For most of my life I’ve suffered from stomach problems. Most IBS sufferers will instantly recognize the story. It goes something like this; you eat something and the next minute you’re dying.
Acute pain is the first signal that you need to find a bathroom, a shrub, anything as soon as you possibly can because if you don’t there’s going to be trouble. And not the kind that is easily socially excusable. It’s the kind of trouble that your friends, co-workers and family will remember and recount for the rest of their days. So you sprint to the bathroom and possibly start praying to god whether you believe in god or not, and then you just hope that you make it. Most often you do, sometimes you don’t.
I was at a dinner party regaling somebody with these details the other day when I noticed there wasn’t the complicit laugh or giggle that other sufferers have. It’s our secret. I looked at Dave and said “Why am I telling this story?” And he said, “I don’t know.” And the truth is I was telling it because I thought it was hilarious in a sick dark IBS kind of way. But unless you live the life of being terrorized by your innards it’s probably a bit hard to wrap your mind around.
I’ve been to countless doctors who all ordered me on various elimination diets, tests etc.. to figure this out. All of it seemed hopelessly vague so I’ve struggled along. One kind doctor gave me medication for acute attacks. Finally a big acid reflux attack made me stop eating meat and I discovered that some of my symptoms seemed to disappear. So through a convergence of really not wanting to eat animals anymore and my own failing digestive tract, I gave up eating meat a few years ago. This seemed to solve some of my more urgent stomach issues.
So I trudged along for a few more years and seemed to be getting sicker and sicker. So I cut out dairy. It made me feel better so I thought my problem was solved. Except I love dairy. Who can live without french cheese and red wine? What is living without these things? Exactly. It makes life feel like a bad compromise. But for the most part I managed to manage my consumption.
Then a few more years went by and again I was getting sicker and sicker. Bloated, tired, exhausted, chronic stomach pain. My sister recommended that I see her naturopath. I had no idea what a naturopath could do for me but I was unwell enough that I would try anything.
So off I went. She did something called Vega Testing. No needles, just a tray of bottles with the essence of every known food that the technician would dab on my hand and then monitor with what looked like a wand. At the end of it, it turned out there were about 101 things I had to eliminate from my diet starting with yes, all dairy, all wheat, chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruit, mushrooms, broccoli, garlic, all sugar, including honey, maple syrup. Maple syrup? Sweet innocuous, innocent, all natural, from a tree syrup. How could that be? Sacre Coeur! It was daunting. And I haven’t even gotten to the alcohol part yet. That’s right. No alcohol.
I was to eliminate all these foods from my diet and then come back after some time to be re-tested. The test would help determine what I was actually unable to tolerate as well as help eliminate the yeast in my gut.
So three years ago Dave and I followed this diet to a T – (Dave fell off early eating a turkey bacon club but soon was back on again!) I thought it was going to be impossible but it wasn’t and sure enough we both felt amazing. My stomach never felt better and we both had more energy than you could imagine.
A month or so later when I went back to be re-tested it showed that I could now eat a few more things. Chocolate, caffeine, a little bit of honey every three days.
After that I never went back to Dr. Steph and slowly over time I started to eat dairy, sugar, wine, because I love it. I never eat anything with gluten because I know it kills me and I don’t eat meat. But over the past two years all of my IBS symptoms have returned again.
I’ve thought about what has gone wrong and I realize that when I feel healthy I allow myself to think that I can indulge in all of these things, and then the downward cycle begins again, and slowly over time I’m back to running into shrubs and bushes and wondering why I feel like hell. Now I know that I have to learn to love the things that make me feel good and stop loving the things that don’t. It seems like a curse for a fun-loving foodie like myself, but for now that’s the way it is. I’ve voluntarily put myself back on the Dr. Steph IBS diet and have my appointment booked for Feb. 24th. I’ve been on it for five days and I feel a million times better already.