I can be so stubborn and often get in my own way! I try to handle things myself without asking for help. But asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you’re human. About 2 years ago, I started experiencing gas and bloating with no known cause. It didn’t seem to matter what I ate; healthy or otherwise, I would still experience these symptoms. There would be periods where the symptoms would go away and then return. Again, I couldn’t pin point what made the symptoms disappear or what caused them to re-appear. I went about my daily life hoping it would just be something that fixed itself over time. But after experiencing these symptoms for a while, I experimented with different over the counter drug store products for gas and bloating, but none of them proved helpful in alleviating my symptoms.
So finally in December 2015, I was starting to get frustrated all over again, so I went to my doctor and told him about my symptoms. He gave me a prescription for acid reflex. I wasn’t sure that would work considering my symptoms, but I decided to trust him anyway. At a follow-up appointment, I told him there was no relief. So he scheduled a kidney ultrasound. And the results showed….nothing. Sigh. Back to the drawing board, I guess. I researched doctor’s that specialized in digestive issues (gastroenterologist) and asked for a referral. The GI doctor suggested a colonoscopy. Yikes! I thought that was only for people who are a little more “seasoned” in age. But I went through with it, because that was the best way for them to rule out more serious conditions, such as colitis, colon cancer, ulcers, and Chron’s disease. The GI doctor took a biopsy as well. During my follow-up appointment, he confirmed I didn’t have any serious medical conditions (thank you, baby Jesus!!). So based on my symptoms, he diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
I was relieved and frustrated at the same time. I know that may sound strange, but I was relieved I didn’t have a serious, life-threatening condition, but I was also frustrated because there is no cure for IBS. Since it is not clear on what causes IBS, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms so that I can live as normally as possible. There are prescription medications, but either their long-term effectiveness is unknown or they may help with one IBS symptom, yet worsen other symptoms. The condition is best managed through dietary changes, reducing stress, and using medications, such as fiber supplements, laxatives or peppermint oil. My goal is to manage this condition and not allow it to manage me!
So, what is IBS? How is the condition managed?
IBS effects the large intestine (colon) and can cause gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Your intestinal walls are lined with muscles that contact and relax in a coordinated rhythm to move food through your intestinal tract to your rectum. If you have IBS, contractions may be stronger, causing diarrhea or the opposite may occur. The contractions may be weak; slowing food passage and causing constipation. I’m experiencing the latter.
It is not known what causes IBS, which is why there is no cure and the condition is challenging to manage. According to the Mayo Clinic, one theory suggests there may be poor coordination between the brain and the intestines. While others suggest food intolerances can cause IBS. Stress also plays a factor in the condition. Stress does not cause IBS, but can worsen symptoms.
My GI Doctor recommended I follow the FOD MAP diet, which is an elimination diet. There are certain carbohydrates found in certain foods that can contribute to IBS symptoms. These carbs are (be prepared for the longest acronym known to man!):
Fermentable, Oligo-saccharides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols
There are certain foods that are high on the FOD Map list and fall into one of these categories. Their consumption should be avoided or reduced. For a complete list of low and high FOD MAP foods, check the link below:
The diet seeks to eliminate foods that are difficult to digest. Not all foods will cause the same adverse reaction in all IBS sufferers. So I am going through this process now and trying to eliminate foods that have high FOD Maps, such as broccoli, apples, hot sauce, and onions. I also replaced my oats, bread, and pancake mix with gluten-free versions. It is also suggested, that I not drink coffee. I’m still working on the coffee and the gluten-free recommendation! Lol.
Other changes I’ve made include increasing my water intake. I aim to drink a gallon of water a day while I am at work. Some days are easier than others. Second, I added Psyllium powder to my green smoothies. Psyllium husk is straight fiber! And fiber keeps you regularJ. I realized I may not be getting enough fiber, because when you blend or juice fruits, you’re not eating the fruit in its whole form, so you aren’t getting as much fiber. Also, I went to a local naturopathic clinic and one of the associates was also diagnosed with IBS. She suggested I take digestive enzymes to help my body break down my food. She also gave me magnesium powder to promote regularity.
As far as stress management, I have been trying to focus on taking long, deep breaths when I feel tense or stressed. I also make sure I eat without distractions and avoid eating in a hurry.
So far, I am starting to feel better and I hope I stay on the up and up! I’m not 100%, but feeling better now compared to a couple of months ago.
I encourage you all to be proactive about your health. Don’t be stubborn like I was and wait until you’re fed up before you seek help. You know your body and you know when something is not right. I could have been diagnosed with a serious condition that required treatment. I am so thankful that was not the case! But had I sought help earlier, I could be that much closer to finding a solution to help me manage my symptoms.
I plan to use this diagnosis to create a series of blog posts on what I learn, my experience with an elimination diet, new food finds and anything else that I think would be helpful.
I hope you will come along with me on my journey!
“Irritable bowel syndrome.” Irritable bowel syndrome – Mayo Clinic. N.p., 21 July 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20024578>.