I have IBS. It ain’t pretty. Basically, when it gets bad, it feels like my insides are going to fall out of my bum. There’s no other way I can describe it.
I have been in denial for about a year- simply because I love cheese and yoghurt. I found it easy enough to find a milk alternative, but the alternatives to most other dairy delights are quite hideous. So, I kept consuming dairy until last week when I realised my body was very unhappy and it was time to accept that I have issues with my gut- mostly caused by dairy, vegetables and sugar.
So, I set out to figure it out and make some sense of what was causing the bloating, stomach pains, poop issues and the worst of all… gas. A lot of tootin happens when you suffer with IBS. One of my irrational fears is pooping or tooting in public (especially public toilets) so I panic when my symtoms get bad and just want to hide away alone, and, well… sit on the toilet for a while. There have been times where I have been out running with my boyfriend and have said “oh gawd” in a distressed fashion and he’ll say “Clench those cheeks together” because I have honestly felt like I am going to shit myself. I’m lucky that I can be pretty open about these things with him and it generally leads to a good giggle.
But IBS is no joke. Apparently 11% of the world’s population suffers from it and only 30% of those people visit the doctor for their symptoms. I know exactly why that is… because the thought of talking about your bodily functions is not particularly appealing -in fact is is quite embarrassing.
So I thought I would share my ‘experiences’ with you so that if you are suffering there might be some things you can try to help find some relief.
The first thing I did was quit sugar. It sounds like a big feat and dont get me wrong, it isn’t easy to start with. It took about 2 weeks for me to get over the cravings and ‘need’ for sugar. After that I would have the odd coke or lemonade here and there, but I was nowhere near as bad as before (sitting down with a bottle of coke, a bag of doritos and a bag of m&m’s and getting a good way through each of them).
I also started exercising – going for walks at least every second day. My boyfriend and I climb a hill out the back of our suburb which is basically 15 minutes of hill climbs and stairs, to a ridge at the top where we pick up the pace and run along the ridge and all the way back down. The first time we did it we took 35 minutes. Now we have the time down to 23.5 minutes and our fitness levels are increasing while our waistlines are decreasing!
The most recent thing I have done is given up dairy. I quit dairy about 2 months ago due to the shocking treatment of bobby calves on some NZ dairy farms but then realised that I felt a lot better too since giving it up. I decided last week that I didn’t want to eat dairy due to my icky side effects so I accepted that cheese and yoghurt would no longer be in my life.
Lastly, I looked into the science behind the ‘sore tummy’ and found some interesting ways to help the IBS naturally with diet. Have you heard of FODMAP’s? I had heard them in passing a few times, at health expo’s but never really took a serious look into them. FODMAPs is an acronym for Fermentable-Oligo, Di, Monosaccharides and Polyols which are commonly found in our diet. By reducing the amount of FODMAP’s in our diet the symptoms of IBS should reduce.
I typed in ‘FODMAP’ to pinterest and it spat out some really good infographics that help to decide which foods are okay and which ones might cause issues to the ol gut. Here is a good one I have found quite useful.
I also have to be careful about the type and amount of alcohol that I consume. People think I am ‘boring’ or ‘nana-ish’ because I don’t go out drinking very much. The real reason why I prefer to stay at home is because I am convinced I am allergic to alcohol and I either get sick or get a serious bout of ‘booze poo’s’ while out in town/ house parties etc. It’s gross and makes me feel very un-sexy and VERY self conscious. I constantly worry about pooping in a foreign toilet (not at home) and it not flushing. Like, what do you do? Wait and hope that it flushes the second time? Walk out and advise the next toilet goer that the toilet was ‘soiled’ when you went in? Scoop it up and throw it out the window? The first option is normally the best bet. Or staying at home is even safer. Moral of the story here is to consume in moderation and never stray far from a loo.
I have also sat myself down and taken a good long look at the things I am eating. I am a sucker for a delicious lemon muffin and a bag of twisties. But those things generally cause me to get a tummy ache. Oh and ice cream is an absolute NO DEAL. So I stripped back my pantry and refrigerator to things that I know I can eat without any nasty side effects. Sustainable fish, nuts, free range chicken, low FODMAP vegetables, lean red meat, fruit (I can’t eat apples) such as melon, plums, berries, mango and bananas, eggs, oat milk and seeds are my staple foods. I tend to stay away from wheat although making a nice loaf of wholegrain bread on the weekend is a nice treat. I find the easiest way to adhere to a gut-safe diet is to make my own dinners (from scratch) and keeping half of it for lunch the next day. I’ll have a smoothie for brekky- usually with a banana, oat milk, some chia seeds, LSA and oats and also occasionally a spoon of sugar-free hot chocolate. Snacking on fruit during the day is enough to keep me going and then a walk after work and a nice home made dinner has me set for the evening.
It all sounds easy in theory! But living with IBS is not easy- it is really, really hard. My poor boyfriend has to deal with me and all my ghastly side effects and complaints. I have to take days off work because I am so ill I can’t handle being 10 steps away from a bathroom. I say “I can’t eat that” about 5 times a day and beg my boyfriend to get me a tummy transplant on the regular.
I have started reading a great book called ‘GUT’ by Giulia Enders which you can buy here and it is really, really interesting!
It is all a balancing act. I’m still looking for my balance but I have attained some pro-biotics which should help and fingers crossed that eating a plain diet of meat and vege will bring me some relief!
Let me know in the comments if you have any tips for me!
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