A long time ago in a land far far away…
Well, it was about five or six years ago and the far far away land was Hawaii. I was still married to the Navy back then and paid a visit to the doctor to discuss my stomach and bowel issues. I told her I thought I had IBS. She got angry at me and snapped back, “You can’t just read about something on the internet and then think you have it!” She then calmed down and explained to me that before she could diagnose me with something like Irritable Bowel she had to illuminate other possibilities which meant numerous other tests.
I didn’t like the sound of that because it sounded time consuming and I was in the middle of getting divorced. Once the divorce went through I wouldn’t have military insurance and wouldn’t be able to pay for all those tests. And that’s exactly what happened.
It took several more years for the system to finally recognize that I needed to have state funded insurance. I am still paying for doctors visits and procedures that I incurred before that time. Yes, I did get the doctors and hospitals financial aid which took some things down from several thousand to a few or one something thousand. My doctors and hospital visits included issues such as a heart attack and a very infected gal bladder which I had removed along with the luggage those things tend to carry with them.
Since having state insurance and a steady doctor to keep track of things with me I have finally been able to get those tests done and, you’re not gonna believe this… It turned out that I had … IBS!
Okay, okay, I know many of you will tell me not to get down on that doctor in Hawaii. She was just doing her job and she was right. However, I never believe it’s okay to get angry at a patient, that’s bad bed side manors and it’s just plain rude. I have a feeling she may have had a run in with a patient that read about stuff and then assumed they had what they read about and I can see how that would get frustrating. As tempting a it is to pass judgment because of someone else actions it doesn’t make it right. I was ticked at that lady for a while, but then again I was also looking at my own circumstances and time table. Now that it’s all said and done I do understand her frustration much better and it’s just another interesting story.
Regarding all these other tests that had to come first, well, it involved medicines, X-rays and a tube with a camera being stuck up my butt as well as that amnesia drug, etc. After discovering I didn’t have polyps and stuff, thankful, the only thing left was IBS. I was given what I believe were some handy and interesting instructions right after my colonoscopy. I don’t actually know for sure since the doctor decided to give me those important instructions while I was still on the amnesia drug. Thankfully the nurse suspected as much and tried to fill me in on what I had listened and agreed to and had no recollection of. As far as the actual procedure, I had heard about people being scared of it, I had no issues, it was perfectly fine. Of course I have no memory of it either, soooo. I did enjoy the pre-amnesia drug moments I spent there listening to the nurses and doctors telling poopy jokes and giggling. For such an odd work space their atmosphere was rather light and happy. Ya just never know!
After finally getting that official diagnoses I was happy to be moving on and learning what I could do to make myself better. My gastointestional doctor refereed me to the dietitian to talk to me about the FODMAP food plan. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Try saying that a few times real fast! Or just try saying it at all. If you get it down just right and can rattle it off you’ll impress some people and other will start tuning you out. The dietitian gave me some papers with columns of foods I can eat and columns of food I can’t eat. The “can” side was small and simple, the other side was long. Then she explained that she wanted me to stick to the foods I “can” eat for a few weeks to clean myself out from the “can’t “foods. Then after so many weeks I was to add one type of food back and see how my body responded to it. In other words it’s an elimination type diet. If my body reacted negatively then it would be a food group I would need to continue to avoid and if not then I would know I could eat that type.
I was a bit apprehensive before seeing the dietitian because I had attempted to keep track of the calories I was eating this one time and by the second day I ended up depressed. Yeah, I know, that sounds lame. It’s just some mental block I must have. Even keeping a food journal hasn’t worked out well for me. Although I was apprehensive I also had hope. I hoped she would be able to explain it well enough to me that I could actually understand it and then do it. Thankfully, that is exactly what happened. It was pretty straight forward and the paper work was simple. I did have to keep a food journal for a while to keep track of how the food elimination was affecting me and I was able to pull that off for that short time.
Thankfully the FODMAP food plan has done wonders for me. There have been some things I have already been able to successfully add back. Though I still mostly use lactose free milk and almond milk it seems I am not adversely affected by milk and milk products. With the exception of ice cream because of my acid reflex. I can eat it but sometimes it comes back up. Once in a great while I’ll have a milk shake and I am happy to be able to eat cheese. I avoid wheat gluten like the plague. I have eaten a few soy products here and there and so far I survived it.
I was sad to let go of garlic, I was a huge fan. I’ve been told and read about garlic and onion being very bad for IBS. One of the worst, actually. The other day I decided to do one of Dr. Schulze’s cold and flu shots. I thought it was just a bunch of really strong echinacea. ( I know, I should have read the ingredients first.) But as I chugged it down I realized it was loaded with garlic. “Well crap”! I thought. But it was too late. I considered that maybe since it is suspended in organic grain alcohol and unfiltered apple cider vinegar that just maybe those ingredients would change the garlic enough that it wouldn’t set my IBS off. Later while at my volunteer job at the pantry a lady who has gastointestional disorders told me that the garlic that is stuffed into green olives won’t affect us adversely. So, between my stomach being okay after all with the Cold & Flu Shot, and what she told me it seems I may be right.
I still have a ways to go but I am happy with the progress thus far. When I start to drool over something that I can’t have I quickly bring to mind the pain I have suffered because of that sort of food and the craving disappears. It makes doing this sort of diet a lot easier then I thought it would.
While first starting out, I realized how many foods that are not really healthy that I could eat. FODMAP isn’t necessarily a healthy diet, it can be, but it isn’t one unless you make it that way. A few days ago I read an article on the gluten free diet and how it isn’t actually a good diet for people who don’t need it. The article said that the percentage of people who need to be gluten free is very small but I believe they were only considering people with Celiac disease and not folks with IBS and other intestinal issues. Still, their point about health made sense. They mentioned how foods like breads can have more calories when they have no gluten and so on. Breads haven’t really been an issue for me cause I don’t consume much bread anyway and so far the gluten free breads and pastries don’t really taste very good.
(I haven’t tried or even actually seen this kind before.)
When I first went on the FODMAP diet I lost a few pounds because I didn’t know what to eat. Then my survivor culinary creativity juices kicked in, I have always had a knack for creating something to eat when no one else can. Sounds like a blessing and really it is but it also meant I figured out a bunch of stuff I could eat which meant no more weight loss. Especially at first because I went into a light survivor mode and wanted to eat every thing that was “okay”. It didn’t take me long to figure this out so I curved it quick. Eating out has been more challenging. I’ve picked up a few hacks. Like McDonald’s, I order a side salad with Italian dressing and a grilled chicken patty À la carte. Then I ask for a large salad plate so I can cut up the chicken patty (and the tiny tomatoes) and blend it altogether for a tasty meal. I haven’t had much luck with Denny’s. I think there is a spice in there that my gut just can’t take. Then again I always have Caesar salad dressing and maybe that’s a bad idea. I do well at oriental places. The teriyaki chicken and rices are great and some have rice noodles.
I feel fortunate that things aren’t worse for me when I hear other peoples stories. I don’t have bad reactions from food that are processed in places where wheat is also processed. So I save a load of money by not having to purchase gluten free corn meal and gluten free rice products and cereals and gluten free oat meal.
IBS symptoms affect various people differently. Most of us have or had irregular bowel movements. It usually in a cycle of several days of the runs, then a day or two of a normal bowel movement then a day or two of constipation and then back to the runs again. That’s how it is for me anyway. What really sucks is when the runs don’t give you time to run. I went through that for a short period of time. The doctor had a prescription for a powder that helped a lot and after being on it a few months I was able to take less and eventually get off of it altogether. (When I can remember the name of it I’ll try to remember to add it here.) He also gave me a prescription for a pill to help with IBS symptoms and acid reflex. (Dicyclomine & Omeprazole) Good stuff! I also take a Probiotic which I wish I could get a prescription for.
Other symptoms I have had to deal with are the swelling of various parts of my bowel. It’s always uncomfortable but certain places are worse then others. The one I hate the most is the area right near the butt hole. Seriously, when that happens I can’t even sleep. It starts as a dull pain and then the dullness gets worse and it’s just persistent and is painful. Usually Ibuprofen works. I just don’t like to use that because I don’t want to hurt my other organs. So, it’s just better to not eat foods that set that reaction off. Another reaction is bloating, you know, the punched out stomach look. Ug! So uncomfortable and I hate the way I look when that happens. That may sound vain, but so what. I don’t like it. It can also get painful. Before the FODMAP diet my symptoms were sometimes much worse, they were often way more painful.
*It isn’t always food that sets the IBS off. Stress is certainly a big part of it as well. It just seems easier at times to control the food instead of the stress. Realizing and admitting one has stress is a big step forward but stopping there won’t help much. It’s important to learn the root of ones stress in order to deal with it properly. Some might say it’s their kids, or their spouse or their job and so on. Things you can’t just walk away from. There are many techniques for helping ones mind to stop letting them stress them out. Some counselors and therapists have good mental activities to help with this and there are a lot of ideas to try on the internet and in the book store. I have a good worksheet I’ll post on my Lori’s IBS Support Group Page when I get a chance. (Hopefully soon.)
Another issue IBS has created for me is wardrobe. Just like the limits on food, I have a lot of limits on what I can wear. My entire abdomen area is sensitive to pressure. Not just the middle and lower area but thanks to the acid reflex the upper area as well. Wisconsin fashion statement if summed up in just a few words would be Blue Jeans, Green, and Cheese. Anything else is considered fancy or strange. I can’t wear Blue Jeans so I usually fit into fancy or strange. And often fancy is also considered strange as well. I don’t care to wear dresses and when I do I don’t want to have that potato sack look so that’s most;y out. And even if I did wear them I would still need leggings to go under them because of the cold temps. Talking about leggings, most of them are to tight on the waist. I have found some of those pants that are like a pant and legging in one to have a lose enough waist to work okay as long as I don’t wear them too many hours in a row. So, that’s pretty much what I wear. I like them just fine so that has worked out well. It’s not to hard to find PJ’s that are lose enough so I mostly wear those at home.
Bras!!! Bras are another issue that just shouldn’t be an issue. I’ve always loved that flying free feeling I get when I whip off the bra at the end of a long day. Now, that feeling can’t come soon enough. Some days I’m okay but many days my comfortable bra starts becoming painful after just a few hours while other well fitting hold me up just right bras hurt the minute I put them on. I was raised that a lady is not to be seen with out her bra on. So being bra-less even at home is a mental challenge. I’m fine in front of the kids, they don’t even notice any more, if they ever did. It’s when people stop by that I have issues. Sometimes I overcome my mind by reminding myself that it’s my home and i can do what ever the hell I want, even go bra-less. Other times I run and throw the harness back on. I do love the perky book look. Honestly if I had the money I wouldn’t mind having mine lifted a little. But I just need to get over that.
(I have a bra like this one and it’s so painful!!!! However, i would have put the red higher.)
And then there’s shoes… just kidding!
I did start a IBS support page on FaceBook. Feel free to “Like” it and join the conversation. (As long as you’re nice and not a cyber bully.) You can find it at Lori’s IBS Support Group Page.
If you’re interested in Dr. Schulze’s herbal formulas, which I highly recommend, you can find his site at Dr. Schulze’s WebSite.
This is a good and simple article on IBS – Daily Mail Trying to beat IBS?
* Added the next day.
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