Friday, June 11, 2010

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

No one really likes talking about digestion. It's yucky and a little too much information for most people. If it's TMI for you, you should navigate away from this page right now. However if you or someone you love have digestive issues, you should read on. Because more than likely your regular doctor will not be able to help you.

In my update the other week I forgot to mention huge part of the past six months: IBS. After months of severe abdominal pain and misery and refusing to see a doctor, Brian pulled his Husband Card and scheduled a doctor's appointment for me. After the tests came back finding a blockage in my digestive system but nothing to attribute the blockage to, the doctor concluded that I had IBS. There's no way to determine someone has IBS except to rule out every other option. My insurance agent put it this way, "IBS means "We don't know what the h--- is wrong with you." And that's why I love my insurance guy- he tells it how it is.

My doctor gave me a prescription for bi-polar medicine, saying that it would release serotonin in my digestive tract and relieve the pain. [I could go on a rant here about why I hate Western medical philosophy (a.k.a treating the symptoms NOT the actual problem,) but I'll spare you.] He also prescribed a two week treatment of laxatives ending with an all-day magnesium citrate cleanse. I did took the laxatives, did the cleanse, but did not take the meds.

I don't have anything against bi-polar medicine- IF YOU HAVE BI-POLAR DISORDER that is. But seeing as how I have IBS, I didn't see the logic. I took years and years of antibiotics and eventually acutane for acne and I believe without a doubt that is what caused IBS. IBS, as I understand it, is essentially an imbalance of chemistry and lack of good bacteria in the digestive tract that could be caused by a number of things, but in my case antibiotics.

After the cleanse I felt pretty good ... for about a day. And then all the pain and unpleasant side-effects came back. After some research and talking to other IBS patients I realized this is all too often the case when you see a general practitioner for gastro-intestinal issues. Finally, after much more research, many tears and almost giving up, I found, through a friend of a friend of a friend an online treatment that seemed legit. Two ladies in town had done the treatment and were IBS symptom free, so Brian and I read through the thirty-something page document and prayed about the possibility of doing the treatment. I wanted to wait a few months till we were in our own place and had full-time jobs but Brian wanted to start the treatment immediately. So again, like with going to the doctor, Brian got his way.

This treatment is a multi-faceted approach (including a restricted diet and supplements) that re-populates good bacteria in your digestive tract as well as healing what is known as "leaky gut" syndrome (the cause for IBS related food allergies). I know I'm explaining some things and not others, so if you're interested in the explanations check out this article and it will explain everything better than I can.

I want to sum up what changes I've had to make for this treatment:

The Diet
There are 3 Big, No Cheating Under Any Circumstance rules of the treatment.
  1. No diary. That means no milk, no cheese, no yogurt, no ice cream. It means reading EVERY label of any processed food to see if it contains milk, milk solids, lactose or whey.
  2. No legumes. No beans, chickpeas, no peanuts, no soy, no legumes of any kind.
  3. a)When you drink. Drinking water during a meal dilutes hydrochloric acid (an enzyme that breaks down your food) in your stomach and makes digestion even more difficult. Because digestion is already hard for me, I cannot drink water during a meal or for an hour afterward or else the dilution of hydrochloric acid would make it even more difficult. b)When you eat fruit. Fresh fruit spoils quickly. To make sure it digests quickly I have to eat it alone or before a meal. If you eat fruit by itself, your digestive system will recognize fruit in the stomach and sweep it to the small intestine for quick digestion. But it you eat fruit with some other food everything in your stomach will pass first through the large intestine, giving the fruit enough time to spoil.
You may asking, "so when./what do you eat/drink?" That's exactly what I asked when I started this treatment. I was frustrated that almost every staple of my diet (peanut butter, chick peas, beans, fruit with grains, yogurt for smoothies, etc.) were eliminated. Not to mention the worst of all, that I couldn't drink half&half in my coffee. Can you say Horror of all Horrors?

But I was committed, so I substituted almond butter for peanut butter, and almond milk for cream or milk, and coconut milk for yogurt in recipes. The first couple weeks I was always hungry because I never knew what to eat. I just paced the kitchen lamenting my lack of options. But in the weeks since I've completely adjusted to the restrictions and now I can cook just as creatively as before.

Brian has been one of the biggest reasons I've been able to stay the course for two months on such a strict diet. He started out eating only the things I could eat. Now that I'm used to the diet I encourage him to have icecream or peanut butter if we are out or at some else's house. But he's always willing to pass if he's offered something I can't have. And while I'm talking about Brian I just want to point out that earlier when I referred to him getting his way about me going to the doctor and starting the treatment, that I am so thankful that he is willing to fight for me when I'm not willing to fight for myself.
The Supplements
The other part of the treatment are the supplements. I take 5 different supplements (about 12 pills) every day. In the morning and evening I take probitics for both the large and small intestine. With each meal I take a pancreatic enzyme and hydrochloric acid. And with lunch and dinner I also take an herbal GI support supplement. And lastly, twice a day I drink a mix of rice protein powder (that smells like horse feed).

I'll be on this diet and treatment for another month. After that I'll keep with the no-dairy and probitoics, but everything else will probably go back to normal. And let me say, that I'm not necessarily recommending my treatment. I'm not a doctor or an expert, but I have seen amazing success and I want to pass that on.

That's my IBS story and if it helps anyone at all, it will be worth all this typing. The stats say that 1 out of 3 women have IBS. And I believe it. I've been shocked as I tell people I have IBS that many of them, who otherwise would have never told me, say that they have IBS too.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fruitful Discipline

A good friend and mentor sat me down some months ago and challenged me with the following phrase.

"Seek fruitfulness, and train yourself in body, mind, and spirit."

His words have caused ripples in my pursuits since then, effecting my daily disciplines, my work, my job-search, and my marriage.  You know what else has been changed?  My physical fitness.  I've taken his admonition seriously, and I thought by sharing my thoughts and actions with these things that you, our friends and family, might benefit.

In Galatians, Paul writes of the fruits of the Spirit.  These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  In contrast to the Spiritual gifts (prophecy, teaching, tongues, healing, etc.), which are apportioned differently to each person,  believers will all be growing in each of the fruits of the Spirit if aligning themselves in their understanding of scripture, their obedience to it, and their openness to repentance and knowing God moment by moment.  What does this mean?  A person in any circumstance, if desiring to grow in these fruits and walking in accordance to God's known will, ought to be growing up "to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

For me, this has meant taking my part-time work, my full-time job-search, my purity, my friendships, my marriage, my physical fitness, and my reading/studying of the Bible more seriously.  I think Ashley would agree with me that I have grown in these things, not without flaws of course.

Training (Discipline)
One of the greatest resources I've looked to for growth is a book called "Disciplines of a Godly Man" by R. Kent Hughes.  This book is a collection of insightful, practical, and purpose-filled words regarding growth in all kinds of ways.  From the discipline of purity to the discipline of ministry, he lays out what scripture clearly calls us to as men of God.  The verse drawn on throughout the book is Paul's straight-forward call to Timothy,

"... train (discipline) yourself to be godly." (1 Timothy 4:7)

What has been most challenging to me?  Probably physical fitness.  My friend Jason and I have been working out at the YMCA pretty consistently multiple times a week for a few months.  I'm sure my doctor would be pleased!

A Little Sweat
I encourage you to take a look at your own life and circumstances and ask the questions,

"What am I weak in?  How could I be growing?  Am I going to do it?"

I'm thankful to my friend and mentor for challenging me with these words.  Putting a little sweat into reading books intentionally for growth, seeking better relationships, and walking closer with God has eternal value.

May God bless you!