Throughout my teens, I had a poor but manageable tolerance for wheat and dairy. It wasn't until I entered my 20's did these foods (and others) become a real problem.
The progressive nature of my IBS made me question what was causing it to become slowly worse. I'm sure it was related to the increasing amounts of responsibilities and stressors accumulating in my life, and the poor dietary and lifestyle choices that come as a result.
When I reached 25, I was dragging my body around like a corpse due to the ongoing reactions to food. I was depressed, and my anxiety was more severe than ever. I had always considered myself 'healthy'. I played a lot of sports and exercised 5 times a week. Even despite the exercise, I felt like a shell of a human being.
I had half heartedly read and researched about anxiety and IBS, but never really acted on this information. I was 25 and living a miserable existence - something had to change!
I decided to start really digging into some research online. My degree was heavily based in scientific research, so I started to search for the root causes of IBS. I found an undeniable link between mental health and digestive health, which informed my path over the next couple of years of my life.
It's all very well having the information about what I should do, but actually doing it was a different story. Where to start!?
Following the discoveries of what was causing my IBS, I trained as a health coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, in order to manage my lifestyle effectively. This was a truly transformative year. I began to develop a deep level of self awareness - how I eat, sleep, think, feel, move, rest, interact - how I was living. Some of these elements of my life were very imbalanced and they needed some TLC.
I gradually sought to address what was causing my symptoms by listening to my new found intuition.
I applied nutritional therapy
- Through doing an elimination diet, I tracked and removed inflammatory foods.
- I researched and applied gut healing foods and supplements to address the physiological imbalances underpinning IBS.
- Controlled portion sizes. Time restricted feeding. Digestive practices to increase digestive efficiency.
I became a master of my habits
- Sufficient, quality sleep.
- Time amongst nature at least 2x a week.
- A creative hobby.
- An active hobby.
- Time with friends and animals.
- Daily Yoga to release physical and emotional tension and blocks.
- Meditation to calm the nervous system - Body; Mind. This also helped me bring a sense of mindfulness to everything that I did - How I did things, and how I could do them differently.
Finding the root causes of stress
There is no doubt that IBS is greatly influenced by stress. But, stress is a very broad term given to highly individual experiences of it. I was told to reduce stress - what does that even mean?
Stress can be anything from a troubling memory to a limiting belief. My anxiety which has existed since I was very young, was caused by troubling memories and stacked beneath irrational fears and false and negative beliefs about myself and about the world.
Through my meditative & yoga practice, and cognitive behavioral therapy, I began to unearth these fears, beliefs and memories - a spiritual detox. Letting go of these things undoubtably releases the tension within the mind and thus the body. Our digestion depends on the harmony within our minds. Holding on to fear, to negativity all inhibits the contractions and secretions of the digestive system! It's no wonder it's so hard to tolerate foods.
By bringing a greater awareness and mindfulness to my life, detoxifying the body (with targeted nutrition), and the mind (with introspection and spiritual growth) - I no longer suffer digestive distress and my anxiety is better than it has even been in my life.
There is a solution out there, but it's not the same for everybody. Your solution is in the way you live - how you live.
We all have different life histories, different experiences and unique genetics. There can be no miracle cure or silver bullet answer. Your body, your fears, your beliefs, your memories are your own. Find your way by developing a deeper connection with yourself.
I continue my work as a Health Coach, assisting those with IBS in managing their lifestyles, brining awareness to how they live and mastering their habits.
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?