My IBS Story

This topic is about poop and bowel movements, just warning if you decide to read on, but it is a subject that has taken over my life for the last couple of months. We have all suffered from gastrointestinal ailments in our lifetime, whether it is a mild upset stomach or a full blown bout of gastroenteritis. I think we can all agree that problems involving your digestive tract are no walk in the park. Well, here is my story.

Shortly after I had my son (5 years ago), I started suffering from constipation. I didn’t think anything of it, just chalked it up to not eating enough fiber and needing to up my fluid intake. I had bouts of queasiness, constipation, diarrhea, you name it, especially during that time of the month. The problem persisted and after a couple of years, I mentioned it to my doctor. She would recite the routine talking points about getting enough exercise, eating fiber and drinking water. That it. I thought it was bullshit because I did all those things and it didn’t help, though my diet wasn’t as good as it should have been. Nevertheless, I became more strict with my diet and exercise routine.I became almost militant, yet despite this, I was gaining weight – all in my belly. I wondered how could have lean muscular legs and arms, yet, have this flabby, bloated middle, but, again, I chalked it up to the “abs are made in the kitchen” mentality (which isn’t untrue). I was unwilling to further refine my diet at this point. I was tired, I was stressed and I was baffled at my new body shape – I never had this body type before, I usually gained in the hips, not in the midsection. My own clothes started fitting differently on my body and it depressed me. Why was this happening? At this point, I had enough and thought all my hard work was a waste of time.

The situation took a turn for the worse in September, on my son’s first day of Kindergarten. My husband and I were rushing around all morning and now it was time for him to go to work. We had approximately 1/2 hour to eat before he had to leave, so we decided on an unhealthy option, McDonald’s. Right before I entered the restaurant, I felt queasy. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and it wasn’t sitting well with me at all. I thought it was because I hadn’t eaten fast food in awhile, but deep down, I knew that wasn’t it. When I got home a few minutes later, I was on the toilet. At this point, I was certain I had a bout of the stomach flu that was circulating around my office. Funny thing about this is that this particular “flu” didn’t go away. After a couple of days, my abdomen came very distended and uncomfortable making it hard for me to eat. After a week, I was at the doctor asking what the hell was going on. I got the usual spiel about gastroenteritis and to give it time, which I did, but I was getting progressively worse instead of better. I had pretty severe pain in the left side of my abdomen accompanied by spasm. It almost felt like a baby kicking, but when you know that there isn’t a baby in there…it’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling. I kept my diet bland because if my tummy had to do any work, it was like World War III was taking place in there.

Ultrasounds, CT Scans and numerous blood test didn’t show anything abnormal. That floored me, I was at my wits end. My digestive system was paralyzed. I hadn’t had a bowel movement in 7 days, yet everything was somehow normal. I tried taking probiotics and laxatives, but my stomach would laugh at me. I wasn’t laughing back. My abdomen became even more distended, to the point where no one would question me parking in the “Expectant Mothers” parking. (No, I never did that!) One doctor finally prescribed me a major amount of laxatives. That worked, but the pain persisted and my bowel movements were accompanied by blood (due to hemorrhoids, which most likely became inflamed when I was pregnant, but were now super noticeable under my present condition.)

My doctor finally gave me a blanket diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with internal hemorrhoids. She said that I needed to reduce my stress level. My reaction to this was “How in the world am I, a working mom, that was to battle a horrible Los Angeles commute, get my son to school, go to work, pick up my son, battle the commute home and then once home have to do EVERYTHING since my husband works most evenings…Just how the heck am I supposed to “reduce my stress level?” Like it’s just that easy. As if! 😉

Well, I had to find a way. My first step was accepting that my situation wasn’t going to change and that I just had to go with the flow. This isn’t always easy, but believe it or not, it helps. My 2nd step was making sure I was taking breaks at work. I now get up every hour, just to stretch. At least twice a day, I’ll go into our quiet room (We are blessed enough to have one) and do 15 minutes of yoga. I also take a 20 minute walk in the afternoon. During these times, I try to focus on my breathing and to make sure I’m really getting into a relaxed zone.

I also changed my outlook on exercise. Working out is something I did to stay healthy and in shape. It wasn’t something I did to actually “relax,” so in essence, my workouts were stressful. I had a slotted amount of time to do a cardio sculpt or zumba class, but in the back of my mind I knew I had to get home to get my son bathed and tucked in to bed. I would hit the beach to play volleyball, but I didn’t allow myself to fully enjoy what I was doing, because I knew I had work waiting for me at home. I have incorporated more yoga into my routine without worrying about what my heart rate monitor is reading and how many calories I’m burning. I also do more workouts from home, so I don’t have to worry about the clock, and having enough time for making dinner. 🙂 Of course, working out at home does provide some challenges and distractions, but it is working for me right now. At this point, I have added a bit more intensity to my routine, through workouts now that I’m feeling a bit more zen.

I also made changes to my diet. The main thing was adding the right balance of fiber to my meals. I aim for at least 30 grams of fiber a day and I try to balance the soluble (rice, squash) and insoluble (beans, berries, raisins) fiber with each meal. At first, I had cut out wheat and dairy, but I didn’t have major issues when introducing them back into my diet, but I eat them sparingly, especially refined breads. I consume a tablespoon of whole psyllium husk in water or a protein shake twice a day. This provides me with more soluable fiber and also regulates my blood sugar, which keeps me satiated throughout the day. I drink 64 ounces, minimum, of water. This was a tough one for me before, but now I’m keeping myself in check. (I’ll get more into diet specifics in another post)

With all these changes, I feel better. However, this is a long recovery process, so I’m not going to worry about how I look or how fast the weight is coming off. I just want to be as healthy as possible on every level – physically, emotionally and spiritually. This whole ordeal has taught me that the stomach/brain connection is no joke, that I don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders, that I need to be aware of my state of consciousness and not get trapped in illusion and toxicity. I need to be me and I need to be happy being me.