Last month, I recommitted to my health and invited you on the journey with me, but I haven’t posted much of the progress. I’ve been nervous to open up about something, because it could be upsetting to the people who care about me, but it has brought out self-discipline I didn’t know I had.
When I started this journey, I was eating lots of high fiber foods, and I picked up a trial sub to Noom. They got me on the right track with good psychological advice, and helped me make better choices for foods with low caloric density that would help me feel full. I was sticking to the plan and making a little progress, but there was something weighing on me that I could no longer ignore.
My family has a history of IBD. I thought because I’m 36 and hadn’t experienced any issues yet, that heredity had been kind to me. Back in February, I had started to experience some digestive trouble that seemed to last longer than usual. In fact, it was still happening in March with some unpleasant new symptoms. I wasn’t losing any weight and still had a healthy appetite. At the time, I attributed my problems to being lazy about taking my meds, because thyroid problems can have a big impact on every other part of your body.
I started keeping up with my meds, but I was getting very annoyed with my frequent need to use the restroom. My guts felt very weak and trembly, so any amount of pressure made me nervous. My mornings started to include a new unpleasant routine which cleared up during the day, but over the next couple weeks took on a pink tinge. It didn’t feel like hemorrhoids, which I’ve dealt with before. There was a cramping near my hip bone.
I already knew what I didn’t want to know. Everything I was experiencing fell in line with the beginnings of ulcerative colitis. It was terrifying, because I’ve witnessed someone very close to me go through very severe UC that required surgery. I also knew that if this was the case, it would be the beginning of many appointments, exams and tests. With my boyfriend out of work, I thought “If I can just hold out until he finds a job, we’ll be okay.”
I started educating myself, reading up on everything UC related, and just in time. My symptoms escalated. It was still a very mild case, but at least once a day I would pass about a teaspoon of fresh blood. Still not wanting to initiate the process of diagnosis, I decided to employ some self-management techniques that I had learned from organizations that study and help people live with IBD. First, though, I needed to have a very serious and scary conversation with my boyfriend so he would understand my needs and why I couldn’t do some things for a while.
I started to explain to him what was happening, and he asked if I wanted to see a doctor. I said that I would, but I also would like to attempt to manage this on my own first. I told him that I meant to wait, but he told me not to worry, this is why he kept money in savings and we would be alright. I explained to him that I wanted to try a special diet meant to give my system the time and tools for healing, and that I wouldn’t be able to eat the foods that we love to eat for a while.
My healing diet was as follows:
- No caffeine
- No carbonated drinks
- No beans
- No cruciferous veggies
- No dairy
- No whole grains
- No skins
- No fibrous veggies
- No red meat
- No spicy food
- No fried food
- No seeds or nuts
- No fruit with seeds
- Yes to low fiber (eat all the white bread, white rice, bananas and potatoes minus the skin that I want)
- Yes to probiotics (kombucha and soy yogurt)
- Yes to lean meats (tuna and sometimes grilled chicken)
- Yes to very soft, well-cooked veggies and fruits
This is the ultimate anti-fast food diet. A cheeseburger would be out of the question. Pizza? Just the crust. Burritos? Just a tortilla, please. No coffee in the morning, no tea, no soda (not even sparkling water). Sushi is fine, just nothing with sesame seeds. A grilled chicken sandwich is okay if you remove the veggies and who wants to pay $5-6 for that?
My breakfast was two waffles topped with vanilla soy yogurt and low sodium V8. Lunch would be two slices of avocado toast topped with a can of tuna (in water, of course). Then my dinner would be whatever different thing I could fit into the diet. Sometimes a baked potato with ketchup. Sometimes a soup and saltine crackers.
What I noticed immediately was all my bloating went away. I felt great, I was hopeful, and I looked so much better. The bleeding tapered off, and things firmed up again. I was still having some trouble in the morning, but my days were symptom-free. It was such a relief, but I celebrated too soon. I wanted to go out for dinner since I had been so good that whole week, and the only thing I thought would be totally safe was the fish soup at my favorite hole in the wall Mexican restaurant. It had a light broth, no dairy, well-cooked vegetables, and rice. My boyfriend even made a concession to take me there since the menu is completely devoid of vegetarian options.
Apparently I had become so accustomed to spicy food over the years that I remembered the broth being fairly neutral, but my bowl was swirling with chili oil. It was spicy enough to make my nose run, and I dreaded the effect it would have on my guts. Sure enough, I started bleeding and cramping. I was also bloating again because of some eggs I had eaten. They were supposed to be a safe protein on the list, which confused me, because eggs can be very gassy.
No more early celebration. I needed to give my tummy time to recover and slowly reintroduce things into my diet to see what sets me off. I’ve just finished my third week and I am asymptomatic. I haven’t had any coffee or carbonated drinks yet, and it may be some time before I try. Fresh dairy still gives me trouble, so I’m taking dairy supplements. I was happy to have a chicken sandwich with the veggies on it, and I even tried out some fries. I’ve had unsweet tea which does move things through me but not in a troublesome way. I definitely won’t be going back to the amount of fast food that I had been eating, but it’s comforting to know there are things that won’t tear me up. I still haven’t been brave enough for beans and fibrous veggies.
Before you scold me to go to the doctor, I am going in to see him very soon. I’m going to tell him everything that has happened and let him know that I am able to manage flare ups on my own right now. If it does become something bigger than I can handle, I will seek medical treatment. As of now, I’m feeling really good. I have been actively trying to lose weight, so the weight loss was expected, and I’m still eating well. There is no bloating, no bleeding, no cramping and I’m having none of the morning nastiness. I’m keeping a food journal and tracking any changes. I can do this.