I’m linking up with Amanda today.
As someone who considers herself an open book, talking about my struggle with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn’t *too* uncomfortable, but I know it’s not casual dinner table talk. Yet, it does need to be talked about, because SO many people like me are plagued by the condition. We live day-to-day not knowing if it will be a good day or a bad day, if symptoms will flare, if we’ll feel drained of energy, or if we’ll just want to stay by ourselves and ride it out. It is no wonder one of the symptoms/side effects of IBS is depression. It’s an incredibly frustrating condition.
Studying nutrition has helped me to feel a lot more comfortable talking about issues related to digestive health. It’s a quality of life issue and I don’t think it is fair to be too embarrassed to talk about it, because we could all really help each other out.
So what is IBS?
The exact cause isn’t known. WebMD states that “health experts believe that faulty communication between the brain and the intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms. ” The intestines may speed up causing diarrhea (IBS-D) or slow down causing constipation and bloating (IBS-C). Some people alternate between the two. I am 100% on the IBS-C side and I’ve never strayed (much to my displeasure).
Potential causes include eating (i.e. food sensitivities, intolerances, lack of vital nutrients), stress (one teacher of mine described IBS sufferers as individuals whose stress manifests in their guts), certain medications, hormonal imbalances, genetics, and infections.
What do I think caused my IBS? Probably a mix of things.
I am certain, however, that my eating disorder played a role in its development. Until I fell into the throws of anorexia and depression, I don’t remember even having any digestive issues. I think resisting recovery and fearing certain foods for so long caused stress on my GI tract.
Following the advice of doctors is another reason why I think I never got better. “Eat fiber, exercise, and drink water.” Hearing this advice was so defeating, because I ate tons of fiber filled foods (plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains), exercised 5-6 x/week, and always had a water bottle beside me.
Doctors prescribed me different medications. Usually they would work for a few months then cease to provide relief. I tried herbal remedies that were hit or miss, never consistently working. One doctor suggested I take Miralax every single day. She said if I needed it indefinitely, so be it. I hated that, because I know from my own reading/learning in school that this would only make the problem worse.
The one thing I wasn’t ready to change? My diet. I just couldn’t believe that my plant-based diet could be anything but healthy for me. My diet consisted of tons of veggies, fruits, beans, lentil, nut butters, whole grains, and little meat and dairy.
Then I came across the low-FODMAP diet, a well-researched elimination diet that has shown improvement in 75% of IBS sufferers. The diet limits foods containing FODMAPs. FODMAPs in the diet are fructose, lactose, galactans, fructans, and polyols. As I began to read the “no” list, I noticed most of the foods listed were foods I ate a ton of- beans, watermelon, apples, garlic, onions, gluten, etc. I really did not want this to be true… I did not want to change my diet so radically. A diet that limits fruits/veggies/whole wheat products but doesn’t limit meat and oils? No thank you.
These were the things I filled my diet with:
But then I had a really bad week… and then another one. Things that usually gave me relief just weren’t cutting it anymore. I felt 6 months pregnant. I began to see how tired I was from dealing with it. I began reading about how others radically changed their diets in the name of health. It was time I did the same.
So I’ve been easing into the low-FODMAP diet for a little over a week now. I’m not expecting to see miraculous changes overnight, but I am going to stick with it for 6-8 weeks to see if it can help me. I’m really missing beans, sugar-free gum, bagels with cream cheese, watermelon, applesauce, and yogurt. I’ve decided to limit my raw vegetable intake and stay away for the moderate FODMAPS for the time being. I’ve been incorporating more meat into my diet, so much that I am eating it 2x/day usually.
I even tried something I never thought I would try again- a hamburger made with beef (on a gluten free bun). I haven’t had beef in 7+ years. However, because I was taking so much out of my diet, I knew I had to add some more things in. I am to the point where I will try anything. I’m still not sure how often I will be eating it, because I am a little scared to cook it and we don’t eat out all that much. My goal is to eat beef ~1-2 x/week for now.
I am still learning how to best do a low-FODMAP diet. I’ve found that many of the FODMAPs are lurking in foods that I would think were okay. I think being prepared is a major priority in beginning the diet. Once you get the safe food list, go to the grocery store and stock up. You don’t want to be hungry with nothing to turn to.
I plan to continue update the blog with my progress. I am very hopeful and praying to God I begin to feel better! If anyone has tried the diet, I’d love to hear about your experience.