Woman's clothes are split in two - one darker side with pain strikes emanating from her body, and the other brighter side holding a free weight near a sun.

How I Unwittingly Changed My IBS-D to IBS-C

You know how it feels when you’ve been trying to solve a problem for a whole year, and then you do something different for another reason entirely—and that something turns out to be the solution? I love when that happens. It did indeed happen.

From constipation to diarrhea

I’ve written a few articles over the past year or so lamenting a sudden change in my bowel habits. I was diagnosed in August 2016 with IBS-C, struggling to empty my bowel by taking frequent doses of Miralax and drinking Senna tea. But in January 2018, my bowel did a 180 and began spewing explosive diarrhea instead, much to my horror and confusion. That doesn’t even really describe it. The spontaneous combustion of my bowel coupled with confusion has inspired me to create a new word: confustion. Yes, that about covers it—with a thin layer of nasty, courtesy of my rectum.

After crapping on my living room carpet and cleaning up after myself—no small deed as I am medically retired with multiple sclerosis and live with many disabilities—I changed my treatment from laxatives to antidiarrheals such as taking Imodium pills or eating a generous amount of pasta. Both things plug me up equally well, but Imodium does so without the added calories. Problem was, it only delayed diarrhea for a day or two. As soon as the bowel started moving again, solid stools vacated first followed by three bouts of looser and looser stools, knocking me right back to diarrhea again. What happened back in January 2018 when diarrhea commenced? What did I do differently?

Why did my constipation turn to diarrhea?

I did not change my diet when constipation morphed into diarrhea. From January 2018 to February 2019—living more than a year with diarrhea—I concluded that what I was eating was not the problem. I still maintain that opinion despite the push from the pop brigade of conventional medicine experts and social media patient experts to blame particular foods, or a lack of fiber, or a case of SIBO, or various other of the differential diagnoses. The fact that I didn’t change my diet is my main source of evidence that it isn’t what I’m eating. And now, the first week of March, 2019, my bowel has morphed again in the opposite direction. Diarrhea has flown the coop and constipation has come back to roost. Once again, I did not change my diet. But something is different this time around: I know what caused the change.

From diarrhea back to constipation

In December 2018 I finished a physical therapy order two weeks early. Intense sciatica and lumbar stenosis caused so much pain that I couldn’t stay on my feet for more than five minutes. What’s more, I’d become sedentary from the weakness my MS symptoms and back problems and my muscles were atrophying. I needed to get stronger. Physical therapy turned me around. I made a commitment to buy a membership and keep exercising and stretching the way my PTs had taught me. I also committed to cutting my calories. I had gained 27 pounds from 2016 through 2018--and therein lies the revelation.

After doing some online research I decided to do intermittent fasting by eating 600 calories a day for a brief interval to both incorporate a generally healthy lifestyle and kick start the weight loss. At the same time, I pushed myself to exercise 30 minutes a day, three days a week on the Nustep. At age 61, I knew my metabolism was at an all-time low and exercise was the best way to increase it. Little did I know that cutting my calories was also the answer to changing my bowel habits.

It happened immediately. The day after I started eating 600 calories, my bowel fell silent. The day after that, it was still silent so I drank Senna tea. Now I only empty my bowel every two days. The stools are solid logs and normal color.

So what did I learn?

Back in January 2018 when diarrhea reared its ugly, uh, rear, I had started eating more, too much for my delicate digestion. I rapidly gained weight along with managing diarrhea. All I needed to do was cut my portions in half. But I’d forgotten something. Hindsight is so useful, heh-heh. I’d turned 60 just before January 2018. That is significant because I tend to gain at least 10 pounds every decade and thus face the grim task of cutting calories every ten years.

This time, however, I added more calories. The result was diarrhea and a boost into obesity. My plan is to spend 2019 establishing a lifelong exercise routine and losing the 27 pounds I gained. And constipation? Frankly, I’d rather manage that than be afraid to leave the house under the threat of crapping myself in public. For me, it’s a worthy trade-off.

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