Up close and personal: IBS

               Okay, I’m going to get a little personal with this post, but I think this is something that’s important to talk about. First, I’m going to give you some background into my history with this.

About four years ago, I tried some hummus for the first time. I have heard a lot about it and how good it was, so when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. It was a little weird at first, but I really liked it. So I went and got my own thing, and had some with some veggies.

Well, it must have been a bad batch because I ended up with mild food poisoning. It wasn’t he worst case I’ve had (not by a long shot… maybe another story for another day) but it was still unpleasant. This ended up being the brand that was recalled for listeria a couple years ago. With all this being said, I know it’s totally irrational, but I totally blame bad hummus for all my problems now.

You see, a week or so after this bought of food poisoning, I woke up in the middle of the night with really bad stomach cramps. It felt like food poisoning, but I didn’t have the sick feeling. I just hurt. And I had to run to the bathroom quite a bit. This lasted for a few days and then went away. Okay, no problem. Maybe it was just some weird after-effect of food poisoning.

Then a couple months later I had the same problems. I just hurt. I didn’t feel sick or anything, I just hurt. And I had bathroom problems. And then it went away a few days later.

               This went on through-out the year. I would have abdominal pain that would last a few days, and I would either be constipated or have diarrhea. And each time I would tell myself, “Okay, I really should see a doctor about this.” But then it would go away so I would tell myself “next time, I’ll go.” This went on all year, every month or two, I would have this.

Then in November, the week after Thanksgiving Break, I got a really bad case of…whatever it was. I woke up hurting so bad, which sucked because I had a major test and a major presentation that day. It was quite possibly the worst day to be hurting. But I kind of sucked it up because I had to, and because I knew it would only last a couple days.

               Only this time, it didn’t go away in a few days. It didn’t go away a week later. In fact, a week later, on top of the pain I was feeling, I caught a stomach bug. That was a pretty miserable night. I hoped the bug would get rid of whatever was going on, but it didn’t. A few more days of hurting and trying a few…remedies, and I had enough. It was a Friday and I told myself that if I wasn’t feeling better in the morning, that I would go to the doctor.

I woke up Saturday feeling amazing. I felt better than I had in a couple weeks. Alright!! Except… an hour or two later, I started hurting again. This time it was in a slightly different spot. Instead the top middle of my abdomen hurting, it was my right side. So I went to the doctor and ended up having to go to the hospital and getting a CT scan. Appendicitis. Not cool.

After my appendix rupturing, and taking a piece of my colon with it, I thought maybe I was finally past all that stuff I had gone through. And I was past it. Once I recovered, I felt great! I didn’t have any problems!

Until last year that is. Now, I’m not sure exactly why these problems decided to come back. It may be because I had started drinking protein shakes and I was getting a ton of protein and not enough fiber. It could be for any number of reasons. Whatever the reason, it was back. And just like a few years ago, it would come and stick around for a few days, and then go away. And like last time, I would tell myself I should go to the doctor, but I never did.

After a few months of this, I went to the Internet. After looking up my symptoms, I realized I could have any number of things, ranging from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to something more severe like Crohn’s disease. Yikes.

Once again I had a massive attack of whatever the heck this was, so I finally went to the doctor. Thankfully, it’s only IBS. IBS sucks, but it’s not really a major thing compared to other stomach/intestine disorders.

Now, for the next little bit, I’m including some of the research I’ve found. I’m not a medical professional, so if you think you might have IBS or any other stomach/intestinal problem, go see your doctor! Don’t make the same mistakes I did! There may not be much you can do for it, but you want to make sure you don’t have anything more severe.

Usually IBS is diagnosed through process of elimination, and it’s kind of an all-encompassing term for bowel issues that aren’t anything else. For example, I didn’t have any re-flux, bloody stools, or nausea, so that eliminated certain disorders. Just going off what my symptoms were, my doctor was pretty sure it’s just IBS, but she said if I have any other problems that come up, go in immediately!

So, what is IBS? The most basic way I can describe this is the natural rhythm of the squeezing and contracting the intestine do to pass food and waste along gets disrupted. Either they start squeezing too hard and fast and you end up with diarrhea, or they slow down and you get constipation.

Common triggers to these disruptions include food, stress, hormones, and sometimes illness. There are some doctors that also believe a Vitamin D deficiency could cause problems. Not having enough Vitamin D is linked to other problems like celiac disease, so it kind of makes sense. Since hormones can be tied to this, women are more likely than men to develop IBS.

I recently changed birth control because I thought maybe the pills I was taking was affecting me. I would always get a flare up the same time each month, so I got prescribed a new one. It’s a little too early to tell if that has helped, and I’ve had weird things going on that have messed with me and caused flare ups. A couple months ago I was sick and was put on an antibiotic. I had been taking probiotics for a long time, but all that was killed off with the medicine, and I really felt it. Then I had the same problem as before of balancing protein and fiber. I was also taking some iron supplements because I was on my period and I can get a bit anemic, and I think those screwed me up a bit too.

Symptoms? Usually the worst is the abdominal pain. From what I’ve read, the pain can be most anywhere in the abdomen. Mine is usually in the same spot, in the top middle, right above my belly button. Sometimes it feels like I have PMS cramps, just higher up. Bloating and gas, along with mucus in the poop are some other symptoms. And of course, constipation and diarrhea. It’s not really listed as a symptom everywhere, but I feel like it deserves mention… fatigue. Diarrhea is exhausting. It really is. It takes a lot out of you. (Pun!) The pain always makes me feel tired and cranky.

What can help? Unfortunately, IBS is a chronic thing. It can come and go. You might have really bad flare ups for a few months and then you can go years without problems. That’s why this is tricky! You kind of have to learn how to manage the problem.

Probably one of the most common suggestions is diet change. We hear all the time about food intolerances and allergies. There’s a big difference between a food allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity. Again, not a medical professional, just internet proficient, but here’s what I’ve learned about these.

A food allergy tends to be the most dangerous and will usually cause a quick reaction. This is where the danger of swelling throat, hives, etc come from. If you have a food allergy, you’re usually going to know. Not all reactions are major. If you have mild reactions, it may be harder to tell and you might require testing.

If you have a food intolerance, your body lacks the enzymes it needs to digest certain foods. For example, if you’re lactose intolerant, your body lacks the enzymes to digest the lactose, so it passes through your stomach and into your intestines. Your intestines can’t digest food, so it kind of sits there and causes all sorts of problems.

Food sensitivities are kind of hard to detect. They usually don’t cause any major problem. I would say most of the time, you don’t realize you’re sensitive to a certain food until you go without it for some time. My doctor suggested I do an elimination diet to see if any foods were triggering my symptoms. For three weeks I went without dairy, gluten or soy. Then I added in dairy. A few days later I added gluten. (which was great because this was right before Thanksgiving!) a few days later I added soy.

I can honestly say this was one of the hardest things I’ve done. It took so much discipline and planning. I almost had emotional breakdowns in the store every time I went because I had such a hard time finding things I could eat.

I ate a lot of home made things and snacked on fruit and veggies. As much as I didn’t want a flare up, I kind of hoped that when I added stuff back in, I would have one, just so I would feel like it was all worth it. I ended up having a slight reaction after adding soy, but I honestly think it was because I went overboard. We took a trip to the Russel Stover factory in Corsicana, and after not eating chocolate for a month, I over did it.

I still don’t know if these foods are causing my problems, but I do know that looking back, I did feel pretty good while on the diet. It sucks and it was hard and I wanted to cry, but over-all I did feel better!! I keep thinking I need to go back to that, or at least go like maybe 75% dairy/gluten/soy free. I just don’t know if I have it in me to do it again!! Okay, I know I do, I just have to dig really deep!

A few things I do know that can cause me problems are broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens, and Dr Pepper. I try to stay away from these things, but sometimes I just gotta. It kind of sucks that healthy stuff messes me up, but that’s IBS for ya.

Some things that help… Everyone is different. Everyone has different triggers, so when I say these things help me, they may help you, and they may make things worse.  You need to just kind of play around and see what works and what doesn’t.

Sometimes when I feel a flare up coming on, I find I crave fruits and vegetables. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m not getting enough, but when I feel it coming, I’ll go to the store and buy a small fruit cup and small veggie tray. I might eat a vegetable or minestrone soup or a salad for lunch and dinner. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Peppermint is famous for helping with digestive issues. If you have peppermint oil, you can rub it on your belly or take it in a capsule or add it to your water or something. I’m not super up to date on the oils, but I know a little bit. I hear it can cause heartburn for some people, so if you get heartburn easily, you might not want to ingest it. I have some peppermint tea and those little round peppermints. During the holiday season, I’ll stock up on candy canes!

Okay, being complexly honest here, being constipated sucks more than diarrhea. When I get constipated, I get super bloated, and I feel like my intestines are really inflamed and irritated. I hurt more when I’m backed up. Even after everything has passed, I tend to hurt for a day or two after. So when I get constipated, I get desperate. I’ve tried laxatives, and those didn’t do crap for me. (da-dum-tsssh!) Once when I was feeling particularly desperate, I went to get some prune juice. I’ve never had prune juice, so I was kind of surprised how expensive it was. I didn’t want to buy a big thing because I was only going to drink a little bit. Well, I heard dried berries can help because they have a lot of fiber and they can act as a kind of roughage, so I left the juice aisle and went to look at the dried fruit. Then I found something amazing.

These have dried plums (prunes) mixed in with other dried fruit!!! This was kind of expensive too, but I knew I would actually eat the whole thing, unlike drinking a big bottle of prune juice. So I bought it and mixed it with some oatmeal. Not long after that I was in the bathroom. Without going into too much personal detail, lets just say this is one of my go-tos when I’m hurting.

Another thing that helps is golden milk. The recipe is here: http://www.healthcareaboveall.com/golden-milk-recipe-this-drink-can-change-your-life/
This has turmeric in it, which is fantastic for fighting inflammation. If you’re not a fan of turmeric, it can take some getting used to. The paste can kind of settle on the bottom, so the last few sips aren’t that great, but over all I really like it. I usually make mine with almond milk. I tried it with coconut milk once, but I wasn’t a fan of it.

Probiotics and Vitamin D supplements can help too! Fiber supplements may also be good if you suffer constipation, just don’t get too much or you’ll go the other way!

I hope this helps someone. This isn’t something fun to talk about, but enough people suffer from it that we need to be talking about it!! Again, I am no medical professional, so go see a doctor!!! Below are a couple links that might help. If you have anything to add, go right ahead!!

 

Link to general info from the Mayo Clinic:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20024578

Link to my Pinterest board:  https://www.pinterest.com/mermgerm/ibs/

Advertisements

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s