A MANS PERSPECTIVE ON THIS FRUSTRATING ILLNESS & A JOURNEY FOR A HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE.
As I sit here thinking what to write, I am still debating with myself as to whether sharing this is a good idea or not. The main thing that is encouraging me to tell my story (with whoever may be interested) is the fact that I am ready for change. By telling you, this may just stop me from falling back into old habits – giving me the motivation to see my plan through.
For the last 3 years I have been dealing with the daily struggles that come from having IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I had small bouts of similar symptoms growing up but these came and went with stressful events throughout my childhood. Roughly 3 years ago, after a normal bout of symptoms, I noticed that they would only disappear for several days at a time rather than weeks or months (I am still unsure of the reason why). For any of you who don’t know a lot about IBS, according to the NHS Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common, long term condition of the digestive system. It causes bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.
Over the last 3 years I have been to the doctors more times than I can remember – I have had what feels like every test under the sun, from blood tests to a colonoscopy, all results coming back clear which is a positive obviously, but I have continuously been left with no conclusions. A more recent test revealed that my colon is irregularly bent which may explain my inability to break down some foods, but again this was non-conclusive.
Each time I leave the doctors or hospital with the assumption that I must have IBS. However, one of the main issues for IBS sufferers is the lack of validation. IBS is one of those syndromes that cannot be clearly identified through tests and is basically deemed the cause when more serious illnesses are ruled out. This is frustrating in itself, as anybody who has experienced IBS or is dealing with it now will know that it may not be life threatening, like other illnesses, but it really does affect your day to day life. When symptoms are really playing up, IBS can not only alter your daily activities but there are clear results showing that it can be a downward spiral to anxiety and depression.
Whatever the problem it’s had an impact on my day to day life for the past 3 years. Due to the varied symptoms, it makes me think twice before doing most things like going to work, meeting friends or going on holiday. As much as I hate to admit it, (I know I shouldn’t) there is definitely a continuous anxiety that follows me because of it. Whether it be trapped gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, stomach pains or feeling nauseas (it can be all of these symptoms at once or just a couple at a time), they all have huge implications on my day-to-day life.
What I have slowly realised is that it’s not just my life that my IBS effects, but it has also had a knock on effect on the people around me – my friends and family have had to listen to the daily moans and groans or have physically witnessed me go into my shell when the symptoms have decided to come out and play. This is one of the most frustrating aspects for me as I am and always have been a very sociable person. Over the last few years there have been numerous incidents where I have either not been myself around my friends or family, or I have cancelled catch-ups and events due to impending symptoms or the worry that they may come about. It seems like a vicious cycle – either the symptoms make you feel terrible, or you feel terrible because you are worrying that the symptoms might come on – I believe this is a constant problem that IBS sufferers experience and this cycle makes the issue an even more daunting problem.
Initially it took me some time to figure out what it was that was causing me so much discomfort and pain. The first year was by far the worst and hardest year, not knowing or understanding symptoms or causes only adds to the stress and worry you put on your body. I have full respect for the NHS and the job that they do, but for some reason it seems that once you have been cleared of all life threatening illnesses you then get thrown into the IBS bracket. Most commonly, you will be given a piece of paper with some information about low-fod map diets, some questionable tablets and then you are sent on your way to figure the rest out on your own.
In the last two years I have done a lot of my own research, combined with persistent questions to the doctors to search for more answers. I have tried various diets, counselling, meditation and several courses of tablets but I have never really stuck to any one method. Deep down I have been waiting for that magical cure and since this has never happened, I’ve had a tendency to slip back into old habits like scrapping the diets and giving up on the copious courses of tablets. I get so frustrated that I turn to my girlfriend for the next great idea for her only to remind me that I’ve already tried that one or I gave up on it previously (I must give her credit for putting up with me this long as it cannot be fun for her either).
So after copious amounts of research, I believe I know what I need to do and I must admit, it’s a scary thought! The potential answer to my problems is to overhaul my lifestyle and mind-set. But what if it doesn’t work? What if I have to live with this forever? These are all questions that I have asked myself many times and since I live a pretty laid back ‘sloth-like’ lifestyle, this is very daunting.
Now I enjoy being a sloth, I am very good at it, I believe I have mastered the art of slothing over many years and a complete lifestyle overhaul sounds like a lot of work. What is actually quite ironic about sloths is unlike IBS sufferers they have very large, specialised, slow acting stomachs with multiple compartments which helps break down their plant based diet (my stomach does not seem to be able to break anything down successfully) and with their slow metabolic rate they only need to leave the tree tops once a week to relieve themselves (such a regular toilet routine is something somebody with IBS dreams of), so a sloth actually may be an animal I can aspire to be like.
So what does a change in lifestyle consist of?
Well for the record, the big changes I will be making to my lifestyle are:
- Change to a wholefoods, natural plant based diet (Vegan)
- Keep a record of my eating habits, stool movements and feelings each day
- Meditate at least once a day
- Partake in regular exercise (30 mins 5 x a week)
You may be wondering what the point of this blog is – well my symptoms have pushed me so far that a change needs to happen (again). Only this time I am not going half-hearted. I am going all in; I am going to tackle this head on with the aim of conquering it once and for all. I’m not going to lie; it’s a very scary and anxious thought, what if it doesn’t work? Well there’s only one way to find out and this time I’m going to try and be patient and not expect that miracle I am always seeking.
One of the main contributors to this sudden decision to completely change my lifestyle is to try and feel as good and ‘IBS free’ as possible for Glastonbury Festival in 7 weeks’ time. The thought of Glastonbury is one that fills me with excitement and dread, for what I’m sure are now obvious reasons. So my goal is to attend Glastonbury Festival 2017 with no symptoms, or at least no IBS worries! I want to have the best possible time and for the people around me to have the best possible time without IBS rearing its ugly head.
So, I will do my best to update you on my journey and to keep you informed of my progress or failures. I will be tracking my journey via Instagram (craigs_ecolifestyle) and will attempt to write a blog here and there.
Thanks for reading.