A glass filled with half milkshake, half smoothie. To the left of the milkshake half are vintage drawings of a cake cone and a sugar cone, both with ice cream in them. To the right of the smoothie side is a more modern drawing of a smoothie in a plastic cup and smoothie in a bowl.

A Smoothie for My Stomach When Nothing Else Works

A few years ago, my digestive upset – especially in relation to my reflux – hit a peak and it seemed my stomach was ALWAYS upset. No matter what I ate, it was in distress. Of course, I needed to have some sustenance and so I started experimenting with smoothies and shakes as a supplement to my diet, to tame my tummy aches and give me some nutrition and bulk to my calorie intake.

I should start by offering the background information that as a child I virtually lived on milkshakes.

My grandmother had one of those old-fashioned malted-making machines you see in old-timey shows and movies behind drug store diner counters (when drug stores used to have those). And virtually every day, she made me a milkshake once in the morning with breakfast and once at night an hour or so after dinner. She made it with real, whole-fat milk and ice cream. I loved "black-and-white" milkshakes, which were comprised of vanilla ice cream with chocolate powder or syrup. This continued from the time I was around eight till I left for college at nearly 18.

My college experience with IBS

In college, I didn't have access to this kind of luxury, so other than maybe a bi-weekly purchase of a similar (but not as good!) kind of frappe or shake at a diner or cafe or Carvel's, I went without. But by mid-college, I developed IBS and suffice it to say, rich milkshakes didn't agree with me so much anymore. That didn't stop me from trying every now and again. Usually, I would regret the decision as I would be hit with an IBS flare shortly afterward and need a bathroom. For a short time in my mid-20s, I lived near an ice cream parlor that had low-fat ice cream and used only skim milk in their milkshakes and I found that that usually didn't cause the same upset, especially if I took a Lactaid tablet beforehand. Yet, I still didn't make it a habit, but a rare treat.

Experimenting with smoothie recipes

Fast forward to a few years back, and I had a blender and decided it couldn't hurt to try making a new kind of shake or smoothie. This one didn't include any animal milk whatsoever, but either rice or almond milk (and always organic) as its base, and banana (a fairly-friendly IBS food). I sometimes added in low or fat-free organic yogurt (and sometimes a vegan, soy-free yogurt instead of a dairy-based one), a little bit of avocado (but just a little, since the fat, if overdone, can be an IBS trigger despite it being a healthy fat) or peanut butter. I also added ginger since that can help quell nausea, and sometimes just a pinch of slippery elm (which is an emollient that can coat the stomach and benefit both GERD and IBS). I found this helped me when not much else was, so for a few weeks, I had these smoothies almost daily. I called them my "stomach shakes." Eventually, my flare died down and I weaned myself off these shakes.

Looking ahead

But sometimes I think to go back to them, even just once or twice a week, as a kind of maintenance routine and to add some more calories to my diet in a safe way (since it's difficult for me to put on and keep on weight). As for regular ice cream, I have found that an occasional ice cream cone of just one *small* (I make sure to insist it's a small helping at the counter) scoop usually is fairly benign as long as I stick with some of the "safer" flavors (that means NO chocolate or coffee ice cream).

Are there any smoothies or shakes you make at home to help you with your tummy troubles? What are the ingredients? Please feel free to share your recipes below!

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