Starvation and Malnutrition: Side Effects of Uncontrolled IBS
Last updated: June 2023
Hi. My name is Amy, and I am starving. I am always starving. The only way I get to eat is if I get to stay home. If I had it my way, I would never leave home again because I am sick of starving. Quite honestly, I feel like I am starving to the point of making myself sick. As it turns out, I am. I know I am not the only one, so let’s talk about the side effects of IBS that we do not discuss often enough –starvation and malnutrition.
If you are like me, leaving home means you must fast if you do not want to have an accident in public. Frankly, I would prefer to never have an accident anywhere, but that would mean I would have to literally starve myself to death. Not eating at all is the only surefire way to avoid an accident. Since living requires eating, that is not an option. Unfortunately, trying to control symptoms through diet is problematic.
Vitamin deficiencies from fasting and flares
A big problem with fasting is trying to get the required amount of vitamins and minerals needed to stay healthy. Of course, that is not what I am thinking about while I am starving, but it is important. It is easy to stray into the territory of malnutrition if you are not careful. That makes things even more difficult.
Fasting is not the only reason to be concerned with nutrition labels. Thanks in part to my IBS, I have had some pretty severe vitamin deficiencies even when not fasting. Why? Because it is difficult for your body to absorb what it needs when food is rolling through your digestive system faster than a speeding locomotive.
Restrictive diets vs. healthy eating
Let’s talk about diet. Many of us have to limit what foods we eat in order to make it through the day with less pain. The worst flares tend to leave us stuck on restrictive diets. No matter how hard we try to eat healthy, it is not always possible. Sometimes it seems impossible. Aside from eating healthy, I would just like to eat more in general. Did I mention I am starving?
Most of us have what we consider safe foods. One of mine is plain tuna. Thankfully, it is a decent source of protein so it does help a bit with keeping my energy up. Aside from that, the only other safe food I have right now is plain oatmeal. So, if I have to leave the house I am stuck with 24 hours of plain tuna and plain oatmeal. I hope you do not know how awful it is to choke down tons of fishy flakes or gobble up gobs of glue because that is what tuna and oatmeal taste like after a very short time.
Aside from being stuck with foods we quickly loathe or just plain starving while fasting, we are stuck with knowing that our bodies are not getting what they need. What can we do?
Dealing with vitamin deficiencies
My doctor has placed me on some pretty hefty vitamin supplements to deal with several deficiencies. I strongly recommend having your doctor perform blood tests to check for deficiencies. Between restrictive diets and a digestive system that seems stuck in overdrive, IBS can cause more trouble than you may realize.
If you are feeling run down, it could very well be due to a vitamin deficiency. Severe deficiencies can lead to other health problems so it is important to have blood work to test your levels. Do not assume and start taking random supplements. Talk to your doctor first. Your doctor may be able to help you find ways to better balance your diet so you do not end up suffering from malnutrition. Apparently, it is something I struggle with. I had no idea until it was discovered in routine blood tests.
Failing to find a balanced diet
I do not have the answers for how to solve the problems of fasting and restrictive diets. I have no idea how to balance out flares and a healthy diet. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I stay home as much as possible and eat as much as I can until I am too miserable to eat. I always feel like I am starving. Maybe it is because I am. Even when I am eating, my body is not absorbing what it needs during an IBS-D flare.
An overactive digestive system makes it harder for the body to get what it needs. Eating fruits, vegetables, and grains that my body needs lead to a flare. A flare sends my digestive system into overdrive. That makes the problem worse.
Eating or not, I am starving
Is starving better than flares? For me, starving is physically less painful. Eating a well-rounded diet makes my flares worse and my body still doesn’t absorb what it needs. It seems I am stuck in a perpetual state of starvation because even if I am eating and feel satisfied, the resulting flares leave my body starved of what it needs.
Are you starving, too? Have you had issues with vitamin deficiencies or malnutrition because of IBS? I would love to hear about your experience.
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?