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No pattern or order to my digestive distress - help!

Emily T

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So I know you are not doctors but I have been to many over the past year with little or no assistance at all. If you have the patience to read through my story/history, I would welcome any thoughts on what my problem is. 


I have always had a bit of IBS - diarrhea and abdominal cramping, particularly when I ate rich food or high-fat food  (greasy fast food, cream-based soups, greasy take-out, etc). 


I did my first paleo eating experiment last summer (June/July 2012) in response to what I believed was candida overgrowth - bloating, weight gain, fatigue, and fungal nail infections. These symptoms came after a particularly long course of antibiotics and one month of daily swimming in a chlorinated pool (which apparently can trigger candida outbreak). It helped a lot, especially when I went off of birth control pills. By around October, I was back to feeling 100%. I slid back into my old eating habits, but not 100% (I never ate bread or pasta or beer, but plenty of artificial sweeteners, chocolate, alcohol). 


Around May 2013 my bloating and digestive problems came back. Bloating, gassiness, weight gain, fatigue. It was at this time I started swimming again. I quit swimming and did a whole30 in mid-July 2013, hoping that would help get my digestion back on track. While I saw many, many benefits, my digestion did not significantly improve. I was still gassy and bloated but it did not seem to be in response to anything. I would go 3-4 days without a BM, and then suddenly have very bad diarrhea. Or I would have to strain heavily to make a BM. There was no consistency in the issues that I was having.


I tried supplementing with enzymes (slightly less gas at times, but then it seemed to stop working after two days), probiotic foods (lots of terrible stomach cramps or no effect), bone broth (I have no idea if this helped, but it did not hurt), peppermint oil (sometimes it would help me make a BM, sometimes not), natural calm (worked wonders for sleep, but it never helped me go to the bathroom). 


After my whole30 earlier this year, My digestive problems continued - sometimes gassy, sometimes bloated, but no longer constipated. However, I struggled with reintroduction, mostly drinking too much alcohol. I decided to try another whole30, with slight modifications to help me learn moderation and ease more slowly into off-roading. (My full food diary is here: http://forum.whole9life.com/topic/14423-whole30-20-moderation-management/) I have been doing pretty well. Losing weight, feeling better, feeling improvements, and going to the bathroom daily (for the first time in MONTHS). I still experience a good deal of gas and bloating at random times though - again, not in response to any particular foods (for example, I had horrible foul gas after eating green beans and chicken, but I ate them both the next day with no problems). 


So now, on day 18, I have not had a BM since last Thursday. I am so bloated, gassy, and backed up. I feel crampy, cranky, and terrible. All of my food just sits in my belly. I have severe abdominal distension and I am REALLY uncomfortable. I have not changed my eating patterns at all. It just seems so random. 


On top of all of that, I randomly seem to have allergic reactions. My eyes are puffy and nose is stuffy seemingly at random. I cannot pinpoint anything causing this. 


Overall I am mentally at the end of my rope here. I feel like I keep trying and experimenting and cannot identify the cause of my problems. Some days are good, some days are bad, and there is no pattern as far as I can tell. Would love any suggestions or guidance.

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Hi Emily - this sounds like something you've been dealing with for a long time. My first thought was "are you chronically stressed or worried?". This can play havoc with your digestion, and may be why you react to some foods randomly. (Even stressing over what you're eating and worrying about whether you're going to react will have a negative impact!)

Have you also tried eliminating certain foods like FODMAPs, or nightshades?

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Yes, try eliminating FODMAPS (broccoli, brussel sprouts, onions) I found that they were the cause of 90% of my IBS symptoms. Also, you said you tried digestive enzymes, did you try adding HCL as well? Many people who have IBS or other digestive issues have low stomach acid and this means you can't digest food properly (especially proteins) and that can cause a lot of problems.


I know from experience that not having a healthy gut can be really depressing. And it will take awhile to recover. You have to try to at least stick to a program for a few months to see if that will help. I can tolerate chocolate, but I will not use any artificial sweeteners and I limit alcohol. I do eat a lot of starchy veggies, butternut squash and sweet potatoes, since I can't tolerate a lot of green veggies. I try to baby my gut. I don't use any nightshades or really spicy foods.


Keep doing the probiotics and bone broth, that is really good for you. I have read that constipation is caused by not having enough good bacteria in your colon. If you can tolerate fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha) that could really help you. I also take Magnesium Glycinate and that and the probiotics really helped me out when I had bad constipation.

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I appreciate both of your suggestions/comments!!!


Amberino, I have long struggled with anxiety and depression, but these (amazingly) lessened with the whole30. But you are exactly right that my digestion is now stressing me out considerably. When it comes down to it, I know I need to just bite the bullet and try giving up FODMAPs and if that does not work, then nightshades, but I honestly find that thought to be so incredibly daunting and stressful. I look at the lists of food that I'd have to give up - healthy, whole foods, which I LOVE - and I get so discouraged. How am I supposed to give up APPLES? Or onions?


I feel like there is this tension here between my physical and mental well-being. The level of mental stress caused by having to give up a huge number of my favorite foods, and having to home prepare every meal, and having to plan and think ahead about food EVERY.SINGLE.SECOND, and having to make separate different meals at the holidays so I can eat something (all the while the whole family is like "oh have some broccoli, its not bad for you"). Its been hard enough giving up alcohol and chocolate. 


Anyway, I know plenty of you have had to go through this as well so I should not complain! Sometimes a girl just needs to vent about her IBS. 

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