My experience with IBS was like being a prisoner in my own body and slave to my digestive system 24/7.
After the birth of our 3rd son, the emergency hysterectomy and physical/emotional healing came a 2 year period of debilitating Irritable Bowel Syndrome. At times it was so severe. I absolutely convinced I was dying and I felt on lots of occasions this was the end of the road and my sons would be without a mother and my husband without his wife. It sounds strong but that is how bad it got.
My personal experience with IBS was like somebody had hold of my intestines and was squeezing them and ringing them out like a dishcloth. Like the feeling you get after a stomach bug when your tummy is so sore and tight. I felt like this on a scale of mild to severe for over 2 years, on a daily basis.
It feels like you have mild toxic shock on a permanent basis, like a hangover, but every single day. You feel tired and like you are walking through mud. Mild headaches, severe bloating and muscles that feel like lead weights.
I always had to be close to a toilet and (apologies for the detail here) but loose stools on average 6 times per day and constant flatulence. As you can imagine – it was very socially debilitating. It took away my freedom and social confidence.
Whether the cause is physical or a reaction to the physical symptoms, it affects you mentally, you feel down, tired and at times depressed and completely lost and confused at what is happening to your body.
Frequent doctors appointments and trips to the hospital for scans and tests showed nothing (which starts to make you feel like you are making it all up and it’s all in your mind). I was offered anti-spasmodic and anti-depressant medication.
I remember saying to my (VERY patient) husband, I felt like I was going mad.
I have always been of the notion that if your body is in pain or showing signs of illness, it’s either due to something you are putting into your body which doesn’t agree with it, your gut microbiome is imbalanced or it is lacking in something like a particular nutrient.
For anyone who has ever done an elimination diet, you will know how hard it is, from all the many foods you eat, to find out which foods your body does not agree with. Sometimes the physical reaction can come 24 hours after eating the culprit food so it’s not as easy as eating something, waiting 10 mins and seeing how your body reacts! It wasn’t helped by the fact that I felt ill, to some degree, all the time so it was a case of what made me feel less or more ill!
My body was also not in it’s the best shape, I had undergone an emergency C-section, an 8-pint blood transfusion, an emergency hysterectomy, physical healing from the operation, a concoction of intravenous and oral medication, emotional stress and rehabilitation.
I didn’t know if it was the stress, the food, the hormonal changes from the birth or the hysterectomy! Where did I even begin if the doctors could not tell me what was wrong?!
After the doctor ruled out several causes and 1.5 years of trying to identify what could be the issue, it was concluded it was IBS and again I was offered the solution of medication. I refused the offer and continued to take matters into my own hands, pursuing the line of thinking that I must find out what was causing all this imbalance in my body. It felt like setting out alone, on a hike, in the jungle, without a map or compass!
I booked myself in for a Bioresonance test which is a non-invasive test by placing an electrode on the end of your finger and measuring your physical reaction to a list of common foods. I tested positive to having a reaction to barley, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, oranges and mushrooms. I also had a reaction to all dairy and sugar. I was told to add a digestive enzyme and a good quality probiotic to my diet and a slow-release B-vitamin supplement and kelp as I was also low in B-vitamins and iodine.
I left the appointment that day feeling armed at last with something I could use to maybe make a positive change and free myself of all this pain and worry. I took action straight away and even enrolled myself on a Nutrition Diploma which I did from home for the following 12 months.
In the months which followed, I honestly felt like a new person. I felt free, my body felt light and I remembered for the first time in over 2 years what it was like to not have stomach pains, being able to leave the house for more than a few hours without needing the toilet, no more toxic smelling flatulence (sorry again for the detail!).
I realised that those foods on my intolerance list were ones I had been eating frequently around the time of the birth and the time which followed it. My body, or more specifically, my gut and microbiome (gut bacterial population) simply could not digest these foods sufficiently and saw them as being harmful or poisonous to my body. They were literally fermenting in my gut, causing all the bloating and wind and foul-smelling flatulence.
The only way to overcome this problem was by omitting these foods and repopulating my gut bacteria.
It took some time of course, I’d had 2 years of literally wearing away my gut, I was concerned about Leaky Gut Syndrome – a condition where the epithelial membrane (the protective layer) of the gut wall is worn away and allows for food particles to get through the wall directly in to the bloodstream and causing havoc for the body.
The above experience was in 2009-2012. I still have IBS flare-ups from time to time if I, unsuspectingly, eat any of the foods on my intolerance list – barley being the only remaining worst offender! I get immediate symptoms – tiredness, body feeling heavy, headache, negative emotions, loose stools, flatulence and they last for a few days. Those days are a reminder of how I use to feel every single day and I simply don’t know how I got through it! Minute by minute I suppose….
I must mention that IBS is a personal experience for all who suffer from it. The cause of it can differ from person to person, the triggers and symptoms can also differ, as does the severity of the symptoms and how people deal with it. Stress is a huge trigger for me, just as much as the food intolerances. Stress is felt right in the gut, it affects your gut bacteria population which has an effect on your hormones and emotional state. Freeing yourself of the foods which cause physical symptoms should be as important as limiting stress. This whole journey has brought me to understand, and practice, the use of breathing and meditation to control stress in my life. This has been an incredibly important part of my healing and will continue to be forever.
If you suffer from IBS or any digestive issues, firstly, my heart goes out to you because it can be a lonely, worrying, painful and sad time. But it’s not something you have to deal with which is out of your control! It is controllable once you understand what it is that triggers it. Give your body time to heal – it wants to do that and strives to do that every second of every day! But it’s like falling on your knee and grazing it, not putting a plaster on and falling on that part of your knee every day – how can it heal?! If you eat the same food which is causing your gut pain, getting stressed and continuing this every day – how can your gut heal?! Listen to your body – it is speaking to you – it’s showing you signs but you need to listen and treat your body with care. Find out what it is that is harming your body and remove it, find out what is missing from your diet, what nutrients you might be deficient in, use this information to act on and begin the healing.
I never thought I’d feel amazing again, but I do. At age 42 I feel fitter and happier than I did 20 years ago!
I hope the story of my experience has helped somebody. You are not alone but only YOU can make the difference – be conscious of the foods you eat, what your mind thinks and how much your body moves and you will feel the benefit and feel amazing too 😊