I’ve been waiting a while to write this post, purely because I was adamant that I had nothing wrong with my stomach and it was just going through a phase. Like when you’re a teenager and for some reason you want to dye your hair bright blonde (results = frazzled, dry, straw hair… we’ve all been there, done that and brought the ‘sun-in’…) I thought after a few weeks, the symptoms would pass and it would be back to putting up with whatever I throw down as long as it resembles 80% nutritious food (60% on the weekend..)
But, as a born foodie, chocoholic and pizza fiend, coming to terms with the fact I have now for some reason got intolerances to some of the food I love actually was quite a lot to take in especially as I’m still yet to work out what it is. I’m genuinely not being dramatic. Having been on a diet for so long when competing, I had finally been ready to put that behind me and begin a normal, balanced lifestyle which included a balance of all the foods I love. But since my last competition in July, my stomach has taken a turn for the worse and been like ‘no hun’ (probably triggered by my transition from prep diet, to ‘normal’ diet but who knows) and I am now experiencing a really difficult time with my digestive system.
Being restricted from the foods you love for so long is so so rubbish, in it’s most eloquent term. It not only means missing out on the sweet treats, pizza nights and my mums famous spag bol, but intolerances to food groups such as dairy, gluten, some sugars, spices, veggies, fruits means it makes eating on a day to day basis a pain rather than enjoyable. Social situations are hard, finding vegetables to eat that aren’t a trigger is hard, having to scan everything I eat on an IBS trigger food app before I eat it, only to see a big fat, annoying red sad face staring back at me telling me ‘it’s not suitable for your dietary requirement’s’ is really damn hard! I’m not intolerant to all these foods, but as people with IBS will know you have to go through a ‘restriction’ phase, and take all these food groups out of your diet to slowly reintroduce them, so you can figure out which food group triggers your IBS.
So this post is for anyone going through similar troubles – only recently discovered or for a long time, and hopefully if I run through what I’ve experienced then it might help, or my tips for eating with IBS may help you deal with them a bit better. And also, if you have any tips for me please comment below as I really need them!
How To Recognise Your Symptoms
Mine started back in November – I can’t actually believe it’s gone on so long/ slash if I’ve been having these issues for 3 months now and I am constantly on the loo why am I not skinny yet?? Jokes aside, I initially experienced these symptoms for the first time;
- Constant feeling of fullness (even though I hadn’t eaten)
- Constantly needing the toilet (number 2, soz)
- Waking up in the night with a sore belly
Now as you know, ya girl can eat, but the day the symptoms started I had only had a small lunch so I was so confused as to why my belly felt so weird. The next day I had a massive Sunday dinner and pudding bcos #christmasdiet so as the symptoms carried on the whole weekend I sort of thought I’d just eaten too much (shock). Given my diet usually consists of very nutritious, well-portioned and easily digestable food, it’s often normal for me to feel uncomfortable if I’ve had a weekend eating junk food/lots of food, so I made that excuse for it.
But the symptoms carried on, not only for 1 week but longer. I reduced my portion sizes thinking that my belly just couldn’t handle the extra yorkshire puds and my dad’s roasties that I thought my Christmas bod deserved, but it prevailed and was sooo uncomfortable with all of the above symptoms but worse. I was at work and had to go to the walk-in centre because I felt so nautious I thought I was going to faint! Which is notttt cool when you’re in a meeting with a client… My first general ‘diagnosis’ was from the lady at the walk in centre. She said that either I had bacteria or infection in my gut which is causing the vicious cycle of stomach cramping, bloating, toilet trips (not exaggerating, like 4/5+ trips in an afternoon) and then feeling nautious because of the amount of times going. It was a very confusing week but also the start to a very frustrating and confusing few months.
If you have the above symptoms, my first tip is to figure out;
- Is it something/symptoms you’re not usually aware of or had before?
- Have you eaten an abnormally large meal?
- Are you on your time of the month?
If any of the reasons above apply, it’s common to experience some of these symptoms. You may experience them for a few days or maybe a week, and then they should die down. However if they’re continuous, you know it’s not just your usual, common tummy issues. It’s not normal to feel uncomfortable for weeks on end – and you shouldn’t have to live with it. If you carry on experiencing these symptoms or similar, book an appointment with your doctor.
Getting Your Doctor To Listen
Now this seems so simple but can actually be a difficult task. After many back and forths with my local GP, I had one Doctor telling me I had IBS, another telling me it wasn’t and suggesting Chrones/Ulcerative Colitis instead which are Irritable Bowel Diseases, and then the hospital losing my samples so between the 4000 of us trying to figure out what is going on with my belly, I am currently still in the land of the unknown! I’ve heard many times that if you describe symptoms to your Doctor that are common (for example bloating), they might suggest you have something that is so popular – but if you’re worried that it might be something else, don’t hesitate to push them for more tests and results. It may well be the common thing they suggested but there’s nothing wrong with ruling out other things. Better safe than sorry!
The IBS Diet: What Can I Eat?
Those of you that are familiar with the IBS diet and ‘FODMAP’ as it’s most commonly known, will know how much of a ball-ache it is. I cannot be dealing with limiting my broccoli to half a cup?! Are you sure?! BUT, as much as I am a lover of my food, at the moment no Nutella covered pancakes or cheesy pepperoni pizza is worth the pain of a triggered IBS belly *cries*.
The beginning stage of the IBS diet – which is where I am at now – is the hardest. ‘The Restriction Phase’, otherwise known as the devil slash sucker of all fun, joy and happiness in life. It involves cutting out all food groups such as gluten, dairy, some sugars like fructose (so think cutting out some fruits, chocolates, sweets etc), some vegetables (can you guess my fave broccoli is one of them), grains, even sweet potato! Literally probably 98% of Sainsbury’s is unavailable to you for this stage of the diet. Can it get any worse..? You’re encouraged to do this stage for minimum 6-8 weeks before slowly reintroducing food groups back in, a little at a time, to see which group is a trigger for you. Everyone is different so fingers crossed mine isn’t gluten or dairy because all I want to do right now is stuff my face with Nutella pizza.
However hard this may sound, I have written my tips below to help you get through this stage. An IBS Survival Guide as you will…
- Make Lists Of Food Groups You CAN Eat, And Be Specific. I have a list of the veggies and fruits I can eat, along with other components that make up meals so that when it comes to dinner time I’m not faffing around, complaining about what I can’t eat. Stick the list on your fridge, or make one to take shopping so you know what you’re looking for at the shops.
- Google Recipes – it may seem like you can’t have a ‘nice’ meal out of the food groups you’re allowed, but I promise you can! I will write a separate post on my favourite low FODMAP IBS meals but in the meantime Google is your best friend – research other bloggers that are going through the same thing and see if you fancy any of their recipes.
- Stay POSITIVE – As much as it sucks right now, sticking with the diet will only be beneficial. You have to think that you won’t need to cut out all these foods forever – it is only temporary and it’s for a good reason to make you feel better and healthier!
- Grab A Friend – I know you don’t want to make them suffer, but if you’re in it together it’s always easier! My poor BF has said he’ll do the FODMAP diet with me whenever we’re eating together (literally every night but he offered so I will take it thenQ) but it means I’m not on my own and we still make delicious meals. We’re thinking of it as a cut for our holiday in a few weeks time…
I have never had this experience with food before and it can be frustrating and annoying not knowing what is causing you pain and that you have to cut food out, but there are ways to eat healthily and happy around it. Let me know if you have any similar symptoms and if you have any tips!
Love, L x