Yoga!

I am a yoga no0b, but I felt pretty good about these poses today! Yoga really helps my stomach, maybe not for a long time, but I definitely notice that when I’m practicing I’m almost pain free. Makes me want to literally do yoga all day every day!

While practicing, through trying to allow the mind to quieten, I discovered some positive thoughts which were hiding: Even though the low FODMAP diet hasn’t really been working for me, I have stuck to it day in and day out, through chronic stomach pains and the worst headache I’ve had for a very long time. Okay, so, I had a couple of pieces of toast when I was really down, but overall it’s been a solid effort on my part. I am proud of myself for that.

I stuck to this god-awful diet for three weeks and now I feel like I can do anything. So, while practicing, I made the decision that the next thing I’m going to try is going refined sugar free, and couple this with more yoga classes. I have a good feeling about it helping!

Namaste

M x

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Acupuncture and Other New Thoughts

Three quarters of the way through! It’s been a bizarre few weeks and I can safely say I have not had any success with this diet (yet). No miracle cures for me, apparently! I’m now unsure if I should stay on it for an extra week or so to see if it just needs time to settle. At the same time, I am craving avocado on toast SO BAD. With margarine and salt and pepper. Get in me. #drool.

A few people have mentioned to me how much change they’ve noticed with their digestive systems since eliminating sugar from their diet, and while I don’t know how I would cope without processed peanut butter, I am contemplating giving this a go, maybe once I’ve recovered from this!

I am also considering going on a yoga binge, and maybe taking it up at Flow Hot Yoga here in my home town. 6.15am hot yoga classes every day for a week or two? Might give my stomach a kick up the butt that it needs!

In terms of a biomedicine diagnosis, my most recent tests for parasites in my gut came back clean. I am waiting on more test results this week, this time bloods to check my liver and kidneys, and another calprotectin test which will tell me if there is inflammation in my gut, which would be indicative of Crohn’s. That would probably lead on to a colonoscopy etc to determine if my symptoms fit more closely with Crohn’s, as it’s been a year since I was tested for it. Obviously, I’m not too keen on going down that road! So unless my calprotectin levels are considerably higher than last time, I think I’ll be leaving that one!

This week I also hit up acupuncture for the first time. I went to the doctor that my brother regularly sees and my bro came with me too, to give me some support. It was so scary, so bizarre, and ultimately helpful in a subtle but noticeable way – not a miracle cure, but I’ve felt some changes in the way my stomach feels after eating, and it’s also been gurgling which it hasn’t done for a long time! I’m really looking forward to going again and observing the changes as they happen. I had four pins: three in my feet, and one in my wrist. The wrist one was extremely painful, I was sure I’d lost the ability to use my hand! But my stomach started gurgling away while I was lying there (screaming and crying) and I’ve been in just a little bit less pain since then. Amazing!

It can be such a frustrating illness because I don’t know what’s causing all the pain, I really don’t think it’s what I eat and that thought has been backed up now that I’ve been on FODMAPs for three weeks and I’m in the same amount of pain/trouble that I was in beforehand. It’s frustrating because it’s fickle and unpredictable and hard to explain to people because they’re likely to tell me what they think I should or shouldn’t be eating, and good on them, I’d probably do the same! And it’s frustrating because it’s looking more and more likely that I’m not really nearing the end of this, that this is just the start of my journey towards a pain free life, and that is just so hard to accept.  I don’t want to spend my 20s in pain all day every day and end up missing out on fun stuff because of the pain and the inconvenience. Thinking about that is scary! And sad! And lots of other things.

So here’s to trying to remain positive in the face of adversity.

Cheers for reading,

M x

“Take care of yourself!” and other confusing instructions

I had a break-down last night. Full on hysterical crying, pounding headache, stomach pains the worst I’ve had in weeks, and associated digestive problems. Lay on the couch with a cold cloth on my head, crying, for about an hour.

I reacted badly to the bread recipe I put up on here. I don’t recommend it anymore! The good thing about making it though was that my reaction to it was severe enough for me to contact my nutritionist, who said she didn’t think eating gluten was a good idea right now anyway, and also my doctor’s office. They’ve said they will run some more tests for me next week, specifically looking for parasites.

Once I cheered up a bit last night I managed to get to a dinner with some friends from the department at Uni. Obviously I couldn’t eat any of the food there, but I’m so glad I went. They’re such great people, and nearly all of them said to me “Take care of yourself, okay?”

It’s such a lovely thing for people to say but today I didn’t really know what that meant. Taking care of myself, to me, is always associated with things like exercising, eating well, getting my assignments done on time, and so forth. But last night and this morning, with a bad headache and stomach cramps, any uni work I would do would be worthless, and I don’t want to do it anyway!

So, what does taking care of myself mean today?

Staying in bed late. Eating two-ingredient pancakes. Watching Netflix. Using my favourite body-wash in the shower. Doing some yoga. Texting my boyfriend. Giving myself a break from study and refusing to feel guilty about that. Watching YouTube. Trying to convince myself that this diet, my internship, my masters, and my life in general isn’t going to fall apart completely.

Although my stomach is still sore, my headache is mostly gone and I’m feeling much happier now. This diet is a million times harder than I thought it would be.

Onwards and upwards,

M x

How has it only been four days?????

Sorry this blog is a bit of a downer! I’m trying to remain grateful and positive.

So we’re four days into a fully exclusive low FODMAP diet.

The biggest struggle at the moment is hunger at 4ish in the afternoon. Lunches are the hardest meal, as I pack them because I’m at uni all day, and I just don’t seem to be able to get enough food! I have been eating more protein, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Last week I made a giant quiche and froze portions of it (before I was “officially” on the diet!). This week I’ve been making salads and chucking in some chicken – I have a beef mince patty with a salad for tomorrow. And my low FODMAP blueberry muffins are a lifesaver for my sweet tooth!

As of yet I haven’t had any resolve from my symptoms. Still living with a pretty consistent stomach ache, which is especially prevalent in the morning. Still living with irregular bowel movements, and I think my concentration is affected slightly. On the upside, I think I’m less bloated than before, and I haven’t had any disruption to my sleep – which can happen, I’ve heard. If my symptoms are still consistent by the weekend I’m going to get in contact with my nutritionist and talk about what other foods could be a potential problem.

I am starting to doubt that there really is going to be an end to this, and that is scary and upsetting. The pain is manageable, sure, and I know there are people out there who are suffering so much worse than I am, and I feel for them. But I am tired of having chronic pain, and of not knowing what the cause is. I realised today I don’t actually remember what it means to not have a stomach-ache, so I don’t even know if I’ll recognise it should it happen. What if it isn’t actually sore right now, and I just think it is? What if none of this is actually real and I am just imagining that I have this problem? I could drive myself mad. The joys of an invisible illness.

I want to be completely honest on here, because I want to share my true experiences with my future self and with anyone else who’s battling this stupid syndrome. I’m scared. I’m in pain, and I don’t completely trust that this is going to work.

In saying that, I’m grateful for the support of my friends and family – my step dad made a special dinner just for me tonight that was very carefully low-FODMAP! And so many people constantly saying encouraging things and sharing their experiences. Hell, it’s only been four days! What am I even moaning about? She’ll be right!

I go to yoga once a week and my yoga teacher often slips this into class; it helps me get through the day.

Look forward. Breathe. 

One day at a time.

Thanks for reading 🙂

M x

Nutritionist Appointment

My first one! It was a weird combination of a counselling appointment and a doctor’s appointment. I went to Bek Parry at Positively Nourished, and seriously recommend her.

We talked about the symptoms from which I’ve been suffering for the last 15 months, and she told me it’s likely my villi, which are tiny tiny projections of the wall of the intestine that increase surface area and help absorb nutrients, are severely damaged. This makes so much sense! Malabsorption of micro-nutrients could be compounding the problems I have with digestion. It’s also likely I could have had a parasite initially which would have explained why I had food poisoning for such a long time. That is both fascinating and gross!

We talked about how I respond to stress, and I said I’ve been much less stressed since leaving drama school even though my masters degree is a lot more work, the stress is a different type of stress, and it’s one I seem to be able to handle a little better. How I was feeling overall came up too: I’d not really thought about how the gut can affect all parts of the body and mind, right from a sore tummy, to headaches, to eczema, to anxiety or a depression.  It’s an amazing organ and one that needs our respect and love.

In order to help my gut heal, she has suggested some supplements to take which will give the villi some strength. I will also be officially taking on a complete, exclusive FODMAP diet for four weeks.

I’ll be using the Monash University FODMAP app as a guide. I’m eliminating broccoli for a week, as broccoli can be a trigger food for some people! I’ll be upping my meat intake, which is a bit dah because I was eating a pretty vegetarian dominated diet. The FODMAP diet excludes legumes, which is a high source of protein for a vegetarian. Protein also includes amino acids which help heal the gut. I’m really just trying to make this as easy as possible for myself and that means adding some more meat and eggs to my diet. Gut comes first.

I’m feeling pretty good about diving into this. I don’t know how much more inconvenient this diet will be than having a permanent stomach ache! My stomach has been a bit sore over the last two days so hopefully it fades away over the next week, and then fingers crossed I can start getting some more understanding about what is actually up with my body. I’ve also noticed just over the last week since cutting out a few high FODMAP foods like onion, garlic and wheat, that emotionally I feel a bit richer. It’s exciting to think about how much of an affect this could have on my being. Analysing how I’m feeling and really listening to my body will encourage a more present and conscious mindset. But, it does mean I can’t keep feeding my chocolate addiction (presumably that’s actually a good thing!).

I’m excited!

M x

Hello!

This journey started for me in April 2014 when I went to A&E after not recovering from a pretty not-nice food poisoning. Before that point I always thought myself lucky to be one of those blessed people to never worry about what or how much I was eating – I remember eating entire packets of biscuits and never getting a stomach ache! Now, however, I almost constantly have a sore tum, and it seems that everything I eat is the wrong thing and sends me into cramps and spasms. 

After eliminating Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis as explanations for what’s wrong with my gut, I feel like the medical personnel I was seeing just gave up, putting it down to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). They gave me some supplements and sent me on my not-that-merry way.

So I have spent the last year plodding away with a bad stomach, trying to work out what works and what doesn’t, without going full out no FODMAP, or gluten free, or whatever. It always seemed to me that everything I ate was wrong, and it seemed to get worse if I ate at certain times or left it too long between eating. There’s also a sort of social pressure when it comes to this sort of illness, people thinking they’re doing the right thing questioning what I eat and when, which was hurtful and confusing when I was suffering something I didn’t understand. I blamed myself for eating the wrong things even though I had no idea what my body was doing, and even things that were apparently good for me to eat would give me troubles. So even though I know that I don’t have it that bad, my life overall hasn’t had to stop… this still isn’t pleasant. It is confusing, frustrating, and upsetting. So now that I’ve been dealing with it for a year without any signs of getting better, I’ve booked in with a nutritionist to discuss going no/low-FODMAP.

I guess the question I have been asking myself is why has it taken me so long to get to this point? The answer is that a low FODMAP diet seems scary. I had a friend at drama school who was on it and he hated the damn thing (his symptoms were a lot worse than mine). I love going out for meals with my friends, family, and boyfriend, so the thought of being in the position where that would be difficult or impossible is frightening. Plus it’s massively inconvenient. Do you know how many things have garlic and onion in them? Try EVERYTHING. Bye, canned tomato paste! Bye, my newly discovered recipe for delicious walnut and garlic crackers!

But now I have realized that actually, having a perpetual stomach ache is pretty inconvenient too. A low FODMAP diet is generally a fixed term arrangement – six to eight weeks in most cases I believe. There might not be an ‘end’ to this IBS debacle – but there might be a method of dealing with the symptoms.

This is a space for me to share recipes but also my experiences on the diet and if it helps or hinders my journey back to some form of normality in my stomach. I’d love to hear from anyone who has been on low FODMAP and for anyone who is starting out or thinking about starting out, hopefully my experiences will shed some light for you. And at some point I’ll write about what FODMAPs are, for those who don’t know!

I’m meeting with a nutritionist at the end of the week, so until then, cheers for having a read!

M