Sunday, August 4, 2013

IBS Can Scare the Crap Out of You....Literally!

This is probably not the best post, especially for a mostly "food" blog about healthy and low-fat recipes, however, I know there are other sufferers besides myself of the dreaded spastic colon or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), so I wanted to be as helpful as possible to others who may have questions about the disorder. 

About seven years ago (age 35), I went on a cruise with my mom to Bermuda.  The seas were very rough the first night, and I experienced my first bout of nausea due to Poseidon and his dreaded spear.  I had also just started dating my future husband (umm, we hope there is no correlation with IBS to that), and even though newly into the relationship, we knew we were going to be a beautifully married couple somewhere down the road.  Relationships do cause stress, and even seven days on a vacation with your mother and your best friend can cause bouts with the bowel.

Upon our return to Richmond, I was still experiencing horrible bouts of nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, and weight loss (not that I'm complaining about that part).  I went to see my doctor (fired!) and he gave me medication for vertigo, and sent me on my way. I am not a big fan of doctors who try to solve your problems with drugs—find a solution!  The symptoms continued, so my husband recommended going to see his nurse practitioner at Ironbridge Family Practice, and she told me her thoughts almost immediately.  She explained that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome or a spastic colon.  We increased my fiber intake for my diet, but a lot of the symptoms continued.

She referred me to a gastroenterologist who took his time to chat with me about what "may" or "may not" be the problem.  I then went through an ultrasound of my entire abdominal area.  Not to cause panic in anyone, but IBS does have the same symptoms as ovarian cancer, so do not ignore!  We then scheduled the dreaded colonoscopy.  By the time we had finally gotten to this test, it had been almost a year since my symptoms had appeared.  Welcome to insurance hell and how long it takes to solve medical problems.  And on a funny side note, the testing was scheduled for my one-year dating anniversary with John—talk about true love!  We celebrated the weekend before thankfully.

No longer in use, the preparation for the test consisted of taking pills, a lot of pills, and drinking a ton of Coca Cola or Sprite. (The pills were eventually linked to kidney failure.)  We went for testing the next day at 2:30 in the afternoon, and I was informed that I had a colon of a 20 year-old (so does that consist of beer and pizza?).  I was to continue my exercise program, quit smoking (yes, this runner and now health nut was a pack-a-day smoker at one time), and to put more fiber in my diet. 

Fiber?  I eat fiber all the time was my thought.  I eat more salads than anything on my diet.  I had to then do my own research as to what types of fiber can be eaten to reduce the stomach spasms, pain, and inconsistent bowel movements.  The reason for this post?  To share some of the foods that generally are good for you if you suffer from this disorder.

First of all, let's define what IBS is:  IBS is a dysfunction of the colon.  It can be the result of a virus, stress, a nasty cruise ship (my experience), or bacteria in the intestinal tract.  IBS is thought to result when the intestinal tract contracts faster or slower than normal.  Faster equals diarrhea; slower equals constipation.  And many people suffer from both, like myself.  All of this results in the intestinal tract becoming more sensitive, so tolerance to many foods is lowered.

Other IBS symptoms include low energy, fatigue, muscle aches, low back pain, altered moods, increased PMS, lack of concentration and a "foggy" brain (  Emotional and physical stress can also trigger IBS symptoms or what I tend to call it, a flare-up.

My emotional stress this past year has been through the roof with two job layoffs, and with a parent that I almost lost to an aneurysm.  I start my new teaching gig next week, and can't be more excited or blessed.  Who would have ever thought that our economy would get to the point that teachers would be laid off from their jobs?  It all worked out for the best.  (Insert off topic paragraph here).

I did have a flare-up this week, three days of tummy spasms, bathroom visits, and resting.  I did manage to go running on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Monday was a day of rest for me.  I took off running in our neighborhood last Sunday, ten miles, and it was a beauty.  However, it was hot and humid, and being the queen of stupidity sometimes, I did NOT hydrate well.  I came into the house, popped a diet Dr. Pepper, and went on with my day.  Symptoms started about four hours later, and it was a LONG night.  I had also started a new sleep medication (insomnia sufferer too), so whether any of this correlated to the IBS problems, who knows?  I'm sticking with the gym and Jillian Michaels videos for at least another week or so. 

Please remember to exercise.  No matter what, IBS responds well to physical activity.  Even if you just walk for 30 minutes a day, take the time for YOU, and to relieve some of the mental stress in your life. Nothing makes me happier than watching a rerun of Burn Notice or Necessary Roughness while running on my treadmill. Relax and find joy in your workout. Your body will thank you in the long run.  Another recommendation is to keep a food diary, at least for a month, to see what foods you're eating that may be causing your abdominal issues.

So, what can I eat is your question?  There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.   Soluble fiber is generally friendlier to your body, and passes through the colon rather easily. Insoluble fiber is that which can cause gastric distress (especially salads) and can lead to a full IBS flare-up.  Your body does not like and refuses to digest most of the meal.  Thanks to for the following information.

Soda-I am the biggest Diet Dr. Pepper and Diet Mountain Dew fan ever.  I still drink it, because my body has adjusted to it.  During my pregnancy with Matthew, I quit caffeine for the most part, but allowed myself one Dr. Pepper per day.  I still had IBS even with the dietary changes.  Anyway, in most people soda brings an onslaught of diarrhea, so beware.

Alcohol-One of my worst nightmares is with wine.  Again, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea will or may occur.

Caffeine-An intestinal stimulant that can worsen cramps and result in the big D.  Be careful of your caffeine consumption.

Chocolate-This does contain some caffeine and is considered high in fat leading to diarrhea as well.  Be careful of how much you eat.  I have to consume some chocolate per day, usually a Diet Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa (fat free, sugar free and Weight Watchers friendly).  Dependent upon my stress level, I can usually handle chocolate rather well.  I had Sweet Frog's chocolate frozen yogurt on Friday and it never affected my IBS.  Chocolate can also lead to heartburn in connection to IBS, so another issue of caution with consumption of one of our favorite flavored treats.

Fruits and Veggies for IBS (Tell Me What to Eat 62)
Vegetables to try (cooked)
asparagus                                 mushrooms
pumpkin                                   beets (yuck)
potatoes                                   zucchini (yum)
carrots                                      sweet potatoes (yum)
green or yellow beans               spinach (yuck again)
green peas                                winter squash

canned fruit                               nectarines
peeled apples                           kiwi
applesauce                               oranges
ripe bananas                             peaches
grapefruit                                  pears (these do not settle well for me)

*Avoid high fat foods, junk foods, overeating, and eating too quickly (a teacher's motto-eat in 20 minutes).

Good Sources of Soluble Fiber (Tell Me What to Eat 65-68)
Passion Fruit – 1 Cup
Guava – 1 Cup
Navy beans – ½ cup
Refried beans – ½ cup
Cranberry beans – ½ cup
Cherrios – 1 ½ cups (Cinnamon are great!)
Red kidney beans – ½ cup
French beans – ½ cup
Split green peas – 1 cup
Pear – 1 fruit
Life Cereal – 1 ½ cups
Rye Crisp Crackers – 2 ounces
Pinto beans – ½ cup
Black beans – ½ cup
Orange – 1 fruit
Pink Grapefruit – 1 fruit
Parsnip slices – 1 cup
Oats – ½ cup
Mung beans – ¼ cup
Savoy cabbage – 1 cup
Lima beans – ½ cup
Brussels sprouts –1 cup
Grape nuts –1 ½ cups
Roman beans – ½ cup
Mango slices – 1 cup (mango sorbet is great as well)
Kiwi – 2
Blackberries – 1 cup
White beans – ½ cup
Pumpernickel – 2 slices
Oat bran – ¼ cup
Flaxseed – ground – 2 Tbs.
Wheaties – 1 ½ cups
Dried apricots – ¼ cup
Turnip cubes – 1 cup
English muffin – 1 (my breakfast every day)
Lentils – ½ cup
Garbanzo beans – ½ cup
Dried prunes – ¼ cup
Dried peaces – ¼ cup
Yams – 1 cup (my favorite!)
Peas – ½ cup
Collard greens – ½ cup
Green northern beans – ½ cup
Hazelnuts, dried – ¼ cup
Acorn squash – 1 cup
Peach slices – 1 cup
Sunflower seeds – ¼ cup
Pecan halves – ¼ cup
Whole wheat pasta, cooked – 1 cup
Wheat Chex – 1 ½ cups (another favorite)
Carrot slices – 1 cup cooked

Here are some of my favorite things that I can eat and that won't affect my I BS. I will also share, if you haven't scrolled through the rest of my blog, that I am a Weight Watchers member, so not only do I watch my moderation of intake of food, but I also monitor what goes into my tummy.
2 Weight Watcher Points and always settles well on my tummy!

3 Weight Watcher Points and my breakfast every morning.

I use this on everything, including my sweet potatoes or baked potatoes.

3 Weight Watcher Points per 3/4 cup.  One of my favorites to eat for a snack or dinner.

2 Weight Watcher Points per serving and my favorite snack!

My reason for fighting this disorder.  Isn't he adorable?

Relax and take a vacation.  Enjoy life!

Last note, go to the doctor and make sure you get everything checked out if you have any symptoms. NEVER make a self diagnosis.  Crohn's, celiac disease, leaky gut syndrome, and many other conditions could be what you have, not IBS.  

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