IBS: Diagnosis to Victory, Part III

If you’ve been following my journey, then you know from my March update that I started working with a Nutritionist. Even though I purchased The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet book, and it has been helpful, I wanted the guidance of a professional to help me through the elimination phase. I wanted some type of guidance with regards to where to begin and how long the elimination phase should last before I start re-introducing certain foods. She stated the elimination phase varies per person. For some it could take six weeks for their symptoms to improve; while for others it could take up to a year (Fix it, Jesus!).

At her recommendation, and the recommendation of the GI doctor I spoke with last year, I stopped drinking coffee at the end of March. This actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I realized most of the time, I was drinking coffee to keep warm (#TeamAnemia). So instead I drink hot water and lemon which seems to satisfy my need.

Most of the research I found regarding caffeine and IBS is that it is primarily a trigger for those with IBS-D (diarrhea) since coffee is a stimulant and can make the digestive tract work faster causing lose stool. I haven’t seen much in relation to IBS with constipation. However, I have noticed my movements are starting to become more regular (insert happy dance!). I’m thinking there is a correlation between coffee and my digestive system because when I would drink coffee, I noticed my stomach would make loud gurgling noises. That should have been my signal to stop drinking coffee, but, what can I say? I’m just stubborn like that!

Second Nutritionist Visit

On m second visit, she suggested I finish dinner 1-2 hours before bedtime, because when you lie down it makes it more difficult for your body to properly digest your food.

She gave me a list of probiotic foods, such as Kefir, Kimchi, Sauerkraut, or Yogurt with live active cultures. I probably won’t try yogurt since I had flatulence last time I tried yogurt. Probiotic foods can help improve digestive health. I just need to get over the strong smell of Kimchi!

She provided meal and snack Ideas. Some of the meal combinations I currently eat and some of the other suggestions seem appetizing! But, eating at home isn’t the challenge. What honestly causes me the most anxiety is when I eat away from home, because I can’t be certain how the food is prepared. I feel bad (although I shouldn’t) because I have to ask questions or request that certain foods be removed from the dish so I don’t experience IBS symptoms.

With that said, I have had some pretty good dining out experiences. I don’t eat out much, even before I started the elimination diet. When I have dined out, I tried to order from the Gluten Free Menu options. But….there were times when I assumed something was gluten free or safe to eat and that proved to be the wrong assumption. So I learned the hard way to never assume, ALWAYS ask!!

In addition to dietary changes, there are some medications and supplements that I began taking. The first being Dicyclomine, which helps reduce gas, bloating, and constipation. Magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxer. The colon is a muscle, so if the muscle is more relaxed that will promote regularity. And I must say that an added benefit is that I have experienced AMAZING sleep since taking magnesium! So if you have challenges with getting better sleep, then definitely try this and you will be lights out!! I also take Miralax, which is a laxative and we all know what those do. Lastly, I take digestive enzymes to help me better digest my foods.

From my research, what was consistent is that it would take a combination of dietary changes and medications/supplements to help improve my symptoms.

After my March Nutritionist visit, she told me I don’t need to see her again unless I started feeling worse or until my symptoms have cleared up and I am ready for the re-introduction phase. Bring on the avocados! Lol

As sweet as she is, she doesn’t appear to be a specialist for this particular diet. Our visits were short (less than 30 minutes) and she didn’t provide a customized meal plan, which I was expecting to receive. She provided documents to me that were more generic. So I will continue to monitor my progress, try to adhere to the list of foods to avoid, read labels, research, take my medications/supplements, and seek help from various Facebook groups.

So, like Dori I’ll “just keep swimming!” 🙂

 

 

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IBS: Diagnosis to Victory, Part II

I created my first blog post about my diagnosis in October 2016. It’s been a few months since then, so I wanted to update you all on how I am feeling these days and ways I am trying to manage my symptoms.

As of today, February 20th, I am feeling pretty good. I am still experiencing symptoms of distension and constipation. The gas hasn’t been nearly as frequent. So some of the changes I’ve made are working. But I still have work to do if I want to get closer to feeling like the old me. If you notice, I didn’t mention bloating. That is because, while reading up this condition, there is a difference between bloating and distension. Bloating is the feeling of increased of pressure in the abdomen. While distension is a measurable change in the circumference of the abdomen.

The most recent change I made is trying to adhere to a gluten free diet. I had no idea it would be this difficult. It seems like it’s in everything! So now, I am training my mind to be a label reader again. I say again, because when I was losing weight, I was reading labels and looking at the calories, sugar, and macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). Now I have to train my mind to read the label to make sure it says “Gluten Free” or read the back to see if it says “contains wheat.” Gluten is the main protein in wheat, rye, and barley.  I can definitely tell that eating wheat does not agree with me. I noticed my symptoms were triggered when I ate wheat. I just refused to believe that all of a sudden I couldn’t digest wheat properly. I had been eating it my whole like. Like, I grew up on Wonder Bread! But I do recall a rather thought provoking quote that stated something like “are we allergic to food? Or are we allergic to what’s been done to it?” I don’t believe I am allergic since I don’t experience any external symptoms when I consume it. But I definitely feel it internally. The quote makes sense because if you think about how a piece of wheat looks and then consider what process wheat has to go through to be turned into products like bread and pasta, it makes you wonder what they are either adding or removing during the production process that makes the end product difficult to digest.

As mentioned in my first IBS post, it is recommended that I follow a Low-FODMAP diet, which is an elimination diet. So removing foods from my diet that can trigger IBS symptoms and then re-introducing some items back into my diet. To help me better understand what is happening in my body, I purchased “The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet” book written by Sue Shepherd, PhD and Peter Gibson, MD. This book also contains recipes you can eat during the elimination phase. I haven’t finished the book yet or tried any of the recipes thus far, but I plan to do so in the future. For now, I am using recipes I already have and then trying to modify them to fit the diet.

To also help me with the elimination diet, I decided to visit a Nutritionist for support. I just didn’t feel comfortable going through this process without medical supervision. I visited her towards the end of February and have a follow-up appointment with her at the end of March. She also gave me background information on the condition and a list of foods to avoid. Some of the foods I don’t eat often, so I’m not bothered that I have to eliminate them. But there are some foods that I love, such as watermelon, avocado, mushrooms, cashews, blackberries, mangos, honey and peaches. Just typing them out hurts my soul!!  But I have to consider the bigger picture, which is identifying my trigger foods and working towards managing my condition. I should also instead focus on all the foods I can still eat.

I am going to do my best to stay positive because I know my situation could be worse. Even though there is no cure for IBS, I am thankful there are ways to manage the condition to the point where I can feel like I’m cured. I also know this experience is bigger than me. There is someone else dealing with this condition who may feel hopeless, but perhaps after watching my journey, they will be encouraged to keep going!

Low-FODMAP Diet Click here to see a list of foods that are part of the diet.