Sunday, 14 October 2012

Food Gone Wild

WARNING:  This is an IBS-specific post, and may contain TMI - Too Much Information.

We have all been lead to assume that fruits, vegetables, lentils and whole grains are healthy and should represent a large portion of our diet.  I would also like to believe this is true, but, unfortunately, for some of us, this can run horribly awry in practice.

For the last few months I have had the sneaking suspicion that I have been heading toward a full-blown IBS episode. Firstly, as my episodes are normally about every two years or so, I am clearly due.  What tipped me off though were the minimum of seven to eight visits to the ladies room each day (double what I think of as normal) for the past eight weeks. I have had gas so badly that I have been unable to sit up straight at work and have been forced to drop everything, call a cab and head home to my magic bag on more than one occasion.  It has begun to affect my routines, my corn starch usage has gone through the roof and I cannot decide whether sitting or standing is preferable.

In an attempt to combat this I have tried a few things.  I had my first abdominal massage, I am now seeing a naturopath (the third in my lifetime).  I find myself agreeing to consume tinctures and Chinese herbs with names like bu zhong yi qi tang.  I have yet to try a rice water remedy that is supposed to help regulate me.

The likely question here is - is it something I'm eating?  I tried that experiment - I did the clean eating thing - I peeled and steamed my veg and fruit.  I ate lots of sugar-free applesauce and fruit cocktail (fresh fruit can be tricky for IBSers to digest).  I ate more fibre, I drank more water (more than my 3+ litres a day), I drank digestive teas, I did the digestive-friendly yoga poses and lots of yoga breathing.  The results?  It gave me the shits, like, have-the-flu kind of shits.

Upon realizing that this was not going according to plan I bought a lot of Boost and Gatorade (to help replace electrolytes).  On particularly high-pain days I have been drinking 1-3 Boost.  Some days I have a completely liquid day so it does not hurt quite so much by the time I hit number 8. On better days I have 1-2 Boost, applesauce, white bread with peanut butter and either more white bread, applesauce and an egg or grilled chicken with steamed broccoli.

However, a funny thing happened.  I went on vacation.  In the land of Olive Garden salad and bread sticks, pizza, fried food, dessert and alcohol.
Amazing milkshake at Duckfat in Portland, Maine
Aside from a little gas, I was at 1-2 washroom trips a day - without the big D and minimal amounts of pain!  I even hiked up several mountains at Acadia National Park without crapping my pants or popping a squat!  The only real side effects are my clogged arteries and the extra padding around my tush.

View from Acadia Mountain

Another beautiful view 
What does this mean?  It certainly goes to show that stress is the leading factor contributing to this IBS episode.  It also shows that when in an episode food can have little bearing on your symptoms.  So does this mean I plan to continue along this road to chunky town?  Definitely not.  Come hell or high water I am putting my fat pants away.  But, it does mean that as I go back on "real" food, life will be pretty awful, for quite awhile as my body gets used to trying to process fruits and vegetables.

As an IBS sufferer it is often difficult to choose the right foods because my reaction to the good food goes against everything I have been taught - from the food guide to my specialist, to all the health, fitness and wellness bloggers out there.  The healthy choice certainly feels pretty unhealthy to me as I have to go every hour, on the hour from the time I wake up.  It certainly feels unhealthy canceling appointments and making up excuses as to why I have to miss that meeting or have my colleagues believe that I really cannot shake that flu.  It is also really awkward dealing with the corn starch in a public restroom - all signs point to addiction.

So today, my first full day back from vacation I started off with my morning shake (Shakeology, cocoa powder, cinnamon, skim milk, peanut butter and banana baby food) and stuck to real food aside from my one ultra dark chocolate truffle and some butter on my white bread.  My body certainly cannot take whole wheat bread and vegetables all at once - one step at a time.  As I slowly, but surely trade in my fat pants for my skinny jeans, think of me, perpetually on the throne, in a cloud of corn starch.  Think of this as installment one in Food Gone Wild - an IBSer's tale of strange food choices, all in the name of the colon!

For those of you with digestive issues, I would love to hear if you have any recommendations!


  1. You know, I find moderate amounts of alcohol HELP - I think it relaxes me and my body, and things are easier to digest and deal with. Good luck!

    1. Too funny! If ever there was a reason to have a glass of wine, this would be one, makes total sense! Thanks!