Prepping for the Holidays - Living Unapologetically with IBS
Updated: Jan 19
A couple months ago I wrote a blog post about my experience with body dysmorphia and I talked about how I was diagnosed with IBS and I lost 25 pounds because I was sick all the time and how it was a really hard emotional period for me. It's been almost 4 years since I was first diagnosed with IBS and while I have adapted to my life with it, it's definitely not any easier.
For the most part I've been able to navigate my life with IBS. I have amazing friends who are super understanding to my issues and will keep me and my diet in mind when we have parties (back when parties were a thing). But even with all the adaptations to my life, it's still not perfect. Sometimes I'm at an event where I can't ask what is in the food and I have no choice but to eat. Sometimes I'll go week eating the foods that usually make me sick and I'll feel fine. Sometimes I'll get really sick from something that has never made me sick before. Sometimes I encounter someone who doesn't think IBS is real or want to judge me for coming across as a "picky LA girl" with an annoying diet. Not only do I have to stress about the food that I can and can't eat but I also stress about how the people around me will react to my diet.
Me to anyone who judges me for my IBS
The holidays are coming up and I've been stressing a little more than usual about how my stomach is going to handle everything. Thanksgiving is such an iconic holiday in terms of food and changing recipes is really hard. I'm lucky to be only doing Thanksgiving with 1 other person, so I can navigate the food a bit easier but that still leaves Christmas. My family loves to cook and they love to cook with garlic, the thing that happens to exasperate my IBS the most. They try to accommodate my restrictions but sometimes they can't because of the recipe or decide not to because they also want to enjoy the meals that they're cooking.
Feeling bad for impacting other people's dietary decisions was such a huge burden I carried at the beginning of living with IBS. I'd either feel really bad if I had to tell someone I couldn't eat at a restaurant because none of their meals with sensitive stomach friendly or I'd feel really really bad if I had to suck it up and eat a meal that I knew would ruin the rest of the night. I went on a date once to Subway. Why Subway? Because it's the only place I knew of at the time that would definitely not make me sick.
Did the IBS make me lose 25 lbs or was it Subway?
I used to never tell anyone that I had IBS. I would just say that I couldn't eat something because it would make me sick or I just wouldn't say anything at all. I was constantly feeling like I was hiding my IBS, ashamed of it. I felt like talking about IBS with anyone would ruin their perception of me. That they would only think about being gassy and having diarrhea. I was more concerned with their image of me than of the actual pain I went through. This year I decided to be more open about it, deciding that my experiences are valid and could help people better understand what I go through.
IBS looks different for everyone. Different foods affect different people in different ways. For me I can't eat: dairy, garlic, red meats, and anything spicy. Every so often something else will make me sick but those are the things that I generally try and avoid. If I eat those things (& don't take proper medications) I can get cramps that feel like someone is stabbing me, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, heartburn, or acid reflux.
When a restaurant serves me garlic even though I said I couldn't have any
The consequences of eating these foods aren't fun and they're not pretty. I felt so ashamed and so un-girly for constantly experiencing all these things. The thing is, I didn't choose this. I didn't choose to have IBS and to get sick all the time. And because I didn't choose these things I'm done hiding my IBS. I've adopted a much more unapologetic approach to living with IBS. I say unapologetic in that I'm not feeling bad about my restrictions anymore, but I'm also not inconveniencing the people around me because I have such a strict diet.
One of the main ways that I've adapted is just by opening up communication more. When I went to events I would try and contact someone from the event to inquire about the meals that will be provided. If it's something small and it's appropriate I'll try and bring something that fits into my diet. For parties with friends I always bring chips, chips are easy for me to munch on through a party, other people like it, and it won't make me sick. If an event doesn't have any meals for sensitive stomachs I try and eat beforehand, that way I can try and just pick at appetizers that won't make me sick.
Catch me at the snack table
The other way that I've adapted, and honestly the one that's been a real game changer, is investing in pills that allow me to eat. I started taking lactose pills 3 years ago because I missed dairy. I freaking love ice cream and pizza, losing out on that was really hard. Being vegan for a bit I found that I didn't really miss meat as the meat substitution game is amazing. But I haven't found a good substitute to pizza or milk. Lactose pills really saved my life, now I'm able to take a way one thing that I can't eat. It's definitely made socializing much easier.
That still left a huge loss though, garlic and spicy food. I love sushi and especially love spicy tuna, I'd eat it but I was always sick after I ate it. Last month I partnered with Confidence Co. to write about their Digestive Enzyme Complex, made to help people with IBS. I was sooo excited for the prospect of being able to eat foods without the pain that came with it. But I was also nervous, for the most part I have my gut in control in the sense of knowing how much of a food I can eat without really getting sick. I was worried about what would happen if I tried the pills and they didn't work. Preparing for a night of possible sickness I ordered my sushi ( and ordered an extra spicy tuna roll).
Preparing for the worst
I am SO happy to report that my fears were for nothing. For the first time in 4 years I enjoyed my sushi and didn't have any sickness from the spicy tuna. It's been a week now and I can say I feel like a whole different person. I had a slice of pizza that had loads of garlic and I'm sitting here right now, not sick. Confidence Co's Digestive Enzyme Complex pill is everything I could have wanted before the holidays (and for the rest of my life). If you want to try it yourself, click the link above and use the code: christy10 for 10% off your first order.
Living with IBS is really hard, but I'm tired of letting it hold me back from living my life. I'm ready for the holiday season this year. Armed with my Digestive Enzyme Complex, a healthy list of foods that I can bring with me that won't make me sick, and an understanding family that will make accommodations for me when they can, this holiday season definitely won't be ruined by stomach issues.
Now, bring me all the food!