For the better part of this year I have been sick. So sick in fact, that I feared I had a terminal illness. I was nauseous most days, and for most of my waking hours. I felt twisting, gut-pulling abdominal pains and pressures in my belly so consistently that it brought me to tears some nights. Not tears of pain necessarily, tears of desperation. When would it pass. Never it seemed. …..and to make matters worse, I was unable to have a bowel movement, sometimes for stretches of seven to ten days at a time. Complete misery!
As you can imagine, I was highly motivated to find some answers. Believe it or not though, after running the gamut of doctors, specialists, taking blood tests, doing scope procedures and bacterial tests – not one answer rose to the top. I tried eating gluten free, Paleo, I went lactose free, I eliminated nuts, I even tried one of the toughest food restriction programs out there – the low FODMAP diet, prescribed for patients who suffer from an intestinal bacteria located in the small intestine. I finally had a diagnosis….SIBO, Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, which I discuss in a previous post. I took a few rounds of antibiotics, still no relief. I was beat down. All this suffering and food eliminations left me feeling run down, depressed and hopeless. I feared it wouldn’t end until I did..
After eleven months of trying everything possible, my GI doctor finally gave me the grimmest news of all – ”It’s classic IBS. Not much else we can do for you”.
So this is my life.
I trust doctors to know more than me. To know more than anyone. To not only care for me, but to care about me. Yet here I was being told by the best of the best that this is my new life. Like after all these tests, after all the waiting and scheduling and endless medical bills. After countless hours crying on the phone, that’s it? I get an IBS stamp on my forehead and a goodbye?
As I stated in a previous post, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. My personal experience with this “common disorder” is it is more of a “common diagnosis” with an underlying meaning that also reads “We have no idea what’s wrong with you”.
I was left with no choice but to figure it out on my own. I read every inch of information I could get my hands on about my symptoms. I read books, medical journals, and I lived online, although this is a scary thing to do, as there is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there, so be careful. I left the GI doctor who quit on me and I found an amazing registered dietitian and a new GI specialist. They both pride themselves on real care, real healing, and it sure has been a refreshing experience to say the least.
As it turns out, many people who have an intolerance to the lactose in milk, have a reaction that keeps them running to the toilet. They are usually told to give up dairy. Since I was on the other end of the spectrum, I almost never saw a toilet, so I figured bring on the dairy! After all I love milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream…… when it comes to dairy, you name it, I love it. But what never occurred to me or my previous doctors was to question, “What if it’s the dairy that’s been making me sick all along?” This had never dawned on me or anyone caring for me, until I found Dr. Shetler. So after a year of adjusting my diet, the one thing I never gave up, turned out to be the one thing that was killing me.
The surprising part of all of this is, I am not lactose intolerant. Lactose Intolerance is the more common dairy struggle. I actually have an intolerance to “Casein”, which is the main protein in milk and cheese. I am still educating myself about this so I will refrain from going into misleading details about Casein, for now. But I do want to shed some light on a very painful ailment which you or someone you know may also be suffering from. So before you let yourself succomb to the dreaded forehead-stamp-diagnosis “You have IBS”, please consider another possibility that I myself begged for a year ago:
Needless to say….the smiley faced poop emoji hat is my new best friend.