IBS. The diagnosis that means nothing.

I will never forget being told I have IBS

AND

being prescribed Prozac all in the same desperate doctors appointment. I left the office feeling confused, outraged, and alone. The doctor offered me no information as to

why

I had IBS

or

offered any solutions as to 

what

I could do to treat/prevent flare ups in the future. The Prozac (seemingly) entered the picture when I broke down in tears after hearing the bleak diagnosis. "See" he said, "look how upset and overwhelmed you are... this medication will help". Needless to say I never filled the prescription and I ended up suffering with IBS for a decade before any medical professional gave me hope that it didn't have to be this way.

So, you've heard of IBS right?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

is what is considered an "umbrella diagnosis". This means it's symptoms and causes vary dramatically, and can play out in a myriad of different ways, from person to person. 

The most common symptoms include:

-changes in bowel habits. For some it's urgency, 

for others it's constipation. For the truly lucky ones, it's a little bit of both!

-abdominal pain, from nagging to SEVERE

-bloating and abdominal distention (when you can't button your pants)

-burping & gas 

-acid reflux/heartburn

-nausea 

-hemorrhoids

-changes in weight: unexplained weight loss or in my case, weight gain (yay!)

-loss of appetite

or

increased cravings/hunger

Lesser known, non-GI related symptoms can include:

-headaches

-joint pain

-insomnia

-fatigue

-irritability/moodiness

-depression/anxiety

-skin flare ups (acne, eczema, rashes)

-heart palpitations

-malnutrition/vitamin deficiency

Seems like a lot to digest right? (pardon the pun) It

seems

like a lot because it

IS

a lot. When you aren't digesting your food properly everything else goes to crap (again, sorry). 

Just because something is COMMON doesn't make it NORMAL.

Read that sentence again. 

And, yes, there can be many non-IBS related reasons behind some of those symptoms, but it doesn't hurt to understand how simple digestion malfunction

could

be affecting you.

When you don't digest your food properly,

you might as well be throwing it in the garbage.

Thankfully science and medicine are beginning to understand

why

"IBS" was a

crappy

diagnosis in the first place.

 Proven:  Yes, there actually

are

tangible reasons why someone wouldn't be digesting their food well, leading to the list of symptoms above (it is not a curse some were born with). 

Yes, there

are

things you can do about it, to help yourself heal and recover. 

And

YES

 what we are eating, thinking, doing, and feeling are culprits, so let's start empowering our patients instead of medicating them.

If you are one of the millions of Americans who are suffering, what can you do right now, like

TODAY

, to get the ball rolling towards health and happiness? 

1. Start paying attention to what foods make you feel better and what foods make you feel worse. A simple food journal on your phone or old skool notebook does the trick. (not the calorie counting kind, I'm looking at

YOU

My Fitness Pal!) 

This is, and forever will be, the ultimate diagnosis tool.

2. Chew your food, well. Literally. Just chew more. Put down the fork in between bites. Take smaller bites. Wait until you swallow to add more food into your mouth. (I like eating with chopsticks)

3.

DRINK MORE WATER

. Is there anything that this solution doesn't help? But seriously your digestive tract is like a water slide, when it's dry, it's no bueno.

DRINK MORE WATER PEOPLE!

Like waaay more than you are probably drinking right now. 

4. Don't let yourself get too hungry... and then eventually overeat (usually grabbing less-than-ideal choices when you finally DO eat and THEN not properly chewing). Digesting takes

time

, so the alternative is true as well, constantly snacking all day is taxing on your GI system. 2-3 hours in between food items is ideal.

5. Start eating more cooked foods than raw foods. Just for a while to see if it helps (soups, steamed veggies, grilled fruit) Raw food is great, but

much

harder to digest. When you DO eat raw food, go back and read #2.

6. Higher fiber is not

always

better. While your digestive system is overwhelmed give it a break. The health police will not come banging down your door. Fruit/green smoothies can be notoriously full of fiber and fruit sugars which tend to bloat us up. Go easy on fiber and see if it helps. Substitute higher fiber foods for fats/easy to digest starches (again, just for a while, you won't gain weight, I PROMISE). So, cut your salad portion in half and add lots of olives, avocados, fatty fish, sprinkling of cheese, and oil based dressings. OR try applesauce instead of whole apples, nut butters instead of whole nuts, and white rice instead of brown. Go ahead, I am giving you permission :)

I learned

all these lessons

the hard way.  EVERYTHING came to a head when I was knee-deep into a 45 day version of the Whole30. 

(If you want to learn more about what the Whole30 entails, click

here

)

I was eating "healthier" than I ever had in my adult life and I was miserable. Bloated, in pain, STARVING, and craving comfort foods potato chips and ice cream. I wasn't having the breakthroughs my friends and fellow participants were having. Looking back I now realized I was eating waaaaaaay too much fiber, fruit, nuts and raw foods. Also, I went into the experiment with an already compromised & angry gut 

(I started Jan 1, no surprise I was not in tip-top digestive health)

 I seriously would have been better off eating saltines and yogurt as far as my gut was concerned.

This leads me to my last point.

Your mind and body need to work together.

My body didn't know I decided to do a complete 45-day food overhaul, read countless books about nutrition, and was staunchly committed to no sugar, carbs, or grains on Jan 1 2015. She just knew that one day I woke up and started making rice out of cauliflower, forced myself to eat eggs before running (when I normally had nothing before a workout), and began eating apples twice a day instead of twice a week. She was a little freaked out and I tried to force her into submission. But, alas, she won.

One thing we don't lack in this country is nutrition and weight loss information. It is everywhere. But what about simply tuning into your body, 

and asking he/she what it needs? 

IBS isn't normal. It is a way to get your attention.

Want to read what amazing doctors have to say about IBS and gut health, 

check out these links:

https://chriskresser.com/5-causes-of-ibs-your-doctor-may-not-be-looking-for/

https://draxe.com/ibs-symptoms/

You will see some ideas and terms you may not be familiar with: SIBO, FODMAPS, and various diets (SCD, GAPS) as well as other food/lifestyle tips. I am going to be documenting my journey through the IBS swamps in future posts, so stay tuned. Spoiler alert, I was finally able to get a probable diagnosis of what has been causing my increasing symptoms over the years, and more importantly how to treat it, HALLELUJAH!