Do you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome? I mean really suffer?
Does your gut feel like fire with every episode?
Do you “have to go” at very short notice at the most inopportune moments?
Is your abdomen bloated and so sore you can’t sleep at night.
Do you plan journeys like military operations so you know where the conveniences are along your route?
Do you have to carry an emergency kit in case of accidents?
Does it make you feel like you never want to set foot outside the door again? are you falling into a black hole of anxiety and depression?
Have you tried cutting out every food advised by doctors to no avail?
Is food a millstone rather than a comfort?
I empathise completely because until April this year I had been suffering with severe symptoms for 10 years.
I’ll warn you now, this story is going to get embarrassing. In places it’s disgusting. BUT, to cut this one food out of your diet you are going to need a damn good reason to encourage you to do it.
And at first, it’s going to be damned hard work. You are going to have to go cold turkey on one of the most addictive substances on the planet.
There are no hoops to jump through to get the answer, no adverts, no money to spend. It’s right there at the end of this article. But you might not believe it if you don’t read the whole story!
This story starts about 10 years ago. My symptoms had been there in a milder form for longer but this was the moment I knew something was definitely not right.
I woke up on the floor of my bathroom.
It took a few minutes to come round and realise where I was and what had happened. I had got up in the middle of the night needing to go to the toilet. The pain in my gut had woken me up. I sat there biting my lips as the pain grew, then I woke up on the floor.
Shaken I went to back to bed dosed up with ibuprofen.
I woke up freezing cold.
My head hurt. My limbs refused to move. I was cramped up on the tiled floor of a tiny closet. It had happened again. The pain, the diarrhoea, more pain, waking up having missed a chunk of time. This time I had been out longer, probably because I had hit the door with my head and had a lump on it the size of an egg.
I went to see the doctor. I’m not very good at going to see them except when it’s my children, so for me it’s a big deal.
I told the story, gave some family history and was booked in for some tests.
I had a sigmoidoscopy. It’s a test to look at the lower intestine. You are given an enema then a camera is inserted in your back passage. The camera couldn’t go as far as the team wanted but there was no sign of disease. There was obviously something wrong though as my pulse shot up from the pain of the procedure. It isn’t supposed to be painful and this gave the clue to my condition. I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome where the gut is lined with nerve endings that over sensitive.
Or as the doctor said just IBS.
I was given a list of foods to avoid. Most of my diet in fact. Raw vegetables such as salad, insoluble fibre such as whole grains, onions, brocolli, beans…
The list went on and on. And on.
So started my food battle. I cut out groups of food to see if there was any respite from the symptoms. There was a little improvement from time to time but the condition was getting gradually worse and worse.
If I was going on a long journey, I had to know where the public toilets on route were located, because the urgency of my motions was unbelievable. It was like an Air |Raid siren going off in my belly. That was how long I had to find somewhere to stop.
Two occasions loom large during the next few years that almost made me quit my job and never leave the house again.
The first one was a work morning. Each day I drive from the outskirts of Sheffield into the city centre and park my car for the day before walking the 2 minutes to my job. On this day the pain came on just before I arrived at the car park. I paid for the parking and started to walk. I had gone just a few steps before I realised I wasn’t going to make it. I got back in the car. I wasn’t going to be able to drive anywhere either. I had a few things in the back that I might have to use. Plastic bags, an empty biscuit tin, tissues. I got in the back of the car and used my makeshift facilities. Fortunately for me, my agitated state had steamed the car up nicely. At least no-one would see me.
Unfortunately, I had soiled myself. I needed to change. As luck would have it, I had a change of clothes in the car. I was visiting my daughter after work and staying over night. I called my boss to say I would be a few minutes late and changed in the car. All my clothes and the waste went in the bio hazard bin at work.
The next occasion, I was returning from visiting my Mum who lives a 2 hour drive away. I knew where all the public toilets were located on the route. This time it didn’t help. I was a mile or so from the next location. Just a mile. I got to within a hundred yards before I had to stop the car. I soiled myself sat right there. This time, the car was empty. No bags, no clothes, no tissue. It was unusual for me, but I had just had the car serviced and taken everything out, not thinking to put emergency supplies back in.
There was nothing I could do. I drove the 20 minutes home sat in my own excrement. The ordeal wasn’t over even then. There was no-one home. I had to get from my car to the door without being seen.
I was completely distraught. I am crying, even now, writing this down.
But write it, I must, because you need to see the driving force that keeps me from eating this one food. You might need that drive too.
After this, I carried an emergency kit everywhere. A change of clothes, plastic bin bags, wet wipes for me and antibacterial wipes for my surroundings. It felt like having to look after a baby.
These are just 2 incidents. There were many. Very many.
So started a period of years where I tried everything to get these symptoms under control. I took advice from doctors, other sufferers and even gave money to unscrupulous people who said they could locate the cause with so called scientific tests. But I was desperate. Tired, anxious, depressed, disgusted at myself.
My family was aware of my struggle but not of the depths of my despair.
My colleagues knew only that I had IBS.
Fast forward to 1st April 2017. It’s significant to me because it was my granddaughter’s 3rd birthday.
She was having a lunch time party with her little friends, then the family were going back to her parents house. Of course there was lots of stuff to eat. We all ate a lot of party food.
Now, one of my daughter’s had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She tested her glucose level knowing it may be high due to eating the wrong food. Cue family having a laugh and testing their own. Son in Law 5.4, daughter 5.8, another daughter 5.8, my husband 6.0. My turn came round, 15.4.
15.4. Bear in mind that with the UK measurement the healthy range is up to 7.0.
I went to wash my hands thoroughly. I’d been eating chocolate, maybe it was on my fingers. I waited until 2 hours after the last thing I ate and tried again. 16.1.
I had diabetes. I knew it right there and then. I also knew that was dangerously high as far as my health was concerned. I cut out sugar immediately as a way to get that level down fast.
A blood test confirmed the results a couple of weeks later.
But the magic had already happened. After cutting out sugar I had no symptoms of the IBS. Two weeks later I still had not had an episode. It couldn’t be that simple could it? I asked if sugar could have been the cause.
Actually it could. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth causes exactly the same symptoms as IBS. In my case, sugar was feeding bacteria in my small intestine producing poisons that my lower gut reacted to. As it should.
Over the last few months I have experimented on myself a little. I have tried having a cake and seeing what happens. It wasn’t pleasant. I have tried probiotics. They help create a better gut flora and slow the return of the bad bacteria but the sugar wins over in the end.
The solution for me is to cut out highly refined sugars altogether. No cake, no chocolate, no cereal bars, no desserts. No sugar. Period.
The relief is so life changing I don’t have a problem with it. I can now eat a normal diet of everything else that I had been cutting out. I can really eat food again. I can enjoy cooking again. I can live again. And yes, it has made that much difference.
Of course, I have a new battle. The diabetes. But I am controlling that by eating a low carb diet. The bonus side effect of all this is that I have lost 3 stone in weight, going from a slightly overweight 13.5 to a slim and trim 10.5 stone, perfect for my height of 5ft 9.
I am full of energy and feel like life has started again after edging into a black hole.
So, if you have been diagnosed with IBS, have symptoms that never seem to let you out of their vice like grip and avoiding fibre filled foods doesn’t help, try losing the refined sugars. Or persuade your GP to test you for SIBO.
I’ve cut out sugar because it has given me my life back. Is your driving force enough?
I wish you all the luck in the world.