A few months ago I started feeling unwell and began my journey of going through grueling doctors appointments (with specialists) to figure out what was wrong. I will spare you the graphic details, but long story short: I was getting constipated on a daily basis and it was quite painful to say the least. I thought I was doing everything right: eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, eating food high in fibre, working out. All the things you are supposed to do to stay healthy. But nothing seemed to be helping. Some nights I would have to take milk of magnesia right before bed. It would clear up by morning but then the entire cycle would start all over again.
There were days I just wanted to stay home because I was in so much discomfort. My husband dragged me out a couple of times, suggesting that getting some fresh air and seeing other people might help me feel better. We had a family potluck coming up which I was conflicted about. I wanted to go because I wanted to see everyone. However, I knew there would be lots of food there that I couldn't eat. The potluck took place a day before my Birthday. I was going to be turning 30 and although I wanted to celebrate it at first, I lost my mood for it afterwards. I know I am still young, but it was just a reminder to myself that as I was getting older, my body was slowly deteriorating.
The day of the family get together arrived. When it was time to eat, people filled up their plates with all the delicious food at the table. I barely filled my plate and ate very little. The little that I did eat, I had a feeling it would still make me constipated the next day, but I couldn't starve myself. People made comments like, "It's your Birthday, that's all you're eating?!" Or people would be telling me to try some of their dish. I tried explaining why I wasn't taking more food, but they would say not to worry because the food would easily digest. In my head I was thinking: sure in a normal body it would digest, but not in my body. They were not trying to be rude or offensive, they just didn't fully understand the problem/illness. I barely understood it myself, so I couldn't blame them.
Despite people trying to force feed me stuff I couldn't eat at the party, in the end I was glad I went. For my potluck dish, I brought a red velvet cake (which I baked and decorated). Since everyone knew it was my Birthday the next day (because I very shamelessly announced it to everyone), when it was time for dessert, they called out for me to cut my cake. I cut the cake while everyone sang me Happy Birthday. It was a small gesture on their part, but it meant a lot to me and was very special. I had fun and it temporarily distracted me from my pain.
I had a follow up appointment with my doctor the following week and she told me what I have is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS.) It's basically irregularity in the bowels and goes from constipation to diarrhea. For me, it was mostly constipation. She gave me some tips on how to handle the illness and I went the next couple of weeks taking her advice. She suggested to take Metamucil if necessary but also to make sure to drink lots of water through out the day along with it. Another thing she said was to keep a food diary and see if there are patterns of what foods were triggering me to get constipated.
The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realized how common digestive problems have become. I also realized that everyone's bodies are different. There may be some foods that trigger me, but another person with IBS is totally okay with. I made small changes to my diet such as the following:
- Dairy was one thing that was triggering me so I switched to almond milk. It comes in a variety of flavours such as vanilla, chocolate and coconut (sweetened or unsweetened.)
- I did not eat any meat for a couple of weeks, and only stuck to fruits and vegetables.
- Rice, white flour, white breads and pastas were another trigger. Instead of rice, I now have other grains like couscous, and quinoa. (I bought brown rice and brown pasta but haven't tried them yet.)
- My husband and I visited our local farmer's market and bought all organic fruits and vegetables. Some of the fruits/veggies can be a bit more expensive, but not by much.
- Making sure I drink at least 6-8 glass of water every day.
- I drink a glass of Metamucil every morning and every night.
In the meantime, I have discovered what to do to control my issue and keep my body healthy. Besides, people have a false notion that vegetarians miss out on all the good food in life. The truth of the matter is, there are plenty of non-meat dishes out there that are very delicious. My experience expanded my horizon to so many new recipes and dishes that I normally wouldn't have tried if I hadn't gotten ill in the first place. It is what it is and I will have to deal with it. I'm not ashamed of it and I don't feel sorry for myself (anymore) so I don't want others to feel sorry for me either.