Sunday, March 15, 2009

Not Counting My Chickens...Yet

So, blog friends, there's one major factor affecting my lifestyle that I haven't really written about much yet, cuz it ain't pretty. But something may - may -be happening that makes me think it may be about time to talk about it. (Long post below- be forewarned!)

After years of trying to diagnose it, I finally figured out a while back that I have IBS. It's that elusive syndrome that is pretty much the "well, you don't have anything else serious, but you've got all kinds of problems so it must be this..." diagnosis. I have a history of GI problems, starting with an early appearance of Dad's hereditary diverticulosis that mostly I've learned how to curb. (Fiber, fiber, and more fiber, mostly in pill form every single day.) But after the worry of that little tic went away, and after the full battery of embarrassing, painful, and uncomfortable medical tests, I still have had chronic "tummy problems" - that's as descriptive as I'll get, but I'm sure you get the idea - for years. Sometimes my tummy probs are strong enough that I've had to miss work, cancel plans with friends, and pretty much wallow in self-pity while being stuck housebound for a day or so.

Don't get me wrong, I've never had the kind of IBS that I read about on message boards where people have lost days, weeks, months of their lives to severe attacks... I feel for them, but thankfully haven't known that kind of suffering from it.

For me, I've just known for years that there are certain trigger scenarios - stress, of course - and trigger foods that set off my pain and probs. Unfortunately, the trigger foods include almost all good, healthy, fiber-rific fruits and veggies. So the more that I try to eat healthy meals and snacks, the more my tummy rebels.

This is the main motivation behind my upcoming appointment with a nutritionist - I want to ask her advice on how to combine a healthy, produce-rich diet with ongoing management of IBS.

BUT.... here's the "not counting chickens yet" part... I may have stumbled upon something. And, of course, it all starts with some offhand advice from my Mom. Cuz Mothers Always Know Best. (It's true!)

I was complaining to her last week during this 3-week cold of mine (that finally seems to be mostly gone) that I couldn't take some of the good cold medicine, especially Mucinex, for more than a day or so in a row cuz it has really bad side effects with my tummy. So she recommended I pick up a supplement at CVS that helps promote intestinal health... something I'd never heard of before... acidophilus. Since Mom always knows, I followed her advice.

Here's the thing. I started taking this supplement as directed about 5 days ago, and it did instantly counteract the bad side effects of the cold medicine. But here's what is surprising me. Ever since I started taking it, I haven't had ANY of my usual tummy problems. This has become really apparent to me this weekend, as I've been eating lots and lots of veggies, beans - the kind of stuff I usually save for weekends just in case I have bad reactions to it. Instead of my usual bad reactions -- I feel fine. Like, normal. Things have been very, very normal -- which started to stick out to me cuz my normal is usually so abnormal. Holy cow! What does this mean?

So I've been doing lots of reading on the Interwebs. And it turns out acidophilus is a very common natural treatment for people with IBS! Acidophilus is a probiotic, the kind of "good bacteria" that helps balance out the flora/fauna in your intestinal tract (I know, it's always so gross to think of it that way!). And IBS symptoms are often a result of an imbalance of the bacteria, for whatever reason. So the bad bacteria react to things to make you sick. But these little supplement pills (which are filled with live cultures just like yogurt) help balance things out and may indeed prevent some of those bad reactions.

Huh.... I'm gonna keep taking this supplement, and I'm gonna talk to my nutritionist about it next week. I don't want to get TOO excited yet, thinking that this might actually be an honest-to-God magic pill that solves my tummy problems. But for the first time in a long time, I actually have some hope that I might be able to have better control over my GI system and actually be able to eat the healthy foods that are good for me and that I actually like! Stay tuned...

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