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  My outdated doctor finally sent me to a GI specialist.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

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My introduction to raw food veganism

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I met up with my buddy over some tea and a snack at a local cafe in Victoria, B.C.  Cafe Bliss, unbeknownst to me, introduced me to raw food. I thought it was just vegan but it is so much more.  I chose this place because I wanted to eat somewhere and not get sick … Continue reading

When it all started

About four years ago I ended a terrible relationship with a guy who left me in a poor financial state.  There is no blame here but it is at this point where I noticed some serious health concerns.  Between picking myself up and moving on, finishing a degree and working two jobs, my health took a turn for the worse.  The break-up was the straw that broke the camels’ back.  I have always considered myself from a young age to be somewhat sickly with constant health problems. They range, from asthma, fatigue, environmental allergies, severe menstrual problems, and now I have acquired major food allergies, been diagnosed with IBS, and had my first ocular migraine.  Needless to say, that stress is most likely the underlying culprit.  Getting rid of stress is key but next to impossible in the world we currently live in.

I have tried so many things to tackle these symptoms and health problems.  I have also encountered many obstacles within the healthcare system in British Columbia.  It’s unfortunately a terribly managed health system out here and extremely short staffed in all medical fields. If you are not 80 years old or dying then your health problems are of no immediate concern.  My primary physician actually told me that I am too young to get a colonoscopy.  That was literally a criteria preventing me from getting further treatment or meeting with a GI specialist, even with all my pain and consistent symptoms.  One time I ended up in the ER at the Royal Jubilee Hospital due to major abdominal and back pain. We had to argue with the ER nurse to get better treatment than sending me home with a laxative.  They finally sent me for an X-ray and I waited hours to see a GI specialist who was nice enough to fit me into his schedule. He did his routine check-up and finally told me that (and I quote), “years ago I would have put a scope up there and checked everything out but now if you don’t go to the bathroom for a year I won’t be concerned unless your anus falls out during a bowel movement”.

So, what do you do? Increasing symptoms, IBS (an extremely broad diagnosis with no actually testing), new health issues, surmounting food allergies,  a diet change that is beyond overwhelming, and you cannot slow down your life because you have to pay the bills.  This is my self-help guide to you based purely on personal experience.

1. Get a primary care physician or ensure you constantly go to the same walk-in clinic. Do not go anywhere that is convenient. You want a history with the same person or medical centre.  As far as I know there is no primary database where all your past medical history can be accessed.

2. Go see a naturopathic doctor. They are essential in helping with your symptomology.  I found my ND gave me a direction and could provide temporary relief and actually figured out some of the underlying causes to my health issues.

3. First thing I did with my naturopathic doctor was to get a food allergy test done. You need to find “secondary food allergies”.  A primary food allergy would lead to anaphylaxis and possibly death.  These secondary food allergies are found through certain proteins. You will have to get bloodwork done after eating specific foods on a list.  These foods need to be eaten in 10 and 3 day intervals. I don’t care how much this test costs. Go get it done. This is the first step to feeling healthier.  After finding out my allergies (and there were several) I was put on a detox/cleanse.  By removing wheat, dairy, and eggs I dropped over 20lbs and most of it in one month.  My fatigue improved and the fog that always clouded me lifted.

4. You could try an elimination diet.  This is time-consuming and probably should be monitored by a physician. My mom did an elimination diet and she figured out all her food issues. There was major weightloss with her progress but it was well worth it and she is back to a healthy weight since she can now absorb nutrients.

5. Since you are new to this process of food allergies and/or IBS then you need to keep a food journal. I am back to keeping one because I still have not figured out all my sensitivities. They do seem to be changing and I have become increasingly sensitive due to cleaning up my system.

6. Share your struggles with others. I had my mom. If I didn’t have her to talk to then I feel like I would have lost my mind. Doctor’s would try to put me on anti-depressants. I would cry constantly due to the frustration of not knowing what is wrong with me but being reminded everyday that my health is taking a nosedive.  Ironically, stress triggers IBS and the symptoms then cause more stress.  You are stuck in a vicious cycle. I cannot stress that enough.  Talk to someone right away about all your problems or it will overwhelm you and make everything worse.

These were the small steps I took over time. I am hoping that by sharing these tips that it will speed up the process for you in finding a solution and ultimately a happier life.

Don’t give up,

Emm