Dietitian’s Story with IBS

Just a warning, if you don’t like to talk about poop, then this is not the story for you.

A long time ago in a… Well, my journey with Irritable Bowel Syndrome started to really come to the forefront of my life less than 10 years ago. I had come to the point where I was tired of unexpectedly ending up in the bathroom in pain trying to have a bowel movement. There was no consistency or warning of when it would happen, but I praise God I was near a bathroom every time.

I would be in the bathroom with severe sharp pain when having a bowel movement that got relieved after it passed. The stool would not be a normal stool like a dog’s tail or sausage but diarrhea, sometimes watery, or sometimes a whole bunch of loose stool. I would ALWAYS feel better after going but sometimes it took multiple trips back to back to make this happen. Then I would go and lay down on my bed until I felt like I was normal again which might have just only been like 5 minutes.

FOOD FIRST

Being a dietitian, I look at food first before doing anything else. So, I looked more into the FODMAP diet which I had read about before in research that was coming out by Monash University. FODMAPs make up a group of carbohydrates that do not digest well in the body. For some, it could be constipation, bloating, or diarrhea. A fellow dietitian has a website devoted to this which can be of help.

ELIMINATION

I remember clearly, one day at the beach with my family. I had to rush to the bathroom again toppled over in pain while trying to have a bowel movement. That was the last straw. I had decided to do the FODMAP diet. I had put it off for so long. The FODMAP is a very restrictive elimination diet, and I did not want to inconvenience anyone with not eating their food. However, when you go through countless times of painful bowel movements and not knowing when it will happen because every time I had a bowel movement was not the same. So, I decided to take it slow and pick out some of the biggest items on the list such as beans, gluten, dairy, and certain fruits/vegetables that I ate the most.

I remember after standing in the bathroom and making that decision. I was going out to eat with my mother and sister at a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. The restaurant we ate at looked over the harbor, and they served bread as an appetizer. This was my first test as I decided not to eat it. That decision was so hard to do and explaining to my family why was not easy either.

A miracle happened that week I went to the beach. After just a few days, of eliminating foods I got constipation which scared the heck out of me because I have a bowel movement every day. Not having a bowel movement after just a few days blew my mind at how quick a turnaround it was. I got so scared. I immediately added back in fruits, vegetables, and beans. Worry and fear took over as I thought I created another problem, but thankful my bowels moved again.

DISCOVERING WHAT WORKED WELL FOR ME

After that, I decided to continue to keep gluten and dairy out of my diet which relieved my symptoms of pain and diarrhea. During a period of 2 or more years, I began to try to add back in dairy and gluten in small increments in less proceeded forms such as sprouted grains. I was able to eat whole wheat again but did not tolerate dairy. Fast forward to today… With the use of probiotics and eating whole foods, I can tolerate moderate amounts of gluten and small amounts of dairy. Whole-grain gluten sources work better for me than refined ones as well as just sticking to dairy-free options.

WHY IS IBS SO CONFUSING

The most confusing part with IBS is that you can eat something one time and tolerate it just fine. Then the next time you eat that same flour tortilla from your favorite Mexican restaurant, you do not tolerate it. I like to look at it as a cup. Depending on what foods irritate you, you are pouring some water into the cup, and then one day that cup runs over. That is when the symptoms start or the reaction happens.

NEW TOOL FOR YOU

I’ve created a 7-day meal plan that includes 3 meals and a snack. All low fodmap pescatarian whole food meals. I hope this will give you an idea of what 1 week will look like to make it easier if you are on this journey. It should be something you work with a dietitian on to make sure you are getting in all the nutrients you need as well as monitoring when adding foods back in.

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