Disclaimer: this is just MY journey. I’m simply discussing what I did/do to manage my IBS and Gut Health. Everyone is different, and therefore, what I did/do to manage my IBS/Gut Health may not necessarily be the best thing for you to do. I’m just sharing my journey to bring increased awareness to IBS, as when I was first suffering with IBS, it was real, honest blogs like this that helped me most. I’m sharing my story for inspiration and to help others find strategies that will work for them and allow them to manage their IBS & work towards healing their gut too. Whether you take the conventional route or your own route (like I did), its about finding what works for you ❤
For quite a few years up until my IBS diagnosis 2 years ago now, I remember constantly living in pain. Always experiencing sharp pains in my abdomen, cramps, reflux and bloating. But I never really thought much of it; I thought that’s just normal and what everyone experiences after eating. I thought it was just something I had to live with.
I must admit, I was very confused about it all. I ate such a healthy diet, made up of majority unprocessed, real, whole foods. I really didn’t understand how I could be experiencing this sort of pain when nothing I was eating was ‘unhealthy’! I could clearly tell it was food related as it symptoms emerged and worsened around meal times, but it just wasn’t adding up.
But over the last 2 or so years, gut health started emerging as a trendy topic and I discovered this thing called ‘IBS’ (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). After a little research and reading about others experiences, I felt like I finally had an explanation of what I was experiencing! I wasn’t alone.
About 2 years ago, I went to my GP with all my concerns and symptoms and we ran every test possible. We ruled out every possible cause, illness, parasite etc. and with nothing else left to test for, I was diagnosed with IBS – because there is no actual test for IBS, it is simply diagnosed when there is no other explanation for the symptoms you are experiencing.
From then on, I made it my mission to better understand this syndrome and, while there is no cure, I was determined to manage it and finally be pain free again. Because honestly, living with IBS is awful. Its crippling. You live in constant fear, especially when eating out or even at a shopping center; terrified you might experience a flare and always on the look out for the nearest bathroom (soz if TMI.. but its true!). It got to the point where it was taking over my life, I was just in constant pain and because of that I was moody and down all the time (the gut and the brain are connected and there is so much evidence relating IBS and gut issues to mental health issues like anxiety and depression). I couldn’t enjoy family and social occasions, because I was normally doubled over in the corner or having to go lie down until the pain passed. I was constantly fatigued. And my fear of food was growing. I now knew none of this was normal and I was ready to take control!
Taking control and managing my IBS – 2018-2019
I think I’ve probably read every article, blog and listened to every podcast out there about IBS. I believe before making any drastic lifestyle changes, you should always educate yourself first; so I did just that and I finally felt ready to take control and work on managing my IBS rather than continue allowing it to control me and my life.
I saw multiple doctors and dietitians about my IBS and symptoms. So my journey to healing my gut started with them encouraging me to undertake the ‘Low FODMAP’ diet to simply ‘manage’ my condition. Now coming from a past where I developed a very broken relationship with food and had many restrictive eating habits, a diet was the last thing I wanted to do. I know myself, and I knew that any form of food rules or restrictions could easily trigger my old tendencies and to me, it wasn’t worth the risk. Plus, the FODMAP diet was simply about ‘managing’ IBS, but I’d done the research and I knew there was more I could do that just ‘manage’ it. I knew it could be treated from the ‘inside-out’ to truly heal the underlying issue in my gut that was causing my IBS, as opposed to just forever avoiding foods that caused my flares.
So I started keeping a food diary (which I had been doing for months anyway) to try and identify the exact foods that were trigger my IBS and noted down my daily symptoms. I was able to notice and pin point a few triggers – apples, pears, lemon, beans/legumes, caffeine, oats, all dairy and all gluten products.
I downloaded the Monash University FODMAP Diet App and used this as another tool to educate myself on high FODMAP foods and the different ‘FODMAPs’ – which are dietary sugars, also known as Fermentable Oligo-Saccarides, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. These sugars can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine which is what causes IBS symptoms.
Then looking at my ‘trigger’ foods, with the help of the FODMAP App, I was able to determine the specific sugars my body wasn’t absorbing – Fructose, Lactose and Fructans were the main culprits. From here, I cut the known trigger foods out of my diet and replaced them with low FODMAP alternatives, such as swapping from multigrain bread to paleo bread, and from an apple as a snack to berries.
This allowed me to give my gut a break from these inflammatory foods that were causing it such distress. Because the first step to healing your gut is removing the triggers and giving it a chance rebuild the damaged microbiome.
As I was doing this I was focused on helping rebuild my gut microbiome with lots of pro and pre-biotic foods that feed the good bacteria in the gut. My focus was on ADDING nourishing and healing foods into my diet, rather than just removing foods. I included plenty of fibre rich foods, bone broth, cooked as opposed to raw foods, resistance starches, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha, and lots of healthy fats. All very healing foods and feed the good bacteria in the gut! I also started taking a probiotic, recommended by a dietitian I saw, to further support my gut healing and build the amount of good bacteria strains in my gut.
On top of all of this, I made an effort to reduce the stress in my life. Stress can actually be a major trigger for IBS symptoms! I’ve suffered from anxiety for many years and stress has always been something I struggled with, so getting this under control was another key factor. Daily meditations, deep belly breathing, never eating in a stressed state, sitting down and mindfully eating all my meals, focusing on chew chew chewing my food & just making a conscious effort to be more mindful and present were some of the key practices I implemented.
2020 – where am I at now and where to from here?
So above is basically a recount of 2018-2019 of my journey with IBS (not gonna lie, I wrote it mid-2019 and forgot to publish it.. whoops!).
Today, I am still battling IBS and working on healing my gut. I am still implementing all the above changes and am thrilled to report I have only experienced a small amount of flares in comparison to what I use to experience (which were almost weekly!). Most flares have been the result of accidentally consuming a trigger food or from eating out (the oils restaurants use never sit well with me).
I’m currently working with a Naturopath to assist with managing my condition and healing my gut. Because, while I am a Qualified Health and Nutrition Coach and have undertaken specific Gut Health units to better understand what is going on, I acknowledge there is a point everyone needs to seek professional help, especially for a chronic condition like this that I have been suffering with for 4 years now. It wasn’t so much the physical symptoms of IBS, like bloating, cramping and nausea, that drew me to finally seek the help of my Naturopath, but the other ways I could see IBS manifesting in and on my body. For probably just over 18 months now I’ve been suffering with Ezcema on my arms, legs and face at times. And for about 8 months I’ve also been suffering with hormonal acne. To cut a long story short, I went to my Naturopath with these concerns and my history, we did a comprehensive Gut Microbiome Test and it turns out I have a leaky gut, amongst other issues.
I’ve talked about this recent journey over on my Instagram (saved as a highlight on my profile) but I will be publishing another blog VERY SOON with full details of where I am currently at with my IBS, my test results and the plan moving forward! Because honestly, it was these kinds of blogs that kept me motivated during the worst of my IBS. They gave me hope and new avenues to explore when the doctors told me there was nothing more they could do, and I just had to live with it.
STAY TUNED xxx
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