|Serving the Greater Carmel, Indiana area.||
|Serving the Greater Carmel, Indiana area.||
I've suffered from IBS-C since I was 6 years old but I wasn't officially diagnosed until I was 26 or 27. I thought it was normal to be constipated. Throughout childhood, teenage years, and early twenties, primary care and family doctors would instruct me to drink more water, eat more fiber, and take stool softeners. And seriously, I would try my best and it would help for a while and then I would either revert to old habits or get upset because my symptoms would return.
Being constipated was just part of my life and I would only complain if the pain lasted several days. My mom would purchase prune juice and over the counter laxatives to assist me during those instances. In my late teen years, she took me to the doctor because I was having excruciating internal lower back pain. The physician automatically formed his own conclusions and decided that it was a "female issue" and that a pelvic exam must be completed. My mother advised against it and assured him that wasn't the issue. He tried to reassure her that he knew what he was doing and that it would be best for her to leave the room and leave me in the care of the female nurse. I will spare you the details but he quickly gave up on completing that exam and ordered a CT scan instead. Once completed, he returned to my mother with the prognosis.."Sgt., your daughter is full of shit...LITERALLY." And of course I was ordered to take stool softeners twice daily.
I didn't return to the doctor for constipation issues for a decade. I just dealt with it and I discovered magnesium citrate...only to be taken when in dire need and near my bathroom. So after two visits to 2 doctors in my late twenties, I self diagnosed myself with IBS-C. The second doctor informally agreed but stated that I would have to have several more visits before she confirmed. She scheduled a barium enema, told me to eat more fiber, and instructed me to take Miralax. The next doctor officially diagnosed me...no examination needed and instructed me to start taking a powder fiber supplement and drink more water. Fast forward to two more doctors and being prescribed Linzess which wasn't a match for me; my symptons had worsened, the pain had increased, and I often went to bed curled up in a ball crying and praying for the pain to go away. I was a master at hiding my pain all through the work day.
During those painful nights, I started acknowledging that food could be making my pain worse. I'm a foodie so it was the last thing I wanted to admit but one of my friends has UC and can't eat several things including raw vegetables which I noticed had started to affect me. I would like to tell you that after speaking to two of my dietitian friends and reading about the low FODMAP diet that I dove right in. NOT! I was foodie; a YELP elite foodie. Participating in the low FODMAP diet would mean giving up one of my favorite activities...exploring menus at local restaurants. I gave up raw veggies, Lay's potato chips, goldfish cheese crackers, and apples and continued my constipation life.
On my bad days, I would cry myself to sleep in anger and pray for God to take my pain away. On one of those nights, I found myself on IU Health's website. I researched the doctors, searched their faces for compassion, and prayed. I made my appointment and received a confirmation call a few weeks later. When the nurse called to confirm my appointment, I frantically explained to him that I didn't want to come in and be told to drink water, eat fiber, take stool softeners, and try Linzess again. I wanted to be fixed and I wanted a colonoscopy. I left him with quite a impression; the doctor and nurse were ready for me. Yes! Professionals were finally listening. The doctor ordered several tests and after all were complete I didn't get the answer I wanted; there was no magic pill or procedure to fix me.
I did get more information and understanding and that in itself was a blessing. My intestines are working but just very slowly. My intestinal muscles are weak. And constipation is a life sentence for me that will take a combination of things to successfully thrive...70 ounces of water, stool softener, fiber, medicine, probiotics, exercise, stress management, and a modified diet.
The low FODMAP diet has changed my life. While my constipation is still very real, the gas, bloating, and cramping has decreased greatly. My sleepless painful nights occur less and less. I haven't regurgitated food that couldn't find it's way out the other way since I started the diet. No, thriving on this diet isn't always easy. And my foodie lifestyle has had to change but it is so worth it. When I decided to try out this diet, I thought I would be stuck eating rice cakes and bland boiled chicken. This was so far from the truth, with the help of my dietitian, my Facebook support group (Low FODMAP recipes & support), and all the internet low FODMAP dietitians' resources (websites, Pinterest, Instagram) I quickly learned how to make an adventure out of elimination, reintroduction, and modification. I'm loving eating on this diet and all the recipes that I have tried or modified.
The hardest part of living the low FODMAP lifestyle for me has been work travel and eating out but guess what, I'm succeeding in this area too. My dietitian gave me a lists of safe fast food choices; her suggestion of Chipotle seriously saved me from an episode of HANGRY. My FB group gave me the confidence to contact restaurants in advance and most are willing to accommodate, but no worries if they aren't because I always have snacks.
On the plus side, I've never been a fan of eating at people's homes and usually eat before going. Now, I get to bring my own food and have a nice excuse for doing so. And one of the biggest victories was I stopped keeping my pain and digestive disorder a secret, I think this has helped my stress level tremendously.
If you have IBS and are considering the low FODMAP lifestyle, go for it. It's a game changer!
The information in this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis and treatment. Always seek medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before altering your diet, starting a new treatment or making changes to an existing treatment.
Valerie is the dietitian and owner of Blue Tree Nutrition. I will be blogging a variety of topics, recipes and will also have guest bloggers from time to time.