Finding Happiness with IBS

I have a great smile. My husband always says its my best quality and its why he fell in love with me. There are some days (like today) when I struggle to find happiness and use my best feature.

The depression of IBS can be very difficult to deal with, and I definitely have my bad days. Being a very social person, I like to go out, meet people and have a few drinks. It’s tough when you’re worried about your IBS symptoms getting in the way, as well as figuring out how you’re going to dine while on a restrictive diet. Plus, explaining to people why you brought your own food or why you’re not eating is not really great dinner conversation.

I am still in pain from celebrating my husband’s birthday two days ago by going to a Cubs game. I ate before we went and I had 3 Smirnoff Vodka drinks at the game. I passed on all the delicious baseball foods surrounding me. I still woke up yesterday with severe pain. It’s moments like this where its hard to not get depressed. I want to be able to go out and have fun. I want to be that happy girl with the great smile. I just want a normal life.

But that’s not the hand I was dealt. So what do I do when I am struggling to smile and find happiness? Besides some relaxation techniques and looking through some of my favorite personal photos, I refer to my Happy List. My Happy List contains things that I am thankful for and reasons why I should be happy. While I do have struggles, its a great reminder of how blessed I am.

My Happy List:

  • I have an awesome husband. He is my rock and truly my best friend. He makes me laugh and has been there for me throughout all my health issues. He’s learned how to cook within my diet restrictions and takes care of me when I am not feeling well.
  • I have a great family. While none of my family members live close, they’re just a phone call away. My parents were slow to catch on with the gluten free diet that I was on for years, but they finally understand how to incorporate me into family gatherings. My sisters understand me like no other and I can tell them anything.
  • I have 4 adorable nieces and nephews to dote on. Again, they don’t live close, but that’s what Skype is for. When I see them, they yell “Aunt Heather” and run to give me a big hug, and my heart just melts.
  • I have 3 handsome cats that are always ready to play or snuggle. It makes me feel very loved and needed.
  • I am living my dream by residing in an urban area. I grew up in a very small town with a population of 3,000 and 1 stoplight. While my childhood was great, cities always fascinated me and I always wanted to live without a car. It took me until I was 30 to do it, and it’s even better than I thought it could be.
  • We have great neighbors. We share a deck with them and they are the best. We share food, share stories and they take care of our kitties when we go out of town. We were very lucky to move into a building next to people that we have come to love like family.
  • I’ve had the same amazing friends for over 25 years. We grew up together and we always remained close. Even though we can go months and even years without seeing each other, we always pick up right where we left off.
  • Three of my four grandparents lived into their 90s. While they have all passed now, I have some great genes and was able to spend a long time with them while they were here. Also, I got bonus grandparents since both grandparents divorced and remarried before I was born. Having 8 grandparents growing up was a special treat.
  • I have a very stable job that allows me to work from home when my health gets in the way. When I do go in the office, I have a beautiful view of downtown from my desk. I am respected in my field and I have been promoted twice in the last year.
  • Recently I was reunited with my most prized possession, a stuffed pig I’ve had since I was a year old. The pig was in my luggage that was stolen 4 years ago, and after years of searching, my husband found me an identical replacement.
  • I have had the luxury of taking many vacations. I’ve been all over the US and to some tropical locations. My husband and I are also planning our dream vacation to Italy next Spring.
  • I graduated from college with a good GPA. I think this is a great accomplishment because I am not a good test taker. I tend to have a more creative mind that usually doesn’t fit into a true/false system.
  • I excelled as an athlete in grade school and high school. While I haven’t been active in sports in a long time, I have this on the list because I set some lofty goals for myself to attain before I graduated high school and I achieved them all. This reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to.
  • I live almost completely debt free. The only loan I haven’t paid off is the mortgage on our house. We don’t struggle to pay bills and can afford some nice things. However, winning the lottery would be nice, too!
  • The online community has been a big support to me and I find much happiness here. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in my struggles and have received some great advice on how to cope. Also, by being very open with my friends about my health, I have discovered that a few of them also have IBS and have the same daily battles.
  • I am surrounded by beauty. Even in the city, we have gorgeous flowers and awesome sunsets. There is amazing historic architecture that has a unique story to tell. I live 5 blocks from a huge park and less than a mile from the beach. There is beauty everywhere and I always remember what my Grandma would tell me… “Stop and smell the roses.”
  • The best day of my life was my wedding day. It’s a happiness I never felt before, not only because I was getting married, but knowing that 200 people were there to share in my joy. I had never felt so loved.

While this list may sound like bragging, its designed to look at the positives in my life rather than this looming big negative. It’s how I am continually finding happiness while dealing with the pain and frustration that comes with having IBS.

Do you have others ways of finding happiness with IBS? I would love to hear them, as well as some things that make you happy everyday.

Maintaining Happiness with IBS

Advertisements

My Personal IBS Journey… So Far

Like many people out there, I have struggled for years with the pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and other issues that come with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The hardest part for me is maintaining my happiness due to the pain and restrictions. This is a daily struggle and I mention in detail in my bio.

Heather's Personal IBS Journey

My IBS symptoms started slowly and at first, I would just chalk it up to being hungry. At that time, I was in diet mode trying to lose weight for my upcoming wedding, so my body was not used to the constant workouts or the light diet. However, after the wedding, I eased up on the dieting efforts and the pain, gas and bloating did not ease up with it. I tried some crazy dietary changes, none of which worked, and in the meantime I found that I was popping Imodium on a regular basis to manage the constant diarrhea.

Finally, I eliminated gluten from my diet on a whim and immediately felt better. I once said years ago that “I would die if I ever had to give up bread and pasta” which is now comical, because I feel like I would have died if I continued to eat it. It was a radical lifestyle change, and I had my share of meltdowns. Being in social situations and learning how to eat in restaurants was difficult. However, after about 8 months, which included every major holiday, I no longer craved bread or baked goods. I learned to cook things from scratch, handle social situations with ease and knew all the places in town where I could happily eat. I had a great regiment down and I felt very healthy and happy again.

A few months later, the pain started back up again. Knowing the issues people have with lactose, I immediately eliminated the large glass of milk I drank for breakfast and replaced it with a calcium pill. This solution was ideal and made me feel great again.

About one year later, the gas, bloating, abdominal pain and unpredictable diarrhea reared it’s ugly head with a vengeance. I finally took the steps to see a specialist about my issues. After the cat scan, endoscopy and colonoscopy, I was hopeful that I would finally get the answers I was looking for. Once the pain medication wore off, I heard my doctor declare that there was nothing wrong with me. While its great that I didn’t have a life threatening illness, this did not bring me any comfort. During a follow up appointment, he said I most likely have irritable bowel syndrome, which is unable to be detected through tests.

Since that “diagnosis,” I have tried a variety of medicines and treatments with little to no relief. I finally went to a Dietician, and she had me try the low FODMAP diet. It was overwhelming at first and I had a rough few days trying to change everything I knew about food. My love affair with garlic hit a rough patch. I feared that I would not be able to travel or eat out with the new restrictions. I scoured the internet for help and solutions. I spent 3 hours in my local grocery store reading every label possible (and found that garlic or onion is in everything). I tried (and failed) at modifying many recipes. Going gluten-free felt like a breeze compared to this!

After a few months, I am finally feeling like my happy self again. I have discovered what causes my IBS symptoms and learned to cook meals that are safe for me and delicious, as well. Garlic and I are taking our relationship to the next level. While I’m still early in my journey, I feel my experience is important to share because I want to help others that are experiencing the challenges that I faced. We’re in this together and we’ll get through it together!

Heather-Living-Happy-with-IBS

Tips to Soothe IBS Abdominal Pain Quickly

In the process of pinpointing what triggers your IBS symptoms, you’re probably going to experience some pain and suffering along the way. As I write this, I am recovering from an awful, sleepless night after waking up at 3:30am with severe abdominal pain and bloating, caused by 3 devilish chili cheese fries off a friends’ plate earlier in the night. It’s now 7:00pm and I am feeling better, yet not 100% recovered from the abdominal pain.

Is 24 hours of severe pain worth 3 chili cheese fries? Definitely not. I was thinking that my digestive system could handle the small amount of fat and spices in those fries, but I was terribly wrong. Lesson learned.

Soothing IBS Pain & Symptoms

So, what is my process to ease my IBS abdominal pain, bloating and gas when it flares up? Here are the steps I take:

  • Immediately take a peppermint oil capsule. Studies have shown that peppermint soothes cramps and eases abdominal pain within the digestive tract. There are a number of brands available on the market, but I prefer Heather’s Tummy Tamers.Heather's Tummy Tamers Peppermint Oil Capsules I usually take one every morning prior to eating, as well as before any meals that may be risky. You can also substitute peppermint tea instead of the capsules.
  • “Drink” a dose of Konsyl Natural Fiber.Konsyl Natural Fiber I use the word drink in quotations because it’s tough to choke down. It does not mix well with liquid because it absorbs the liquid instead, so the consistency is best described as lumpy. However, I have seen a large improvement in preventing my IBS pain since my doctor recommended this supplement, so it makes it worth it. If you try it, ensure you shake it vigorously (instead or stirring), which allows it to blend with the liquid much better. I take this twice a day, before breakfast and dinner, and mix it with Vitamin Water Zero,Vitamin Water Zero which improves the taste significantly.
  • Drink plenty of water. This is difficult at times because your body will feel very full, but water will help flush your digestive system quicker.
  • Use a heating pad. While there’s no studies that indicate a heating pad works as a treatment for abdominal pain, I feel it helps my comfort level when I am laying down trying to get some rest. I utilize this tactic most often when my IBS abdominal pain wakes me up in the middle of the night and I am trying to get back to sleep.
  • Do a little Yoga. Stretching out my body always helps relax my body and mind. It also helps to remove some excess gas at times. Some of my go-to moves are child pose, hare pose, spinal twists, sun salutation, wind freeing pose, half-cobra pose, and half-moon pose. I am also a huge fan of yogadownload.com, where you can have a subscription to do yoga right in your living room. If you’ve ever farted in a regular yoga class, you know how valuable this is!
  • Take your mind off the pain. For me, I am usually not in the mood to do anything too strenuous, so I usually take the opportunity to put my efforts into some light housework, cooking meals, or writing this blog. All of those items require me to think of other things besides my pain and it will lower my stress level, which can make pain worsen. The activity has to challenge my brain a little, so for example, this morning after I gave up on sleeping, I reorganized the pantry, washed the dishes, paid the monthly bills and packed away all my winter boots.
  • Eat smart. Most times, I am not hungry when abdominal pain strikes. However, it’s still important to fuel your body throughout the day. This is the time when you should rely heavily on your safe foods, such as brown rice or plain grilled chicken, and eat slowly in small quantities. Today, I enjoyed a small serving of my homemade mashed potatoes, a plain grilled chicken breast and some Glutino Gluten Free PretzelsLow FODMAP Foods.
  • Take a prescription pain reliever. For me, I don’t like to be heavily medicated on prescription drugs because the side effects reek havoc on my body. However, in severe IBS abdominal pain situations, I will take a prescription pain reliever. It eases the pain, but it does make me feel very light-headed and I have difficulty focusing and thinking clearly, which is a issue when I have to work. Since starting on the low FODMAP diet, I have limited this method to about 2-3 times a month.

What works well for my body may not be the ideal fit for you, so use my methods as you see fit. It took me a long time to get the method down, but now I feel a little more confident when my IBS symptoms make an appearance.

It’s much better to prevent IBS symptoms than to have to deal with them later, but as you learn what foods in what quantities your system can handle, it’s good to have a back-up plan.

IBS Abdominal Pain

Low FODMAP Foods to Enjoy

I have a love/hate relationship with food. I love to eat it, but my body hates me later for it. It took me a long time to figure out what foods cause my IBS symptoms to flare up and what I can eat happily with no pain later. But luckily with the low FODMAP diet, it made things a little more clear on certain foods and why they impact me in a negative way.

Not everyone is going to react to foods in the same way, so please use the high FODMAP food list and the low FODMAP food list as you see fit. For your convenience, I have listed them below and provided a printer friendly version. This low FODMAP food list was updated in April 2014.

Low FODMAP Food List:

Low FODMAP Foods to Enjoy

Fruit

  • Banana (not Ripe)
  • Blueberry
  • Cantaloupe
  • Coconut
  • Clementine
  • Cranberry
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Dragonfruit
  • Durian
  • Grape
  • Grapefruit*
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwifruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mandarin
  • Orange
  • Passion Fruit
  • Pawpaw
  • Pineapple
  • Pomegranate
  • Raspberry
  • Rhubarb
  • Rockmelon
  • Star Anise
  • Strawberry
  • Tangelo

Vegetables

  • Alfalfa
  • Arugula
  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Beets*
  • Bell Peppers
  • Bok Choy
  • Butternut Squash*
  • Carrot
  • Chives
  • Choko
  • Choy Sum
  • Corn*
  • Courgette
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Ginger
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Okra
  • Olives
  • Parsnip
  • Potato
  • Radish
  • Red Chili
  • Silver Beet
  • Spinach
  • Spring Onion (Green Part Only)
  • Squash
  • Swede
  • Sweet Corn*
  • Sweet Potato*
  • Taro
  • Tomato
  • Turnip
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Yam
  • Zucchini

Milk

  • Coconut Milk
  • Lactose Free Milk
  • Rice Milk

Cheese

  • Brie
  • Camembert
  • Cheddar
  • Feta
  • Mozzarella
  • Parmesan
  • Swiss
  • Hard Cheeses

Yogurt

  • Lactose Free Yogurt

Grains

  • Arrowroot
  • Gluten Free Oats
  • Gluten Free Pasta
  • Millet
  • Polenta
  • Psyllium
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Rice Bran
  • Sorgum
  • Tapioca

Protein

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Tofu

Nuts/Seeds

  • Chia Seeds*
  • Flax Seeds*
  • Hazelnuts*
  • Macadamia Nuts*
  • Peanuts*
  • Pecans*
  • Pine Nuts*
  • Pumpkin Seeds*
  • Sesame Seeds*
  • Sunflower Seeds*
  • Walnuts*

Sweeteners

  • Aspartame*
  • Glucose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Splenda*
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Treacle
  • Truvia

Alcohol

  • Beer
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Whisky
  • Wine: Red, White, Sparkling & Sweet

*Use in limited quantities.

For your convenience, here is a Printer Friendly Low FODMAP Food List (April 2014). I have also provided the following:

It’s extremely important to review the ingredients on any packaged foods prior to purchasing food. For example, while tomatoes are deemed safe, every tomato sauce on the market contains onions or garlic as an additive and many dressings, sauces, marinades, etc. are the same way. Also, manufacturers are always modifying their ingredients, so it’s important to review labels every time you purchase something.

If you’re looking for some quick items to buy and eat right away, please reference the Low FODMAP Brand Name Packaged Foods I have compiled. It’s ideal for the lazy in all of us! Also, I have provided my favorite low FODMAP items, which mirrors my weekly grocery list and tips on how to get flavor in your food, without the FODMAPs.

Please let me know if you think I may have missed anything on this list. Happy eating!

FODMAP Food List

The low FODMAP diet really helped ease my IBS symptoms of pain, bloating, gas and the occasional bout of diarrhea. The low FODMAP diet is designed to eliminate key IBS symptom triggers for a few weeks and slowly introduce them back into your diet to better understand what your body can handle and what you should continue to avoid.

When looking over the list of foods, it is initially very scary to see all the things that should be eliminated out of your diet. Many of the items are ingredients in commonly used products, such as salad dressings, pasta sauces and marinades, so it’s very important to read through all the ingredients when purchasing a product.

It’s also essential to know that new items are constantly being tested for FODMAPs, so the list is always changing as more is discovered. Beware of out-dated FODMAP lists that seem to be everywhere online. This high FODMAP list is based on all testing directly from Monash University and was updated in April 2014.

Below are the high FODMAP foods that should be avoided when on the diet. For your convenience, I have listed them below and provided printer friendly versions.

High FODMAP Food List (by Food Group):

High FODMAP Foods to Avoid by Food Group

Fruit

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Avocado
  • Banana (Ripe)
  • Blackberry
  • Boysenberry
  • Cherry
  • Dates
  • Longon
  • Lychee
  • Mango
  • Nashi
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Persimmon
  • Plum
  • Prune
  • Tamarillo
  • Watermelon
  • Concentrated Fruit Sources
  • Dried Fruit
  • Fruit Juice
  • Tinned Fruit in Natural Juice

Vegetables

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Leek
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion (All)
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Shallots
  • Spring Onion (White Part)
  • Snow Peas
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Sweet Corn

Dairy

  • Buttermilk
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cow Milk
  • Cream
  • Cream Cheese
  • Custard
  • Evaporated Milk
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • Goat Milk
  • Ice Cream
  • Lactose
  • Margarine
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Sheep Milk
  • Sherbet
  • Soft Unripe Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Yogurt

Legumes

  • Baked Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lentils
  • Soy Beans

Grains

  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Wheat

Nuts & Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios

Sweeteners

  • Fructose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Fruisana
  • Honey
  • Isomalt
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Molasses
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

Misc

  • Camomile Tea
  • Chicory
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Dandelion
  • Fennel Tea
  • Instant Coffee
  • Inulin

Alcohol

  • Rum
  • Low Glycemic Index Wine
  • Sticky Wine

For your convenience, here is a Printer Friendly High FODMAP Food List (April 2014). I have also provided the following:

Like I said, it’s overwhelming to read through that list and see some of your favorite foods on the list. For me, I am not a great chef, so the realization that I would have to make all my own sauces, dressings, dips, etc. was a lot to handle.

So… what can you eat? I’ve also outlined a helpful list of low FODMAP foods that are deemed safe, as well as a Sample Meal Plan and Brand Name Packaged Foods to eat. Also, I have provided my favorite low FODMAP items, which mirrors my weekly grocery list.

About the Low FODMAP Diet

After years of pain, gas and bloating, I found much relief after trying the low FODMAP diet. The low FODMAP diet is designed to eliminate key IBS symptom triggers for a few weeks and slowly introduce them back into your diet to better understand what your body can handle and what you should continue to avoid.

So, what is the low FODMAP diet? For starters, a group of scientists at Monash University (in Australia) have identified that short-chain carbohydrates, may be poorly absorbed by the small intestine, which causes IBS symptoms. These carbohydrates were given the acronym FODMAPs and refer to Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols. Not all carbohydrates are considered FODMAPs, so don’t worry about giving everything up just yet.

About the Low FODMAP Diet

The FODMAPs in the diet are:

  • Fructose is a carbohydrate found in many fruits, honey, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and agave syrup. Fructose malabsorption is not completely digested due to the lack of an enzyme, but the absorption of fructose is dependent on another carbohydrate, which is glucose. Therefore, foods with a 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose are generally well tolerated on the low FODMAP diet. However, foods with excess fructose compared with glucose, such as apples, pears, and mangos, will likely trigger IBS symptoms.
  • Lactose is the carbohydrate found in cow, sheep, and goat milk. Lactose intolerance is caused by partial or complete lack of the enzyme lactase which digests lactose. When lactose is not completely digested, it contributes to abdominal bloating, pain, gas and diarrhea, usually occurring 30 minutes to two hours following the consumption of milk products.Foods high in lactose include milk, ice cream, yogurt and cottage cheese.
  • Fructans are carbohydrates that are completely malabsorbed because the intestine lacks an enzyme to break their fructose bond. For this reason, fructans can contribute to bloating, gas and abdominal pain. Wheat accounts for the majority of people’s fructan intake, however it also occurs in onion, garlic and many other vegetables.
  • Galactans are carbohydrates are malabsorbed for the same reason as fructans, which is that the intestine does not have the enzyme needed to break them down. Consequently, galactans can contribute to gas, bloating and abdominal pain. Beans and lentils are the primary galactans.
  • Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols. They are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables and a added as artificial sweeteners to sugar-free gum, mints and cough drops. Sugar alcohols have varying effects on the bowel. It is wise to limit your artificial sweeteners that end in -ol, such as sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol and maltitol. Splenda and aspartame are deemed safe on this diet, but many people experience bowel issues with these sweeteners, as well.

It should be noted that the low FODMAP diet is it not only what you eat, but in what quantities. Many people with IBS cannot digest large meals due to the cramping and diarrhea it causes. Personally I can always tell when I ate too much, even with all low FODMAP foods. My system just can’t take a large quantity of food, so I eat 200-300 calorie meals about 6 times a day. Even if I dine out, I usually save half and take it home.

For your convenience, here is a complete High FODMAP food list, which outlines what foods should be eliminated on the diet. After you read that (and get freaked-out), here’s some additional information that you’ll want to read:

The way the diet was designed to work, is that you should do an elimination phase of 6-8 weeks and exclude all potentially harmful foods. After 6-8 weeks, you can slowly add one category back in at time to understand what is causing your IBS symptoms. Here’s detailed information on how to reintroduce FODMAPs back into your diet.

Great Low FODMAP Diet Resources:

the Low FODMAP Diet

I’m not going to sugar-coat it, the low FODMAP diet is difficult to incorporate into everyday life and I have had a few meltdowns to show for it. Luckily, I was already gluten and lactose free at the point I started it, but it was still very difficult for me to eliminate garlic and onions, which I miss everyday. However, I do not miss the pain that they cause me, so I can rest easy… literally.

I feel very strongly that this diet shouldn’t limit your life, it should limit your pain and discomfort to allow you to take on more adventures.

Want to Live Happy with IBS?

Featured

IBS Problems

So did I. For years, the pain, bloating, gas, and other issues that come with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) kept me from living a full life. It took me a very long time to pin-point some of my issues with food and other items with the low FODMAP diet, but once I did, I found I was able to live that life that I wanted. I’ve been there and I want this blog to be a resource to others who are suffering with all the discomforts that comes with IBS, as well as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). Know that you’re not alone.