Anyone who knows me knows that I eat very… intentionally.
Not quite as many people know why, though.
Just a warning, I’m going to get a little gross here. If you’re a runner, you’ll probably be fine with it because we are a repulsive subspecies who know our bodies way too well. If you’ve got similar tummy troubles, you’ll probably relate to it so hard, you’ll find yourself muttering “YES. THAT.” repeatedly at your computer screen, just like I do every time Ali on the Run writes about her struggles with Crohn’s.
Back in high school, I ate whatever I wanted. Then, right before college, I was diagnosed with- and cured of- thyroid cancer (I’ll write another whole post on the no-thyroid life soon enough), and my digestive system got super sensitive. I chalked it up to just an undesirable side effect of surviving cancer and dealt with it until I started teaching and running after college.
You know what’s not okay when you’re a special education teacher? Running out of your classroom to have a bathroom emergency several times a day. Sometimes several times an hour. Sometimes more times than I could count.
You know what makes you kind of hate running? Having to go from fast-food-place bathroom to fast-food-place bathroom every time you attempt to jog. The trots are a real thing, and most runners experience them at some point. But it was nearly every run for a while for me. I became dependent on Imodium, and it was the only thing that got me training and completing my first two halves.
You know what else is the worst? Being in constant pain. Feeling embarrassed all the damn time.
So, I went to a gastroenterologist. I definitively had all the symptoms of IBS, and blood tests showed that I had several of the markers consistent with IIBD. I’ve haven’t experienced any very severe IBD flare-ups with vomiting or significant bleeding; I’m lucky in that way. But my doctor still recommended that I make some pretty big changes to my diet.
My GI doc recommended the FODMAPS diet, and it worked well for me. FODMAPS recommends removing gluten from your diet, limiting dairy, and avoiding a number of other delicious but literally gut-wrenching foods such as onions, broccoli, garlic, spinach, and legumes. Sugar alcohols, found in artificially sweetened foods, are also limited on the FODMAPS plan. It’s really just a very specific elimination diet, in the end. FOODMAPS helped me figure out what my specific triggers are, for the most part (gluten, sweeteners, and broccoli, I’m looking at you) and now I just avoid them.
Pinpointing my triggers changed my life, and I’m not even being dramatic. It is definitely annoying being that gluten free person at the restaurant table or at the office holiday party. I hate sipping seltzer at a beer-only barbecue, and I miss being able to casually add a calorie-free packet of Splenda to my coffee without a second thought. But it’s worth it for me. It’s worth it to have some control over my life.
I still have bad weeks. I still experience mild flare-ups at least three times a year, usually more. They last a week or two and I sometimes have to go back to the most restrictive version of the FODMAPS diet in order to get back on track. Tummy troubles are a part of my life, and I am so, so lucky that mine are fairly mild.
If your own tummy troubles have brought you to my page, please, please, please go see a GI doctor! They can help you! Limiting your life because of intestinal issues is just silly. Don’t be scared, don’t be embarrassed, just give your doctor a call and trust that your reality is one that can be improved by the amazingness of modern medicine.