I have had Irritable Bowel Syndrome for a long time. In 2005 the symptoms became completely debilitating for me. My story may sound very similar to your own. I was becoming less and less punctual for work, and as symptoms became more frequent and severe I began seeing doctors and began the whole medical testing process. As professional and courteous as the doctors and nurses were, the tests were still rather uncomfortable and demeaning. The irony is that all those tests are designed to rule out possible conditions or diseases, and what's left after every other disease has been ruled out is simply referred to as IBS.
One of my goals with this blog is to share
with fellow IBS sufferers ideas and the results of my ongoing pursuit of
my IBS management. Like many other people, when I was diagnosed with
IBS I was told I could manage it through diet. On a fundamental level I
could understand that "managing diet" meant to stay away from certain
foods, but in the beginning I had no idea how long and complicated
managing my diet would actually become. The extent of any real dietary advice I
could find consisted of eating more fiber and drinking more water, and
that plan failed miserably as I'm sure it does with most people. For the
most part I was on my own to figure things out. It has taken years of experimentation, trial and error, calibrating my diet plan,
giving up, starting again, and abject suffering.
been a difficult road, but I have made some real progress. I hope that
with this blog I can help inspire readers with IBS to try new cooking
and eating methods to manage their symptoms. It's easy to feel despair
with this condition because there is no medical procedure or magical
pill. Friends and family often misunderstand and sometimes the best
support they can give is advice to get over it because it's all in your
head. You're not alone if you've heard this. IBS is not an inconvenience
or something that can simply be avoided by not eating a certain food.
IBS is something that many of us live with every day. It negatively
influences our schedules and our activities. It affects our careers and
our family life. It can easily spiral us downward into depression and
Update: I wrote the above paragraphs a couple of years ago, and indeed, I had made some progress then. But now, I have found myself saying that I've beaten IBS. I can say with confidence that I have managed my diet to where IBS doesn't bother me anymore. Granted, this doesn't mean that I can eat anything I want when I want. It just means that as long as I stay within my guidelines I have no fears or anxieties like I used to. In fact, I started working again a little over a year ago, starting part-time, moving up to full-time hours, then full-time status, and now I work regularly starting at 6am - something that would have been unheard of even before my IBS symptoms reached their peak in 2005.
The best advice I can give to anybody with IBS is to make a spreadsheet recording everything they eat and every bathroom experience. I know it sounds gross but it works. Making the spreadsheet helped me regulate when I ate and how much I consumed (it's amazing when you itemize what you eat on paper). It's almost like creating a budget or daily food allowance in a way. The way I recorded my bathroom usage (I will do my best not to be gross here) is by using a numeral system: 1 being incredibly constipated and 10 being volcanic diarrhea. 5, of course, is a normal BM. Note the dates and times because after a week or two you'll be able to line up what was eaten with what caused you problems. Another thing, leave room on your spreadsheet to make special notes regarding your bathroom times. Yes, it sounds disgusting, but your spreadsheet is personal and private, yes? These notes will tell you much about how your eating habits affect your IBS.
The next best advice I have is to change to a whole foods diet. I look back at the things I used to eat and I think no wonder I was sick. I'm surprised everybody isn't sick with the shit that people call food (actually, if you look at current diabetes statistics and future diabetes projections, we all are quite ill). Take this transition slowly. Don't go eating rough foods like colon-blow cereals and granola and then getting discouraged because it gives you the trots. Start with something simple and gentle - to this day I still start my day with a banana followed by a bowl of oatmeal. The first thing I eat for lunch is carrot sticks. These foods are full of soluble fiber and make great "primers" for your stomach when you're about to start a meal.
And finally, give it time and try to be patient. Making a change to your diet is probably going to cause some upheaval. Take the change in moderation. Certain foods can and will have an adverse affect on you. For instance, a leafy green salad will completely clean me out within 24 hours of eating it (in a bad way) unless I only eat a small salad to top off a full meal. Then it doesn't bother me at all. The same with the oatmeal. I used to only drink coffee for breakfast and not eat anything until well into the afternoon. When I started eating oatmeal first thing in the morning, my mind rejected the idea of breakfast but I soon found my body craving it. Over time, I had to make an adjustment - to not eat the sugary flavored pre-packed oatmeals. Now I buy a big can of quick-oats and add just water and a little honey. It's perfect for me.
I've noticed over the past year that it's okay to be hungry. It's okay to be a little peckish until your next meal, and then don't over-eat. Gorging or bingeing is a huge control problem for me. I'm sure it's psychological, but I have no idea where it stems from. Even now as I write this I feel as though I've eaten a little too much today. Regulating the quantity (and subsequently, the quality) of your daily food intake is an important factor in managing your IBS.
Everybody's IBS is unique to them, but these above steps can be effective for anybody. You may find your general health might improve as well - I've lost 40 lbs this past year. I used to have a bowling ball for a stomach. I swear, I used to wear these huge baggy shirts so I didn't look pregnant. I truly believe there is hope for everyone out there with IBS; I used to think I was cursed with some unnamable affliction, depressed and hopeless. It takes real determination to eat right and eat well, and it's important to remember to be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake or perhaps your body's not responding favorably to your experiments. Good luck out there, and oh yeah adopt a dog from your local shelter - that helps get you out of the house and to stop worrying about yourself so much!