Community Manager Spotlight: I Have IBS, Too
My name is Samantha, but you can call me Sam. I’m one of the community managers for IrritableBowelSyndrome.net. I joined the team more than 2 years ago, but I have lived with the condition since my early 20s and was diagnosed in 2012. It seemed like it was a good time to do what all of you do every day – share my story.
My IBS in 2019
In 2019, I found that anything I put into my body sent me running to the bathroom less than 20 minutes after chewing. I started to feel defeated (and depleted), so I went to a gastroenterologist for the first time in 7 years. Looking back, I feel lucky that I went that long without seeing one.
My gastroenterologist was trying to determine why I was having mystery pain in my lower right abdominal area after the gynecologist ruled out anything related to my cycle or ovaries. As many of you know, some women diagnosed with IBS actually live with endometriosis. I was my best advocate and took all the right steps, but no one could explain that mystery pain. (And no one has to this day.)
My gastroenterologist ordered a colonoscopy (the second one for me) and an endoscopy. Everything came back normal – the procedures, my bloodwork (except some iron-deficient anemia), and even extra imaging like ultrasound and MRI to rule out any other possible abnormalities. But I did not feel normal ...until I eliminated almost everything from my diet.
Identifying my trigger foods
At the start of summer 2019, I was in the process of reintroducing trigger foods, having wrapped up the elimination phase on the low FODMAP diet. I did this under the supervision of a registered dietitian.
Since then, I have had my ups and downs, but I discovered my triggers for the first time:
- Greasy foods
- Fructose (honey, agave, sugary drinks, etc.)
- Lactose (knew this for years, though)
- Cauliflower and Brussel sprouts
- Seeds and nuts
- High fiber
- Any beverage with carbonation
- Coffee and black tea
- Most yogurts (except coconut milk-based ones)
- Soy and most yummy sauces
- High sodium foods
- Heavily processed foods like deli meat
You get the point. Everything sent me running to the toilet. While most people are sensitive to garlic and onion, I have found that I can enjoy small portions of both. But it gets more finicky than that – garlic powder is fine, but garlic cloves or minced garlic is not. Coconut-based yogurts are fine, but full-fat coconut milk as a cooking ingredient is a big no-no! Meanwhile, I cannot stomach bananas unless they're still a bit green. If they're too yellow or overripe, they lead to cramps.
My IBS this summer
All was fine until the start of this summer. I decided to test my body’s limits and get homemade ice cream at the local custard stand. There was no bloating, pain, or urgency. The same happened after ordering queso at the local taco place. I went to a barbecue, had a hot dog, and drank beer with no pain and bowel movement. What was happening?
I was wondering why the number on the scale kept creeping up despite my exercise routine. Do I indulge in sweets and take-out food? Sure, I do. But, this felt different. When I went to my primary doctor for an embarrassing, painful hemorrhoid, I admitted I could not remember the last time I moved my bowels. This comes from someone who used to do it multiple times per day with no strain or issue.
I suddenly realized that my mostly diarrhea-dominant IBS had now switched to something I’d never dealt with before: constipation.
Treatments and looking ahead
Of course, just as quickly as my situation changed to IBS-C, it swung back to IBS-D before I could get in to see my gastroenterologist. So I’m here to tell you that the flip-flop of symptoms has become a new challenge for me personally. It is frustrating, exhausting, and it isn't easy to wrap my head around how to eat, what to drink, and when. I’m on this journey with you. I will see you in the community.
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?