I’ve mentioned in videos before that I suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). While this can mean different things to different people with the same diagnosis, the general similarities include abdominal issues ranging from mild discomfort to debilitating pain, possible bloating, and issues with digestive functioning (that last bit was my best attempt at not getting overly graphic, if you get my drift). There’s no known cause for this condition and it’s certainly not a one size fits all diagnosis. I’ve always referred to my IBS symptoms as my “stummy,” which evolved as an abbreviation of “sick tummy.” Whenever my IBS kicks up, I refer to it as the return of the “stummy.” I guess I like having my own names for things. I’ve received many questions about my experience with IBS and how I deal with it, so I thought I would address it properly in a blog post.
I saw a nutritionist and integrative medicine doctor team a few years ago before my official diagnosis to try to find possible triggers for my stummy problems as well as my anxiety issues. I’ve always known that these two go hand in hand and I spent a good year and a half working diligently with the nutritionist/doctor team through bloodwork results and other tests, different supplemental regimens, and every kind of nutrition restriction diet under the sun in an attempt to sort my body out. There was even one three month period where I could basically only eat about five different kinds of food! I tried gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and sugar free diets, some more than once and many at the same time. They all yielded the same results; not only did my stummy problems persist, but I was very unhappy about the whole thing. You don’t realize how much enjoyment and satisfaction food can give you until you have to do without some of your personal staples, especially the healthy ones you rely on every day. Some of the supplements the team had me on made me feel like I was on an emotional rollercoaster and not in the good way! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of seeing a doctor before starting a supplement regimen. They can be just as powerful as prescription medicine in some cases, so it’s a good idea to be under a physician’s care when trying out new supplements.
I’ve never been a big fan of going to the doctor (which is an anxiety trigger for me) and I generally have to be feeling pretty miserable to take that leap. At the end of my rope, I caved and finally went to see a gastrointerologist about three years ago after a good eight years or so of increasingly bad stummy problems. That’s when I was diagnosed with IBS. The doctor didn’t prescibe me anything for it or give me much real advice in terms of what to or not to eat since I had already thoroughly exhausted that route. Somehow, just having the actual diagnosis did a lot all on its own in setting me on the right path towards a happier day-to-day life in my body. I left the nutritionist/doctor team, cut down my supplements to the basic daily vitamins and minerals I thought were most important, and decided not to focus so much on the whole thing for a little while. This mindset took the pressure off and helped me feel a bit better right away. Sometimes it helps just to take a step back.
It was also around this time that I discovered the Tone It Up girls on YouTube when looking for some new at home workout routines. This led me to purchase their Nutrition Plan, which I read and followed closely. Within a few months I was feeling leaps and bounds better and had learned some valuable nutritional information that helped with my stummy issues. In terms of food, I seem to be able to process most kinds just fine if I pay particular attention to the timing of when I eat what during the day as well as food type combinations. This is a trial and error process, even after a couple of years, but it’s definitely worked much better for me than anything I tried previously.
It’s become increasingly clear especially over the last year that stress is the number one trigger for my stummy. Sometimes it seems like it doesn’t really matter at all what or when I eat; if I am stressed enough I will experience stummy problems regardless. My particular symptoms tend to settle on major bloating and mild to extreme discomfort or pain. Sometimes they can last for days on end without reprieve. I’ve been taking extra care in the past couple of years to focus more on my anxiety and stress and identify triggers for those. Seeing a therapist on a weekly basis is helping me learn how to better communicate with myself and with others. I’m learning what I need to feel my best emotionally, which in turn helps me to feel my best physically. I know I need to be active, both physically and mentally, every day to be happy. It’s important to honor the busy bee in me as idleness feeds my anxiety. I also know, however, that it’s important for me to carve out some time every day to relax and chill out for anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes. My favorite way to do this is to take a long bath with a nice cup of tea, a good book, or catching up on my YouTube subscriptions.
Being on YouTube and other social media platforms where I can interact with others has created a unique opportunity for me to be myself without the anxiety of being in a person-to-person type setting (another big anxiety trigger for me). The fact that so many of you accept me just as I am is slowly but surely making me more confident to be comfortable in my own skin in my personal life. Your continued support and encouragement is an incredible gift to me and I am truly grateful for all of you.
My experience with IBS is an ongoing one and something I will probably have to deal with or at least be very aware of for my entire life. If you too suffer from stummy problems, I would encourage you to seek advice from a medical professional. I do believe that western medicine can only get us so far and much of the process of finding relief is to learn about your own body. No one knows you and your body better than you do. Getting advice from many sources is helpful in forging your own path. Ultimately, you must learn for yourself what works and what doesn’t work for you. Be patient with and kind to yourself. There’s no better medicine out there!