IBS is a torture sentence

I have started the journey of a nursing student.  If not to help people in health crisis then to help me and this god awful diagnosis of IBS.  It’s not even a diagnosis. My symptoms fit the vague criteria of many disorders.  It is my burden to bear because there is no help medically for this.  I was angry at my doctor for giving me this diagnosis and doing nothing about it.  I felt written off.  I am what we brush off with the wave of hand and flick of the wrist.  I have been tossed aside and now I am judged the moment I see a doctor.  This is what IBS is.  It is more than 3 letters.  It is pain, doubt, uncertainty, and the constant nagging in the back of my mind telling me something more is wrong.  My outdated doctor finally sent me to a GI specialist.  It was like entering a battle I had already lost.  He refused to do anything invasive until we ran some tests. My results showed nothing abnormal. I cried a little and told this specialist “how dare you let me be in this kind of pain”.  I don’t understand how nothing more can be done for me?  He suggest a fibre supplement and acidophilus.  Needless to say the fibre created excruciating pain.  The specialist had nothing to say about the pain.  My diagnosis of the medical system in British Columbia is we need more knowledgable doctors who know what they are doing and can offer assistance for people in pain.  IBS is a diagnosis of pain that no doctor wants to treat.  Mainly because they don’t how.

My advice is find a lifestyle that is preventative.  Find your triggers.  This involves talking to a naturopath and seeing an allergist.  I cannot work around the dietary restrictions I have come up against.  This would be an exhausting process and completely unrealistic.  I had to recreate how I saw food and I had to learn not to fear food either.  Yes I feared food.  Everything I ate created an onslaught of uncontrollable and painful symptoms.  I still have pain in the left side of my abdomen.  Apparently, medical doctors are not concerned about this pain.  Why should they be, they don’t have to live with it.  I have since decided to stop feeling so sorry for myself.  It really wasn’t helping anyone and I’m sure the stress triggered more IBS symptoms in the end.  Some days I have chronic pain and then the next day I am fine.  Why? I don’t know.  This drives me absolutely crazy.  I’m done with food journalling.  I have done this enough to know that it has created more paranoia than it is doing good now.  I kept a food journal in the past and came across: apples, eggs, dairy, gluten (and wheat), oats, and highly processed sugary foods all causing me problems.  I’m still stumped about something in ketchup bothering me.  I had my doctor tell me not to eat beans.  My advice is do not take dietary advice from your good ol’ GP.  They don’t know what they are talking about.  Beans are full of fibre that my body can digest.  I’ve realized that I know what I can and cannot eat.  It is no longer a major whodunnit mystery.  It is not scary or overwhelming.  IBS has forced me to expand my food horizons and discover the blandness and boredom that can come from a western diet.  I look at doughnuts and discover my insides cringing.  I would rather starve then eat a muffin.  I cannot describe the week long agony I would be in if I ate that effing muffin.  It’s then, when I could no longer look ate the food I used to enjoy, that I discovered a desire to focus on how to work with food and my body.  I am slowly recovering.  It has not been an easy journey and I doubt being a nursing student will make it easier.  But I have so much to look forward to every day that I am not sick, every day that I wake up without some weird food hangover, every day my pants fit like normal pants, and every day I can focus on my life without the slow onset of IBS creeping up behind me.

Remember to inform yourself and never give up.

– Emm

Vacation, fructose malabsorption and patience.

A vacation, discovering fructose malabsorption, and patience. Not necessarily in that order.

Recently, I enjoyed a wonderful vacation with my boyfriend. We went to Puerto Vallarta on a much needed getaway vacation.  I needed to unwind from the daily monotony of life. Work, workout, eat, and sleep (oh and watching too much TV). God, I almost put myself to sleep just thinking about it! We enjoyed the sun, water, excursions, and food.

Dune buggy excursion!

Dune buggy excursion!

Yes, I was able to enjoy the food with little disturbance to my digestive conundrum.  Fortunately, buffet was the ideal way to go at the resorts.  We had all inclusive. You have to wear this annoying little wristband, like you’re entering a nightclub, at all times, to prove that you belonged to the hotel and then the food and drinks ended up being free.  The drinks were most definitely watered down.  I enjoyed 8 specials in a row and was at the most buzzed.  I figured the resorts did this due to control over inebriated tourists and obviously it reduced their overhead costs.

At times I ordered food and requested ‘NO DAIRY’, but it didn’t help. I left a few full meals behind for the waiter to scratch their heads and wonder why this Canadian was so wasteful.  I felt it wouldn’t have helped if I knew how to say it in spanish either.  The idea of no dairy to many cultures is probably absurd.  I still think it’s absurd that I will never taste the melting decadence of a nice blue cheese over my tongue again.  Food is melded into our memories and an integral part to every culture.  So, it hurts me more when I can’t share part of a culture through their food.  I have to focus on my digestive needs over my enjoyment of food always. But, as I mentioned earlier, I did pig out on the buffet whenever possible. I still crave these yummy chicken tacos they had one day.

Before we left for a week of fun in the sun, I stumbled across something called Fructose Malabsorption.  After having another appointment with my family doctor and being completely frustrated with getting little help and results she ended up getting frustrated with me. So, I decided to get mad at her. I wanted to know why my doctor thought she could tell me I have all these problems at such a young age and then expect me to walk out the door and act like my life is all sunshine? I need to mention that she referred to herself as “not being God”. I always get a kick out of people when they refer to themselves as ‘not’ being a biblical character. If you’re not God then why reference him in the first place? It would be more appropriate for my doctor to ‘not’ refer herself to a prominent medical expert. God and tangent aside, I told my doctor that I expect to receive professional medical advice when making appointments with medical professionals.  I have read so much literature on IBS and now I have no clue on how to progress. Oddly enough, she sat down and had a wholesome conversation with me about where to begin.  I agreed with her recommendations (food diary, less stress, and trying the FODMAP diet) and told her that I will follow through but if there is no resolution of symptoms then I will be back in 3 months. Not a threat but a really good promise;)  I also requested, after finding out that my referral to a GI specialist had been denied, to see a nutritionist or dietician.  I left with some hope that day and started a food diary all over.

A week into my new food diary I was becoming considerably baffled as to what could be causing all this excess gas and abdominal pain. The bloat makes your tummy look and feel like a shelf being created from your own body. The symptoms interfere with my work, social life, love life and over all emotional health.  It’s depressing not knowing why and oppressive when you are unable to attend to life in a normal fashion. I remembered my doctor mentioning how she has problems with a particular type of pear. Nothing else, just that one type of pear. So, I thought to myself, I don’t eat pears but what if it is fruit because I have looked at all other food groups? My discovery came as swiftly as passing gas.  APPLES!!! It’s motherf***ing APPLES! While tolerable for most people it’s problematic for the rest of us due to the sugars that are broken down once past your small intestine.  Think of lactose intolerance but with apples. Now I had to google this discovery. Much to my surprise, I stumbled upon Fructose Malabsorption. It’s a well-documented digestive disorder and is easily tested for. So, again I wonder if I have IBS after reading the symptoms relating to fructose malabsorption. I have them all:

  • Diarrhea (and/or constipation)
  • General Stomach/abdominal pain
  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings, fatigue
  • Stomach gurgling

I then stumbled across a wonderful website called: The Farting Pear.  It has general information and is an online community database of all the foods that are either tolerated or not tolerated within this digestive disorder.

I stopped eating apples, coconut milk, honey etc. I still have bad days (mostly due to me being a bad girl) but have found a remarkable improvement.  Then it got even better for me. I ended up getting a consultation with a GI specialist (4 months from now) and will being seeing a nutritionist by the end of the month. My patience paid off due to my persistence.

Never give up,

Emm:)