Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taking Control of my Out-Of-Control IBS

My Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has been flaring for about a month now. It is not pretty. I am used to chronic constipation, but I am currently on a see-saw of extreme constipation then extreme diarrhea. There is no in-between. And along with that is daily, almost hourly severe abdominal cramping and nausea.

In the last week, I have had so much diarrhea that my body has become moderately dehydrated a few different times. I'm still recovering from one right now.  We thought it was only dehydration, but since I push enough water to make my pee run clear, according to every hydration resource I can find, this is supposed to mean I am hydrated.

Yes, I know we're getting into the Too Much Information category here, but you're still reading. So...

I picked up my book, IBS for Dummies, by Carolyn Dean, MD, ND and L. Christine Wheeler, MA yesterday to see if I could gleam any new information. As I was chauffeured by George the hour long trip one way to my acupuncture appointment, I read aloud. We found that perhaps, I have not just been experiencing dehydration, but also malnutrition. With the rate the food I have been able to get into my system is flying out of my system, it has not spent enough time in my intestines for the important nutrients like magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium to be absorbed. Why is this a problem? Because those are the vital nutrients for cells. You don't have those nutrients, you body stops working properly.

Reading the symptoms of having the different deficiencies were eye opening to George and I as I have been having unique complaints this last month that may be explained by my lack of consuming these nutrients.

Most everyone's solution for dehydration and restoring electrolytes is "drink your preferred sports drink." When I spoke with the nurse practitioner who did my acupuncture about my situation, she said "Maybe you should drink some Gatorade."

You have to search to find places that tell you how to restore your electrolytes (magnesium/sodium/calcium/potassium) by other methods than drinking Gatorade. I told my NP that I was frustrated that the common answer was to drink a sports drink. Ick. Just thinking of drinking Gatorade makes me want to gag.  I have a lot of food allergies and corn is one of them. Sports drinks have this ingredient called: High Fructose Corn Syrup. *shiver* As an aside, I found online where you can make your own rehydration solution with salt, sugar and water. Apparently they save thousands of people in Africa with this formula from dying of diarrhea.

From my searches online and reading the Dean and Wheeler book, I've discovered one can restore magnesium by eating leafy green veggies, avocado and potatoes. One can restore calcium (and probitotics) by eating yogurt and kefir. One can restore sodium in a healthy natural way by eating celery (who knew?!) And of course one can restore potassium by eating bananas. Oh and there are supplements galore, but I would not touch that without first speaking with my doctor.

In addition to restoring my electrolytes, I'm working on my IBS triggers. Up until reading the section on triggers yesterday, I had eliminated all triggers except: dairy, sugar and stress.  For weeks, there have been many days I could not force myself to eat much of anything because of the extreme nausea, but I could tolerate homemade rice pudding that has cane sugar and milk. I thought I was feeding myself, but I may have been contributing to the problem. Apparently sugar (and dairy) in the system creates excess yeast which irritates the lining of the gut. The easy things will be cutting down on dairy and cutting out sugar (as I don't eat much of that anyway). Stress. Well that is another post completely, but I think the key to stress is managing it.

So, the point is that I feel empowered now that I know something to do. I have an appointment set up with my GI doctor for early September. In the meantime, I have a medication that he prescribed a while back to help with IBS bouts of cramping.

Reading up on IBS has led to other important discoveries for me. I have been experiencing unexplained tachycardia (fast heart rate) since December 2010. After seeing a cardiologist and negative test results, my primary care doctor does not have an answer when I repeatedly ask him why this tachycardia suddenly cropped up. From my reading about IBS, I found that being magnesium deficient might possibly be the culprit. I have borrowed a book from the library on magnesium deficiency and plan on reading up on it and sharing the information with my primary doctor at my next visit in late September.

Sometimes I have felt as though I have been at the mercy of my chronic conditions. Being empowered today feels so good.


  1. Hello! I've been drinking a lot of Gatorade lately to try to stay hydrated, and the kind I get (they have "steps" now and it's the 02 one) has been reformulated and no longer contains HFCS. Or, you could make your own: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/tribu/julieshealth/chi-sports-drinks-how-to-make-your-own-20110721,0,4228265.story.

    A friend of mine who works for a GI office sent me that link. She also said that coconut water naturally contains electrolytes, so if you want to cut your sugar that might be a good option (Zico is supposed to be a good brand).

    Glad you looked into this before things got too bad. I hope your IBS gets better soon!

  2. Heather,

    That was really great of you to share the link from your friend. I have an orange intolerance, but I may be able to sub pineapple juice. My only concern is that the acidity would not be so great for my GI tract right now. But thank you! I will keep it for the future. Thanks also to let me know about the Gatorade 02. That is great that they reformulated it so that is more natural!

    In full disclosure, I do not eat any highly processed foods and very few regularly processed foods (gluten-free flours/pasta/crackers). I went through testing and found I have many many many food allergies and sensitivities so I usually only eat/cook with foods in their whole form. I eat cane sugar but not refined sugar. Artificial sweeteners are not an option because of my triggers. I haven't had anything with additives or preservatives since May 2010. Actually, I tried to have a cake with food coloring from a gluten free bakery in July, and my body completely freaked out! I wish it weren't so complicated, you know?!

    Thanks for being so kind in responding! By the way, way to go with the running! I read your post last week! That is fantastic.!

  3. Heather, By the way, I ordered some Zico! I forgot to say thank you for that. My husband and I are going to Florida for a vacation soon and I think it will be extremely helpful while we're there! So thank you **SO** much for sharing!

    Someone told me that Whole Foods brand, "365" has water that is enriched with electrolytes and nothing else. So many great ideas!

  4. Kelly, I'm sorry to hear that you're having so many problems with IBS. I have some similar problems... though I've been able to get things a little better controlled, since we've moved into our own apartment and are back to our normal diet. I hope things improve for you. Have you had your magnesium, etc... levels tested to see if you're deficient? I had some blood drawn to test my magnesium last week... I need to call and check with my doctor tomorrow (reminder, lol). Take care, sweetie.

  5. Kelly,

    It's a bummer that your body doesn't handle many processed foods! At the same time though, they're unhealthy so I guess in a way your body is forcing you to eat healthy. I've been trying to eat as few processed foods as possible too, and if I do I try to get natural/organic ones. It's tough now that school has started back though, and I usually end up eating out when I have evening classes.

    I'm glad you ordered Zico! I hadn't heard of the Whole Foods electrolyte water; I'll look for it next time I'm there.

    I hope you and your husband enjoy your Florida vacation! :)