A man sits looking defeated on the couch with his head in his hands, surrounding him are eaten through containers of food.

Addiction and IBS

Ever heard the theory that we crave food and drink we are allergic to? My research found that there is a scientific explanation for this and a method to control it. That said, it didn’t really fit my situation. I’m pretty sure I’m not allergic to any food group or drink.

Eating and drinking too much

My problem is that I love everything I eat and drink and want to down them in excessive amounts! To my mind, these cravings seem to better fit addiction.

I wasn’t always like this. As a kid, I was all about activity. Whether summer, fall, winter, or spring, I was outside running races, biking, turning cartwheels, sledding, ice-skating, and walking uptown to buy candy. I had three well-balanced meals every day. Not a picky eater, I ate the vegetables, fruit, meat, and starch that Mom gave us.

Quitting an addiction

I am now 66 and spent the last year losing the 27 extra pounds I’d gained after quitting smoking, plus an additional 13. I smoked over a period of 40 years, going from an occasional light smoker to a pack a day, then to 2 packs a day.

I was SO addicted that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to quit. It took 5 years to find a method that helped me finally kick the habit, and then STAY quit. I was so heavily addicted that quitting was very, very hard. I am very proud of having done so. I count it as one of my major life achievements. But that wasn’t quite the end of it.

Filling the void

After the fact, it is easy to see why I gained weight. Quitting smoking left a big void, which I promptly filled with food. Still an addict, I simply changed the substance I was abusing. And that’s not the only substitute I used to fill the void.

In January 2018, 2 months after turning 60, I decided it would be nice to have a Scotch in the evening. I got turned on to Scotch 20 years ago by a jazz pianist I dated that year. He had me try Dewar’s, a blended Scotch, then various single malts. And let me tell you, it was love at first sip. Odd, because until that moment, I was never a fan of alcohol, preferring coffee as my liquid drug of choice. As a young adult, I preferred sobriety while many of my peers dabbled in street drugs and alcohol.

But at age 45, as soon as Scotch whiskey passed my lips, it opened up something in me. Not right away though. I didn’t get into it regularly back then, in 2003. Fifteen years would pass before it suddenly took hold at age 60. But, why?

Alcohol craving took told of me

When I say it took hold, I mean it really hooked its claws in me. One Scotch a night soon became two, then three, and sometimes more. I liked how it tasted, and how it made me feel. Several years prior to this, I’d become prone to having loops of thoughts that I found hard to quiet, especially at bedtime. A couple of Scotches would quiet those thoughts and relax me.

Naturally, I wanted to experience that feeling night after night, find the sweet spot. And that’s why one Scotch became 2, then 3. The 4th Scotch never improved on the feeling that the 3rd gave me, so I settled on 3, with exceptions. I started buying much cheaper Scotch to support my habit.

Now, if that ain’t a diary of addictive behavior, I don’t know what is!

Addiction and IBS

In 2023, I took stock of all this. Look the devil in the eye, you might say. I lost 40 pounds, and with that, gained better control of my IBS. A mostly vegetarian diet brought me back to IBS-C. I eat a diet like that of a rabbit. Consequently, my poop is like theirs too. A diet rich in fiber worsens my constipation. And I drink a ton of water every day. So “eat more fiber, drink more water” doesn’t improve my elimination. I’m pretty sure some of you can relate to this.

And alcohol? Last year, I switched from Scotch to brandy. It is a slightly healthier choice. Scotch is made from fermented barley, while brandy is made from wine. So I enjoy all the health benefits of drinking wine. I drink 2 brandies every evening. I also put a splash of Triple Sec in my morning coffee. The cost of switching added just a few dollars to my budget.

Keeping on track

I try to keep myself honest. I confessed all of this to my primary care physician. I shared these thoughts with him: “Am I dependent on alcohol? I’d say yes. Am I an alcoholic? I don’t know.” He put alcohol dependency in my chart notes. I’m good with that.

I also fessed up to my boyfriend. If I drink more than what I’ve described, I tell him. He doesn’t criticize or judge me. He reminds me of all I’ve accomplished over the past year and encourages me to continue to take care of myself.

Bottom line: My food addiction brought on IBS-D with incontinence. Reducing the amounts and adding more veg pushed me into IBS-C. Alcohol doesn’t seem to affect my IBS.

Now it’s your turn. I would love to hear from my fellow addicts who have IBS!

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