Dealing with IBS and More
I’ve had IBS for several years and have learned, for the most part through trial and error, what works for me and also what I need to avoid to keep my symptoms from interrupting my life too much. However, IBS is only one of the health challenges that I deal with.
Team of other health challenges
Some of the other members of my “health challenges” team include hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. Those are pretty much under control now, too, with medication and supplements, although the adrenal fatigue is quick to reassert itself if I push myself too much or overdo things. Depression has been a frequent visitor to the team, although it can disappear for long stretches. Depression likes to jump back in when things get tough, or just randomly reappear to make sure I haven’t forgotten.
One of the newest members of the team is fibromyalgia. I can’t say I was thrilled with its appearance, although none of these team members are exactly invited guests. I’m still in the stages of learning how to roll with fibromyalgia, but perhaps due to my experiences with the other team members, I’m a quick study. IBS, adrenal fatigue, and hypothyroidism have all taught me the value of listening to my body, as well as not pushing my body to do more than it currently has the resources for. Those lessons have been helpful as I navigate my relationship with fibro. And while the triggers for some of these conditions can be similar, like emotional stress, others are new and different. I learned after slipping and falling this winter that injury can trigger a fibro flare. The initial pain from the fall spread through my body, “lighting up” many places of pain that weren’t involved in the injury at all.
Managing multiple health challenges
I was talking to someone the other day – someone who does not live with chronic health challenges – and he was speaking about how accomplishing any goal, even a health goal like losing weight, is simple: it’s just about deciding to do it and taking the necessary actions each day to make it happen. I’m happy for that person, that they have that ease and satisfaction of achieving their goals and managing their health in that manner.
However, it’s not so easy for all of us. Managing your health takes on a new meaning when you are juggling chronic conditions.
For example, I, too, would like to lose a bit of weight. I know that it’s important to manage my intake of calories and increase my expenditure of calories. I’m pretty careful about what I eat already, as IBS and food intolerances have taught me, but when I want to lose weight, I’m even more careful about portion control and limiting high calorie foods, especially those that aren’t nutritious (like sweets). However, I can’t limit my intake of food too much. I don’t do well with fasting for any length of time, and I can’t just eat salads, as too many raw vegetables can trigger my IBS symptoms.
I also try to amp up my exercise. However, too much exercise causes an incredible amount of pain as the fibromyalgia starts screaming in my body. As someone who once participated in triathlons, it’s surprisingly little that I can do now. And while I’ve also learned that staying too still makes fibro worse, it doesn’t take much to be too much. Also, every day is different. Some days, I can go for a walk and do a yoga class. Other days, I may only be able to tolerate a little stretching and gentle Tai Chi movements.
At the end of the day, I care less about my weight than I do about the level of comfort in my body. In some ways, living with chronic health conditions has made me an expert – at least the expert in what it’s like to live in my body. In other ways, I’m still a student, as I continue to learn what works for me and what doesn’t. My overall health and well being may be more complicated than someone who doesn’t deal with chronic health conditions, but I’ve learned enough to recognize when simple, even well-intentioned, one-size-fits-all advice doesn’t fit me.