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  My outdated doctor finally sent me to a GI specialist.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

Fridays’ GNT and PB bar

After a long work week I always need to unwind. I do this with a good ol’ GNT.  It’s tasty, simple, and refreshing.  But I also need a tasty treat to go along with my drink. I have discovered a really yummy peanut butter bar recipe. My first attempt at making these bars was successful and my boyfriend loves them. But, like most foods this recipe needed some dietary tweaks.  The recipe calls for oats which are gluten free. I tried a wheat-free brand of oats and still found I was having digestive issues. Let’s face it…oats are out. Just avoid them like the plague. Even if it was an intolerance it was still unbearable. Like most recipes I decided to make it “Me” friendly. Get used to doing this on a regular basis.

Here is the revamped Digestion Impaired Peanut Butter Snack Bar:

pb pic

INGREDIENTS:
1. cocao butter (after melting and letting this type of butter cool it will return to its’ original solid state. This will help keep the bar from crumbling apart and it’s not gooey)
2. almond milk (plain)
3. brown sugar or Sucanat
4. peanut butter
5. vanilla extract
6. crispy rice cereal
7. chocolote chips (allergen free)
8.  margarine
9. flaxseed, milled (use this for a better nutritional content and it’s a great fibre source)

DIRECTIONS:

Line an 8-by-8-inch (or a 9-by-inch pan for thinner bars; I used an 8×8) with wax paper, leaving overhang. Spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine:

– 1/4 cup cocoa butter
– 1/2 cup almond milk
– 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar (more sugar tastes better but I found 1/2 cup is adequate)

and heat to melt over medium heat, stirring until smooth and combined. Allow mixture to come to a boil and then allow it to boil fairly rapidly for about 90 seconds, stirring frequently so it doesn’t bubble over or scorch.

Turn off the heat and add:

– 1 cup peanut butter

– 2 tsp vanilla extract

and stir until combined. Stir in:

– 3-4 cups of rice cereal
– 3 Tbsp of flaxseed

and transfer mixture to prepared pan. Smooth it into an even, flat layer with a spatula, pressing firmly to compact the mixture.

Optional, drizzle with chocolate. Melt:

– 1/4 cup chips
– 1 teaspoon margarine

in a small microwave-safe bowl in 10-second bursts until mixture can be stirred smooth. Do not overheat or it may scorch. I find 15-30 seconds will suffice. Drizzle melted mixture over the bars.

Place pan in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or until bars have set fully. Leave bars on wax paper and lift the wax paper out of the pan and place on cutting board to slice.

Slice any way you would like. Wrap bars individually in plastic wrap and store them in a large freezer bag or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Indulge and enjoy,

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:)

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