice daily dose, I put it to my ultimate test.

Chinese restaurant sweet and sour shrimp. Ooohhhh….

Deep fried.

High fat.

Insoluble fiber veggies and pineapple.

All huge IBS triggers.

But so delicious! So crispy, crunchy, tangy, bright pink-orange sauce and all.

This is my all time favorite Chinese restaurant dish. I’ve loved it since childhood. And it’s hated my guts just as long.

There is no faster way to cause the worst IBS attack of my life and end up in the ER.

I’ll let Will tell this part of the story:

Hi, I’m Will, Heather’s husband.

“Let’s go get sweet and sour shrimp.”

“Huh?” Not believing what I just heard.

“I have to test this fiber,” my wonderful but insane wife says to me.

“Honey, NO. Have you lost your mind?”

“Gotta do it,” she says.

I try to reason with her. “There must be something less extreme we can do to test this stuff?”

“Nope. If I can eat sweet and sour shrimp and not have an attack, we’ve got a winner.”

I had a flashback to the super hero movies I love. You know, where the hero tests the serum on himself and starts convulsing then morphs into this amazing super being. Only this wasn’t a he, it was a she, it was Heather, my amazing wife, a true super heroine.

Super Heather

Ok, I know I’m going to get into it with her and she won’t want me to embarrass her this way, but it’s true. And I love her.

Heather and I have been married quite a while now and have contingencies for when she has an IBS attack.

I start my mental checklist: “Which ER do I take her to, do I have a stash of loose peppermint tea to make a hot cup quickly, is there a box of Altoids in my back pack?”

But I know my wife and when she makes up her mind, that’s it.

Off we go to Shanghai Garden in Seattle’s Chinatown, one of our favorite places.

I wasn’t stressed. I was terrified. The worst thing in my life is to watch my Heather live through an IBS attack.

Shanghai Garden

We get to the restaurant and the waitress is happy to see us. We’ve been going there for a very long time and they know us well. In fact, it was the only thing giving me comfort, as I knew if we were in trouble, they would be kind to us and do everything they could to help.

The sweet and sour shrimp arrives. I don’t even remember what I ordered. I was too worried about Heather getting sick.

We start eating. I’m trying to play it cool. I know stress can cause bad attacks and if I’m having a fit it won’t do Heather any good.

Dinner carries on, and I see my wife having a great time. Little by little I start to relax. At the end of the dinner, I could see she was full and happy.

“How do you feel?” I whispered.

“Good,” she says. “My stomach feels like a heavy lump, but my IBS is fine. I feel good.”

She was good. She never got sick. I might have been more relieved than she was.

Thanks for letting me tell this story, now back to Heather.

Me again.

True story – I didn’t get sick at all. But again, please, don’t be me.

I’d already been living on soluble fiber foods and supplements for years, my gut was used to significant daily doses. Nowadays I live on Tummy Fiber, but it’s not bullet proof. I’m not either, so this isn’t a test I’d normally want my gut to take.

The Tummy Fiber passed the test, so now it was onward…

But let’s back up a little first...

After my frustrating initial round of testing soluble fiber powders, from brown and gritty to thick and fishy, I knew I had to keep looking for the right one. 

The magic words that finally led me there? Colloidal gums.

Have you ever heard that before? I sure hadn't. But in food manufacturing, it's an industry term that opens up the world of soluble fiber powders.

As it turns out, what I was actually looking for wasn’t just the ideal soluble fiber, but the best colloidal gum, for people with IBS. I found it almost by chance.

I had stumbled across a research paper outlining the different colloidal gums, their properties, and major suppliers.

The one that really intrigued me was Acacia Senegal.

I cold called a supplier and, not realizing it at the time, ended up talking to the head of North American sales at the oldest and largest Acacia grower and processor in the world. His name was Tom.

He clearly loved his job and company. And he just lit up when I told him I was interested in using the Acacia Senegal all by itself, as a soluble fiber supplement, specifically for people who needed digestive help.

It turned that no one had ever done that before. And for years, he’d been wondering why, because he thought that was a great idea.

He talked to me non stop for an hour about all the special features Acacia Senegal had, and it checked off my entire wish list:

100% soluble fiber

No insoluble fiber

Tasteless, odorless, colorless

Certified organic (Tummy Fiber became the very first organic fiber supplement!)

Zero viscosity - no choking risk, does not thicken

Gluten, allergen, FODMAP free

Slowly fermenting prebiotic that increases good gut bacteria

Slows down colonic fermentation to actively decrease gas and bloating

Increases short chain fatty acids in the bowel for healthy flora

Good gastrointestinal tolerance

Add to anything with moisture in it – foods, drinks, in cooking or at the table

It’s inert and impervious to heat, cold, light, and oxygen

You can boil, bake, freeze, and blend it

Plus Tom had an entire Scientific File – which he sent me – that gathered the clinical research studies on Acacia Senegal and documented its features, actions, and benefits.

Honestly, I was so impressed by the facts I was a little worried this was too good to be true. What’s the catch?

There wasn’t one. Acacia Senegal was a genuinely fantastic pure soluble fiber - or, more precisely, colloidal gum. And it was perfect for IBS.

It was a whole food plant fiber that was minimally processed. It wasn’t hydrolyzed  or bleached. It wasn’t a manufacturing by-product. It wasn’t synthetic, it was completely natural.

It literally grew on trees – Acacia Senegal trees.

Tom’s family owned company had been growing the orchards in Africa, and processing the raw gum in France, for over a century.  

He finished telling me this amazing story and all I could say was, “I’m sold! What’s the smallest order I can place?”

He says, “We ship by the pallet or full container.”

I choked.

And then - to this day I don’t know why - he offered to ship me just two bags for a trial run. It was 100 lbs total, and he gave me net 30 terms so I had a month to pay.

I did quick math in my head and figured, “If I can sell 3 pounds a day that’ll be almost 100 pounds in a month, and I’ll have enough money to pay the bill on time.” I closed my eyes, leapt off a cliff, and placed the order.

It came in two fifty-pound boxes via UPS.

The boxes were dropped off smack in the middle of our residential street because there was no loading dock. There wasn't even a driveway.

Will and I lugged the boxes up three flights of stairs to our one bedroom apartment in the heart of Capitol Hill.

We sold through that first order immediately – in just a few days. Then we tried ordering five bags. Poof, that was gone as well.

So we scraped together every last nickel and dime and ordered our first full pallet - 2,200 lbs. (And I choked again.)

That was gone in a couple of weeks. Everyone was raving about our Tummy Fiber.

Remember, no one had ever heard of Acacia Senegal before, or even pure soluble fiber - because I was the first to bring this fiber to market.

And today?

We order Acacia Senegal by the full truck load. It comes in 1,100 lb super sacs. We normally receive 18 metric tons per shipment. When it arrives at the automated loading dock the 36 pallets are forklifted off into the warehouse of our manufacturing plant.

From one hundred pounds to eighteen metric tons. I still can’t believe it.

Even more incredible, I know there are some folks ordering today who originally tried Tummy Fiber from that very first order twenty years ago.  (Hello and thank you!)

This is just the story of how Will and I started Heather’s Tummy Fiber.

There is so much more to tell, including why...

It is better to look good than to feel good!

No? Well, of course not.

But sometimes looks really do matter. This was one of those times...

It had bothered me for years that all the products I used to use for my IBS had packaging that was so...what’s the right word...depressing? cold and clinical? fugly?

And sure, everyone knows it isn’t really better to look good than to feel good. It’s what’s inside that counts.

But when I created Tummy Fiber I cared almost as much about the outside of that package as the inside. And here’s why...

I wanted something so beautiful it would make me happy to see it left out on the counter. I wanted warm comforting colors and packaging that looked like it contained something natural, healthy, and pleasant to use.

I put my real story and real picture on that package so people wouldn’t feel all alone.

(A small digression here – about a year ago I got an email from a woman who told me that when she was first diagnosed and really struggling, “there were some nights when it was just me and your little picture on that can.”  I get a lot of wonderful emails but this one made me cry.)

So I created a mood board of how IBS makes us feel. Hopeless, scared, anxious,  alone. It was filled with dark, dreary, cold, clinical colors and images. It was ugly and depressing.

We designed the Tummy Fiber packaging to give the exact opposite feeling. That mood board was filled with colors that were warm and happy and natural. It had gold metallic sunbursts to catch the light, so people felt safe, comforted, hopeful, and encouraged.

It was crucial to me that Tummy Fiber made someone feel optimistic every time they reached for it.

And this wasn’t just about something pretty to look at. IBS is defined as a brain-gut disorder. Everyone with IBS has experienced that vicious connection.

If seeing my Tummy Fiber made me smile, calmed me down, gave me hope, that positive association would let my brain and gut know this was my safety net.

There would also be no reason to hide this package, and keep it stashed where no one could see it. If I have one mission in life it’s to insist there is no shame in having IBS, or embarrassment in treating it. I’ve fought those feelings for years.

I wanted folks to be comfortable leaving their Tummy Fiber out on the kitchen counter to remind them to cook with it. Or out on the bathroom counter where they’d remember to take it. (And this was also for practical purposes.  Tummy Fiber only works when it’s physically in your gut, so it needs to be there 24/7 for true bowel stability).

Then I needed a label that gave a wealth of detailed information, so people understood the directions for use and that this is a process.

There is a wide final dose range for different symptoms, but everyone needs to start at a low dose twice daily and gradually increase.  I tried to elegantly cram all of that (and more!) on the label so that people could use their Tummy Fiber properly and get the results they needed.

Finally, I wanted my Tummy Fiber to look like the luxury brand it is. (Or as Will likes to call it, the Cadillac of Fibers.)

Acacia Senegal is truly the highest grade fiber available. It’s a very costly raw material - typically 3-4 times more than any other soluble fibers I tested.

And it’s certified organic. Organic products are always higher quality and more difficult to produce, so they are always more expensive. Acacia Senegal is also inherently available in limited quantities, from just a handful of companies in the world that manage the African orchards. If there’s a bad crop year, they can’t just go into some lab and make more.

My packaging needed to be beautiful to reflect that value and all the happy hopeful qualities. That’s why we now have our gorgeous embossed tin cans. So what if those are usually reserved for fancy presents?

Tummy Fiber is a daily gift you give yourself, your body, your health, your life. It should look and feel like something special because it is.

And not to steal from L’Oreal, but you’re worth it.


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