I can't recall a time in my life when I didn't have at least some stomach trouble. It mostly would arrive in the form of bloating, and extreme gas. There were times when it would become a little better. Sometimes, it would be mostly gone for a few days. Lately, it has been intolerable. I am constantly bloated, full feeling, gassy, and not able to go to the bathroom. I exercise quite a bit, and make a huge effort to be healthy. I really educate myself quite a bit about what that means, and do what most would call clean eating. The issue is the cleaner, and healthier I eat the worse I feel. This sent me to trying a juice fast earlier this week in an attempt to try to clean out my system, and give it a rest. I was desperate. Willing to try anything.
I got so very sick.
This is where I really began Googling, and asking questions. I came to the conclusion through lots of research
that what I likely have is Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So many things make sense now. The way I was attempting eat to more healthily was almost the opposite of what I should eat for my system to function properly. No wonder I was having such a hard time! I can't tell you how frustrating it is to exercise, eat well, and still be miserable, and have a distended tummy that begs to wear an elastic waistband all day long. The harder I worked at getting in shape the more my body rebelled.
So, I went to my page, and asked questions to my readers. I got info, and links. I did my research the way the autistic lady I am does. I poured over sites, and am still doing so. I need to be careful, because I have a habit of collecting info for extended periods of time, because I love learning, but then putting practically none of it to use. I am an information hoarder by nature.
With a discerning eye, I came to some conclusions about some of the things I read. Some common patterns on all the sites, and of course a ton of conflicting info. I tend to be able to easily store info, and retreat it when I see it connect to a pattern of sensical, connected information.
What I saw was that I was doing everything wrong. I was totally backwards. The more I tried the worse my diet became for an IBS sufferer.
I was eating a ton of insoluble fiber. I almost never eat white flour based items. I try to go whole wheat all the way. I even try to make as much stuff homemade as possible so that I can use whole wheat flour as much as I can handle the flavor. I eat lots, and lots of broccoli, cabbage, and onion. Green peppers, and cheese...I just love the combo of flavor. Did I mention beans? Yes, I try to not eat so much meat, so I have been beaning everything. Vegetable oil is poor for health, so I try to use butter, and olive oil as much as I can. I've been trying to cut out fructose corn syrup, so I have been exchanging as much as possible with honey. Lots of nuts mixed with fresh fruits for a well rounded snack have been what my staples are like. All of those things are excellent ways to be healthier. Unless, you have IBS that is.
So, here comes the tricky part. Do I go to a bland restrictive diet, and maybe add back things one at a time after several weeks? I admit that might be a good way to go, but I'm just not that on board yet. I love way too many trigger foods. Since everyone is different, there is no way that the entire list is going to affect every person with IBS. What I am doing is a multifaceted approach that I have gathered though lots of research, and of course experience with my own body. I will outline some general guidelines that I am changing step by step.
Step One: Journaling.
I am keeping track of every food I eat, and how I feel all day every day. This is a crucial step in being able to track progress, and identify some of the common foods that upset my stomach.
Step Two: Smaller portions.
I already know from experience that eating smaller portions of food is way, way easier on my stomach. This is very hard to do. I'm not an over-eater by any stretch. I just don't like to stop eating before I feel satiated. I am able to achieve smaller portions best by keeping a calorie count on an app. I enter what I eat, and it tells me how many calories I have left to consume for the day, and still make my weight goal. This puts things in perspective quickly. I aim to eat 3 smallish size meals a day and 3 decent snacks. I have to be attentive, or else those numbers add up quickly. Being mindful of portions is an excellent way for me to ease my stomach.
Step Three: Eat a non-soluble small sized portion of food before eating meals, and snacks.
This might be a piece of bread, or a banana. Maybe some rice, or applesauce. I have just began this diet, and haven't been to the store yet, so I am starting with what I have on hand, which is mostly tortillas and starchy crackers such as graham, and Ritz. Probably not the greatest choice of soluble fiber, but it is better than nothing to ease my digestive track before I eat.
Step Four: Drink more water.
More water, less everything else. Coffee is supposed to be removed from the diet period. I am not ready for the challenge at this time, so I have compromised with myself. I get 1/2 to 1 cup in the morning with a couple crackers. I hate eating crackers as soon as I wake up. It's about as appetizing as eating cardboard, but I hate the idea of not having coffee even more. I am hoping this will appease my stomach enough to allow me to have my beloved coffee.
Here's the other kicker, I love seltzer water. I have been drinking a ton of it, and carbonated beverages are a major trigger for IBS symptoms, so no more of that. Not only no more that, but no more alcohol, either! I add vodka to my seltzer water often in the evening. No more of that for the time being.
Step Five: Eat starchy foods before other foods.
This isn't so hard. I don't like white bread, and I am going to need to start baking it, because one isn't really supposed to be getting bread from the store for this diet, but it's what I have available at this moment, so I'm doing it. Like I said above, crackers, tortillas, potatoes, and rice. All the things I was not eating before. Weird, but doable.
Step Six: No dairy.
This isn't always necessary for all IBS sufferers, but I know for a fact that most dairy bothers me. I think once my gut calms down I will be able to add back a few things when combined with soluble fiber, but until that happens no dairy for me. I hate, hate, hate soy. It's the most disgusting thing on the planet for me, and I don't like rice milk, either so this is going to be a bit challenging. I also don't know what to use in place of butter. I'm still experimenting, and researching.
Step Seven: Low Fat
This is not terribly hard to do, either. It's not easy, but not as hard as no coffee, chocolate, alcohol, or cheese! I am still not sure what to replace butter with yet. I can't eat toast with no butter, or make a lot of foods, and baked products with no oil at all. Still, I am giving up greasy foods for the time being. I do know they bother my stomach. They're one of those things that I can eat sometimes, but not when I am already having a hard time digesting things.
I think that might be about it for now. I thought that due to the fact that many people on the spectrum have tummy issues that might be the same as mine it would be a helpful thing to share, especially since so much of my previous health, and diet advice is opposite of this. Of course, it still stands if you don' have IBS.
Comments are welcome, but please try to understand that your advice may not work for me. The only rule I have to leaving comments on this entry is to please be respectful of my own process to health, and no getting butthurt if I don't want to take your advice.
Wish me luck!