About 6-8 years ago, I started seeing weird things happen with my digestive system out of nowhere, and I’ve been battling it ever since. I went to a Gastroenterologist (GI) doctor to rule out serious issues such as cancer, gluten sensitivity, or other diseases. I have always been one to also attempt to educate myself as much as I possibly can (without having medical training) and really put the effort in to take control of my health.
When no specific cause is found for digestive troubles, it is usually ruled as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. That can be a relief in the sense that it isn’t serious, but it doesn’t take away the frustration that comes with not knowing how to actually treat it.
This is where my long journey started; the journey of understanding what the heck my gut is doing and why.
I had phases where I would eat primarily only fermented foods and take supplements such as licorice root (which has been used for reducing inflammation and injured mucous membranes in the gut) and aloe vera juice (inner fillet only) mixed with water, and of course, probiotics.
I will say that nowadays, the condition of my gut is better than it has ever been, but it is still problematic. I’m STILL trying to figure out what’s causing it. And with the research and trials I’ve done with my own body, I’d like to share with you what I know today, in hopes that it may help someone else.
Before I start, I will note that I have the type of IBS that alternates with constipation and diarrhea. I feel bloated at nights, as it feels though my digestive system is just slower to process food and it all accumulates and produces bloating and gas, and I’m back to normal again in the mornings. IBS has also given me small hemorrhoids, which only a couple times during flare-ups have produced minimal amounts of blood in the stool. The way this all started though years ago was that my bowel habits simply changed. I didn’t really have constipation nor diarrhea, but my bowel movements were just larger. If I could describe it intuitively, it seemed like my gut was acting more spastically and sporadically, rather than steadily processing food and waste.
There was a short time after that where my gut would go CRAZY all of the sudden if I ate eggs. Something I had always eaten. I searched that online of course, and it said it was a common symptom of leaky gut syndrome. So, I attempted to try to do things that would repair a hypothetical leaky gut. These days, I can eat eggs again just fine.
Also important: There is a huge gut-brain connection, and I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, and petit mal epilepsy. I 100% completely believe that these are linked to my IBS.
What I’ve Found Helps Significantly
- Working on keeping stress reduced on a daily basis. There is a significant link between mind state/moods and the gut. There is an app called “Nerva” which is aimed at hypnotherapy sessions for IBS relief, and it has helped a lot of people. I have not tried it fully myself as the app is a bit expensive, but I plan to at some point. If the idea of hypnotherapy weirds you out, it’s more just like a guided meditation.
- Elimination diet for a few weeks. Keeping your foods super bland, eliminating all potential dietary triggers such as gluten, dairy, and so on, for a few weeks. The idea behind this is to discover what kinds of foods are triggering symptoms. I personally have not found definitive and super specific foods that cause it, as sometimes my symptoms come no matter what. But there are TYPES of foods I can identify that my gut does not like. Usually greasy, low-quality foods. But there were also times where veggies like raw broccoli or cauliflower were hard to digest.
- Exercise. Even if just walking for 20 minutes. This keeps the digestive system moving.
- Only taking antibiotics when absolutely needed. No longer taking Cipro for UTIs (extremely strong antibiotic) but opting for another. Taking probiotics 2 hours after each antibiotic taken.
- Psyllium Husk. I mixed a tablespoon of this in with my smoothie nearly every day. You can’t taste it. Personally, this helps my constipation significantly and I took it regularly for months.
- Oatmeal. It has never triggered my symptoms.
What I’ve Found May Very Likely Be Helping (But Hard To Tell How Much)
- Daily probiotic intake. One thing I STRONGLY recommend is getting a gut health test. I took one from Thryve. What this does is tell you what strains it identifies after you send in a stool sample. This then helped me narrow down what kinds of probiotics I should take. The results were actually right on, stating that based on my microbial makeup from what they could detect, I would be likely to experience anxiety, gas, and bloating.
- HUM Nutrition – Flatter Me supplement. I think this has really helped me. Not only does it include all of the digestive enzymes to help break down protein, fats, carbs, fiber, and milk sugar, but it has an herbal blend of ginger root powder, fennel seed powder, and peppermint leaf powder which have shown promising results for those with digestive troubles.
- Eliminating gluten (as it is a known gut irritant whether you’re allergic/sensitive to it or not) and dairy even if not lactose intolerant.
- Low FODMAP Diet
- Incorporated fermented foods such as kimchi
- Being on antidepressants (believe it or not, Prozac and other similar drugs are sometimes prescribed for IBS). Mine were prescribed for anxiety, but they also could be helping my gut. Hard to tell.
- Peppermint oil has lots of promising research behind it, but I don’t have enough personal experience with it yet.
What I Do Not Do
- Rely on medications such as antacids or Pepto Bismol. This will, as you likely know, simply mask the symptoms but does nothing to treat IBS.
- Ignore my diet and eat greasy, low-quality foods
I feel that altering my diet and stress has absolutely been the most impactful on my symptoms. You don’t need to do elimination diets or the low FODMAP diet for more than a few weeks. Past that, eating diets rich in whole foods and cutting out the processed stuff has SIGNIFICANTLY helped.
That being said, I am still trying to figure out the real cause of my digestive issues. It is very possible that it is an issue that is genetic, and/or linked with my epilepsy or anxiety and depression. It feels like this is closer to the answer than something like too much antibiotic use, only because I have only had one course of amoxicillin in a number of years now, and my GI doctor mentioned if it were a gut dysbiosis issue, it should have resolved itself by this point.
Are you experiencing similar digestive issues and would like to share what has helped you? Please do, in the comments down below, or shoot me an email!