My Bowels Are More Irritable Than Yours
I spend more time thinking about/fretting over/trying to do something about my bowel habits than anyone else I know. I do this because, quite frankly, my digestive system simply doesn’t work very well. If it’s working at all.
I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) back in college after suffering with more digestive issues than I care to list. Back then, it was also known as Spastic Colon, which sounds more like a high school punk band’s name than a legitimate medical condition. Not only is my colon spastic and my bowels irritable, they are downright furious.
The annoying thing about IBS is that there’s really no concrete cause, and no one way to treat it, other than to stop eating everything that tastes good. In my case, it’s no doubt caused by stress and anxiety. Whereas stress in other people causes back pain or nervous tics, my body deals with it by shutting down the intestinal tract. The fact that my diet isn’t always the healthiest no doubt contributes to the cramping, the bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
After suffering through a spring and summer of one digestive nightmare after another, I decided it was time to SERIOUSLY try to tackle this problem and fix it.
My plan was fourfold: One, stop eating gluten for a couple months. Gluten is a common cause of digestive problems in millions; while I don’t think I have any serious gluten issues like celiac disease, I figure cutting it out of my diet might help.
Step Two: STOP DRINKING DIET SODA. I drink pop. Lots of pop. I love pop so much. I drink diet soda because regular pop is loaded with calories and corn syrup, and I don’t need those things either. But what are all of those artificial sweeteners and preservatives doing to my insides? Again, it can’t hurt cutting way down on the soda pop intake. (I’ll never stop drinking pop altogether. A person needs some kind of vice in their life.)
Step Three: Natural Remedies. The internet is chock full of natural, healthy ways to heal one’s gut. So goodbye gluten and soda pop and processed foods, hello probiotics and kombucha and unsweetened yogurt and peppermint tea.
What have I learned in the last month? Mainly, everything that is good and delicious in this world probably has gluten in it. Second, and more importantly, I think my plan is working. I’m not bloated. I’m, ahem, more “regular” than I’ve been in quite awhile. I feel almost normal.
I’m planning on sticking with the gluten-free plan for another month or so. And when I say ‘gluten-free,’ I mean 90% gluten free. Beer has small amounts of gluten in it, and I haven’t given that up. I’ve cut way back on it, but beer is just too precious and important to my well-being to give up altogether. Most beers, from what I can gather online, contains such low levels of gluten that they can be called ‘gluten-free.’ The reason brewers don’t label their beers as such, in my opinion, are to avoid lawsuits from celiac sufferers, and also so they can market (higher-priced) true gluten free beers made from non-wheat ingredients like rice and sorghum.
I will at some point slowly add gluten products back into my diet and see what happens. Why? Well, like I said, gluten makes food taste better. Second, the gluten-free food market is crowded with ridiculously over-priced, ridiculously not tasty food products. When I say over-priced, I mean six bucks for a miniature loaf of GF bread made from rice powder or potatoes or some other ingredient that doesn’t belong in anything with the word ‘bread’ in it. I’m hoping that with moderation, I’ll be able to enjoy bread (REAL bread, made with wheat, not sawdust), pizza, etc…. without too many problems.
As I get older, the fact that it’s going to be increasingly important for me to eat right becomes more and more clear. Luckily, the last month has shown me that not only is this possible, it’s also not as bad as I once thought it would be. With the help of my improved diet, regular exercise and plenty of sleep, starting today, I am officially upgrading my Bowel Syndrome from ‘Irritable’ to merely ‘Disagreeable.’ It’s not perfect, but it’s a definite improvement.