IBS and Gluten Free Experience

Over the years I’ve continuously had digestive problems, whether it be extreme bloating, and even worse… (sorry, but that’s too personal).  Last year was the tipping point for me, because I was beyond stressed with school, life, and eating unreasonably unhealthy. My digestive problems were completely out of wack!

I did make a doctors appointment, and I was essentially diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I decided not to see a specialist (bad idea, but that will be resolved). Instead I began researching ways to improve the symptoms of IBS. The main triggers I found were: stress, lack of exercise, not drinking enough water, eating quickly, lack of fiber or too much fiber (I was guilty of all). So, I started making changes. I began to drink more water, I took up exercising here and there, I tried to implement more fiber into my diet, and most importantly I stopped worrying and stressing out so much.

My “attacks” (attacks-strong stomach cramps proceeding strong bowel movements, vs no bowel movement for days) became fewer and farther between, however they did still occur and I still had issues of bloating, and irregular bowel movements (to say the least). I began to pay closer attention to my body, and it still wasn’t satisfied or at ease. Of course, I still wasn’t eating healthy (skipping meals, eating big meals, in the evenings mostly, mostly pizza).

I began having conversations about these problems with my parents, and that’s when my dad reminded me of my aunts (that were tested and diagnosed with Celiac Disease). I did even more research and found that it is hereditary, and the symptoms connected to many frustrations that I’ve had over the years. My dad also never realized how many of the symptoms he has, and how similar his digestive problems were to mine.

After all of this, I strongly considered removing Gluten from my diet. Still, I only cut out a few things and the difference wasn’t significant. Until one day while at work I had an “attack”! Luckily, for the most part my “attacks” have occurred while at home, or conveniently so that I can get home quickly. Unfortunately, this particular time I couldn’t leave work. That experience was the last straw!

The next day I began cutting out all foods that contained Gluten, and did even more research on what foods may contain it that are not obvious: bread, cake, cookies, and tortillas. I almost went the whole week without any Gluten, and finally I felt a change in my body. The one thing that stood out the most is how light and not bloated I felt (I get irritable when I’m bloated too). I actually didn’t miss my beloved pizza (and well anything that had bread).

Then came the weekend…

First of all, I’ve NEVER been a picky eater, and I was raised that it was rude to be picky about food. So, switching to a Gluten Free diet has not been easy, and explaining what Gluten is and why I choose not to eat it isn’t any easier. I decided for the weekend I would eat as I did before, including eating Gluten. I ate bread for breakfast, and soy sauce with sushi (though I had no idea soy sauce had Gluten) for dinner on Saturday. Sunday morning I could not move! The stomach cramps were so awful, and as usual a strong bowel movement followed. I spent almost the whole day laying around feeling miserable. Later on Sunday, I ate at Red Lobster and gave in to the garlic biscuits, and shrimp pasta! Again, about the day after the same thing happened. That’s when I knew I had to stick to no Gluten, and that going Gluten Free wasn’t “all in my head”.

The only time I eat out is on the weekends, so for the most part I eat meals made at home. So, there wasn’t too much pressure (besides the fact that my family doesn’t prioritize eating healthy for many reasons). The few times I did go out between when I changed my diet and now, I tried to eat mostly salads. Things were going fairly well, but that didn’t last long.

Struggles with Gluten Free (For IBS and Sensitivity)

As I mentioned already, I am uncomfortable with being picky with food. For the most part restaurants have meals that don’t contain Gluten, but when they don’t it’s frustrating to ask them to remove a the particular food that does contain Gluten. Searching the menu is also a bit frustrating. Sometimes a “restaurant” may not have a full meal that is Gluten Free (like Pizza Hut, carry out), so I’ve had to get sides instead.

Probably worse, is to ask a friend, family member, or acquaintance to modify a meal to not include Gluten. I’m definitely not one to expect someone to consider my diet, but I don’t want to be rude and not eat either.

Which brings up another struggle…not everyone has heard of Gluten (and I don’t expect that they should). If they don’t even know what it is, it’s obvious that they don’t understand it either. It’s not the simplest thing to explain to someone without going into a few details, so sometimes it’s not ideal to even try (if time is an issue). More than anything it’s all internal frustrations, and not a frustration with others.

With not understanding Gluten and it’s causes, there comes the idea that the symptoms aren’t “real” or that it’s like any other “diet”.

I’ve already heard the following plenty of times since going Gluten Free: “Just cheat a little.” “A little won’t hurt.” “You’re being paranoid.” “It’s all in your head.”

When actually the symptoms are very real, even the slightest amount causes symptoms, it’s not like a typical “diet” in which “cheating” is an option (unless I plan to deal with the symptoms). Also, I know for a fact that I’m not being paranoid or imagining the symptoms, because so many things have changed (as I mentioned above, plus a few others: more energy, more attentive, less aches and pains, and even nail growth).

In all honestly, it is a bit offensive when I’m told those things. I haven’t been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or even a sensitivity, but I have IBS, and going Gluten Free has helped so much (FODMAPs diet helps IBS and wheat, barley, and rye are exclusions of that diet too). Just like with any other syndrome or disease, feelings can be hurt if others tease or take the situation lightly.

My advice is just to be considerate…you never know what another person may be struggling with, in any instance. Be supportive of those you love and know. There’s no reason to tease or be rude to someone if they are clearly being polite about a situation (asking to exclude a portion of a meal, or trying to explain their issues).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating healthier, taking care of oneself, being more conscious of what foods are being consumed, and taking notice of how they affect our bodies.

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