IBS Management

Again, none of this should be considered actual medical advice, but I thought you might be interested in what IBS management looks like for me.

Symptoms: I have IBS-D, which stands for diarrhea. There is also IBS-C (constipation) and IBS-M (mixed, or pain dominant). I really hate talking about poop, and if my mother knew I was blogging about this she would fall over dead, but what this basically means is that my digestive system is over-sensitive and when something sets it off, it goes a little crazy. I used to have periods of a few weeks to a few months where things were normal and then a few days or weeks of IBS, but as I got older, the periods of normal got shorter and the periods of IBS symptoms got longer. I usually wake up with stomach pain that gets somewhat better, or doesn’t, later in the day.

Medicine and supplements: First thing in the morning I take a pro-biotic (I like PB8 vegetarian capsules because they’re gelatin- and gluten-free).  What has helped me a lot is a soluble fiber supplement. I like Heather’s, which you can find at www.helpforibs.com. I take the fiber with lots of water twice a day. I also like Heather’s peppermint oil caplets which help with symptoms when I’m having an attack. Traditional Medicinals Peppermint Tea helps, too. Finally, I keep Immodium around. I HATE to use it because I’ve found it only puts off symptoms, so taking one today means I’ll feel worse tomorrow, but if I really need to go somewhere and I’m having problems, it’s good too have.

What I eat (and don’t): I follow a (mostly) vegan diet. I’ve been vegetarian for 18 years and I was a strict vegan for about five. Red meat and dairy are major IBS triggers – eliminating dairy was the first thing that made me feel better way back in 2007 when I started trying to fix my stomach. I’ve also found that eliminating gluten has really helped with my symptoms, even though I tested negative for gluten allergies last year. It’s different for everyone, which is what makes an IBS diagnosis so overwhelming at first. Other common triggers are caffeine, carbonated anything and alcohol. At this point, when I am managing my diet well and taking fiber twice a day, I can tolerate a drink or two with no problem. More than that, or drinking multiple times in one week, can set me off.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about IBS management is that there are two (2) kinds of fiber in the world: soluble and insoluble. When I was first diagnosed, the GI I saw advised me to keep a “fiber diary” and make sure I was eating 25 grams per day. I tried that and made myself a lot sicker for a while. Turns out, insoluble fiber (wheat bran, greens, lentils…) is really hard to digest and a common trigger for IBS. Soluble fiber is where it’s at – I try to include a gluten-free soluble fiber with every meal. Rice, potatoes and quinoa are my staples. More info on fiber and diet can be found here: http://www.helpforibs.com/diet/fiber1.asp

Mom’s advice: Be patient with yourself. I often have to remind myself of this when I really want to go somewhere or do something and my stomach is acting crazy. Stress and anxiety trigger IBS, so when I am nervous about something (or someone) I often find myself in an anxiety spiral where the anxiety makes me sick and then the sickness makes me more anxious. I don’t have a reliable way of dealing with the anxiety yet, so remembering that health comes first and I can always reschedule plans is important.

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