18 GIFs that perfectly sum up how it feels to have IBD

The first time you have a bad flare and come out of the bathroom.

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How you feel when anyone suggests you should get checked out by a doctor.

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When you finally relent and see a doctor… and have to wait for all the test results to find out if you’re really dying.

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When you find out you’re not really dying.

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When your doctor tells you you’ll be on medication for the rest of your life but you don’t need to change your diet.

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When you decide to take a break from your doctor so you can see a nutritionalist for a second opinion.

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When your nutritionalist tells you to break up with gluten.

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When you decide to binge anyway, and your loved ones try to stop you.

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When you discover delicious, healthy food that’s good for your belly.

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When you start to feel better thanks to your new diet

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When you have the occasional dietary slip-up and it doesn’t turn into a binge.

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When your new diet, together with your meds, becomes a way of life, and you feel better than ever.

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When you realise that IBD doesn’t have to ruin your life and you can do all the things you used to do… even if it means less cake, cheese or booze. It’s all worth it.

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(…And when it’s your birthday and you treat yourself to cake anyway – because it’s worth it, once a year).

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7 Days of gut-healing meals (and why they’re good for you)

Lately I’ve redoubled my efforts to include as many healing, happy-gut foods in my diet. Here are some of my current favourite meals and snacks for health and healing.

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Chopped banana, strawberries and frozen blueberries drizzled with honey

It’s sad that fruit has a bad reputation (mainly due to its high fructose content), because it can really be so healthy. Bananas are easy to digest and they give you energy and heart-supporting potassium. I’ve also always found them extremely soothing to eat, especially when my tummy’s unhappy. Strawberries give me a good dose of vitamin C and blueberries are known to help ease the symptoms of digestive diseases.

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Eggs, baby spinach and music

A lot of healing diets forbid or discourage the consumption of eggs, but I’ve never personally had a problem with them. They’re full of protein as well as important vitamins and minerals. Spinach meanwhile is virtually a ‘superfood’ and I’ve really been trying to get it into my diet as often as possible. I actually feel like I’m slowly healing my body with each mouthful! Spinach is full of vitamins, and it’s even got Omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. It’s good for digestion and flushing out toxins, and I recently learnt that cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits because the body can’t completely break down its nutrients when it’s raw. Music is good for the mind, body and soul, so include as much of it in your diet as you can.

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Brussels sprouts

I adore Brussels sprouts (I know, it’s unusual!) and I can easily – and often do – eat bowls of them as snacks. Like most other veggies, they offer high doses of vitamins and nutrients, as well as their fair share of fibre. This means they can cause bloating and should be avoided if you’re flaring. Don’t cook your Brussels sprouts for too long or you’ll destroy the healthy bits! Three to five minutes is enough.

 

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ALL THE VEGETABLES!!! (and a little steak)

So this is what my dinner plate looks like most nights. I take the 3/4 veggie rule so seriously that I usually end up with four quarters of vegetables on my plate and no space for the meat – hence the mashed butternut on the side! Starting with the butternut, it’s filling and easy to digest – it’s one of the first vegetables you can introduce on SCD, and I’ve always loved it and found it to be unproblematic. Carrots are the first veggie introduced on SCD, as they’re also generally very easy to break down. They’re also full of vitamins and minerals.

Broccoli and cauliflower are cruciferous vegetables (as are Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage and kale), which means they’re packed with phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fibre, and overall they’re just amazingly fabulous for your health. They also help support the functioning of the digestive tract (read this fascinating article about the healthy interaction between cruciferous vegetables and the bacteria in your gut). Most of us know that peas are a great source of protein and fibre – but did you know that they also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties?

Avocado is one of the healthiest fats you can add to your diet and its Omega-3 helps to reduce inflammation in the gut. My nutritionalist has recommended I eat it every day – that’s how healing it is! Lastly, lean red meat is obviously a protein source, and despite what detractors might say, it’s also one of the best sources of nutrients that you won’t get from plant-based foods.

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Coconut fish curry with cauliflower rice

I’m not the biggest fish fan but I am trying to get it into my diet more often because it’s just so damn healthy. This is hake, which offers Omega-3 acids and a range of nutrients. I’ve cooked it in homemade coconut milk, which is another incredibly healthy fat that my nutritionalist recommends I consume daily, due to the fact that it’s so healing for the gut. As you can see, I’ve tossed in some handfuls of baby spinach for an extra health kick, and it’s seasoned with all the usual ‘legal’ seasonings like garlic and ginger – both of which are also considered ‘super foods’ due to their healing and health-sustaining properties.

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Coconut yoghurt with honey

This is made from coconut milk, and has the added benefit of gelatine and probiotics, which are added just prior to incubating it. Probiotics introduce healthy bacteria to your gut and gelatine is an amazing weapon in the fight against inflammation.  This is one of the healthiest things you can feed a damaged gut. Here’s my recipe for homemade coconut yogurt.

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Oysters and champagne

Okay so this was a bit of a splurge (I was celebrating signing my permanent contract at work), and champagne – or any alcohol for that matter – should be avoided when you’re flaring, or when you’re trying to heal your gut. I was thrilled to discover some time ago that oysters, however, are so so good for you! They’re full of zinc, which is essential for those of us battling digestive diseases as we tend to lose a lot of it. Zinc is essential for healthy functioning and also helps to heal woulds. You’ll find it in pumpkin seeds too.

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Bonus: Cauliflower pizza

Everyone needs to feel like they’re eating something fun every now and then – even those of us with IBD! This cauliflower pizza was made from many of the healthy ingredients listed above, so it has the added benefit of hitting that ‘junk food’ spot without actually being junk food! The olives and mushrooms are also sources of healthy fats and nutrients, and it’s all drizzled with coconut oil for that extra bit of healing.

What are you favourite healing, healthy meals?

Day 98: What to eat (and what to avoid) when you’re having a ‘bad GI’ day

After everything my poor GI system went through last night with the nuts, it was still feeling very fragile today… and the legacy of the assault remained. I spent more time than I’d have liked to in the bathroom, but I didn’t panic, unlike the times before.

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There’ve been about three occasions on this diet when my stomach has reacted quite violently to something. The first few times I freaked out, thinking that it was a sure sign of a flare. Slowly I came to realise that a) sometimes your system just has an ‘off’ day, due to any number of factors from food to stress to hormonal imbalances or state of mind, and it doesn’t mean you’re flaring, and b) there’s no point stressing about potential flares – you’ll only make your symptoms worse.

Instead, it’s about eating (and drinking) right on those days to ease the symptoms instead of exacerbating them. Don’t ignore what your body is telling you, and if your GI system is out of whack, treat it delicately to help restore it to health.

What you should and shouldn’t eat when having a ‘bad GI day’

Let’s start with a list of foods to avoid:

  • Avoid foods high in fibre like fruit, nuts, high-fibre vegetables (beans, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc) and lentils
  • Avoid dairy, as it can aggravate an inflamed gut
  • Avoid fruit juice (too much fibre) and carbonated drinks (can cause bloating)
  • Avoid nut butters
  • Avoid any foods to which you know you react badly
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid any foods you have not yet introduced to your diet – now’s not the time to be adventurous.

What you should eat:

  • Bone broth soups, which help to restore the body, especially after a bout of diarrhoea. They’re highly nutritious and packed with vitamins
  • Herbal teas – add ginger to soothe your belly
  • Starchy vegetables like squash, pumpkin and butternut
  • Your ‘safe’ flare foods
  • Plenty of water – aim for 2 litres
  • BRAT foods – this works very effectively for some people (Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast)

While it’s frustrating cutting back on an already limited diet, it’s worth it for the day or two that you feel so, well, crappy. If you’ve been through your fair share of flares already, you’ve probably established a group of ‘safe’ flare foods. For me, it’s basmati rice (which I craved SOOO badly today but I wasn’t prepared to cheat so close to the end!) and eggs. I used to find that crackers were also very soothing, before I had to cut out gluten.

All things being equal, your bad bout should pass within about 24 hours, if it was just something that you ate. If it doesn’t abate or if you start bleeding, suffering from bad cramps, nausea, night sweats or joint pain, it might be a flare and you should contact your doctor ASAP to get it under control.

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Day 63: When you gotta go…

For most people, bathroom habits are intensely private and seldom discussed, which I suppose is ironic considering it’s one of the few things every human being has in common. It’s also why so many people with inflammatory bowel disease delay going to the doctor – and, like me, end up in hospital before finally being able to get a diagnosis.

The fact is, discussing what comes out, especially when it’s abnormal, is embarrassing for many of us. It’s also why we don’t like to talk about our illnesses. People often ask me, ‘But how did you know you were sick?’ or ‘How did you know you were lactose intolerant?’. I usually allude to it by saying, ‘Oh, I had terrible symptoms that you don’t really want to know about…’ but of course they do, and they ask! And you know what? We shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it! We didn’t ask for this disease, and we sure as shit didn’t ask for the symptoms. ‘Well, I started crapping blood every day,’ is, I suppose, the accurate answer. And when I give it, it really shuts people up 😉

Following on from this is the actual act of going to the toilet to do your business. For me, for most of my life, this was something that I only ever did at home. It was very private and I didn’t talk about it, unless there was a problem. In fact, I believe there’s a huge psychological component to it: My bowel would literally shut down when I was away from home. I remember going on overseas trips in my early 20s and going for a week or longer with zero activity – simply because I didn’t feel comfortable.

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I remember feeling so humiliated when, age 21 or so, my stomach was assailed by a Mexican feast, and I spent so long in the bathroom at my then-boyfriend’s apartment that he put a whole fresh pack of toilet paper outside the door as a joke. I always tried to avoid the dreaded ‘number 2′ at boyfriends’ houses – or anyone’s house for that matter. And public places? Forget it!

Even further back, I remember leaving for school in the morning, needing to ‘go’, and thinking, ‘Now it’s going to have to wait until I’m home again.’ And it did.

Of course, all of that largely changed when I developed UC. Suddenly, despite the power of my subconscious, my ‘second brain’ managed to overcome it to a significant degree. I had no choice but to answer the call when the flares knocked (and knocked and knocked) – no matter where I was. The worst place was my sister’s wedding – right there at the reception, in my gorgeous bridesmaid’s dress. That was my first flare in fact.

Sometimes you just gotta go right there in the street, in a wedding dress. Also, watch Bridesmaids #Best

Sometimes you just gotta go right there in the street, in a wedding dress. Also, watch Bridesmaids #Best

The flip side of this has been a conscious effort to try to go whenever I feel the urge – wherever I may be. I’ve come to learn just how unhealthy it is to hold it in, especially when you have an already damaged gut. I loved this post by gutwrenchingtruthaboutcrohns called ‘Pooping in public… and adults with no sensors‘, and now it always pops into my head when I’m in the bathroom at work and I just gotta…

Luckily I haven’t encountered any rude people (and of course we all like to think that leave hardly a trace behind us), but I do think that ‘going’ in a public place is difficult for many people – especially girls, and especially anyone who, like me, has an intense germ phobia about public toilets! Hovering when you pee is a fairy easy skill to master. Hovering when you have a flare takes significantly more practice!

Interestingly, during the worst of my flares last year, I’d go to the toilet several times in the morning while I worked from home, and innumerable times during the night, disturbing my sleep. However, no matter how severe the flare, my BMs mostly (not completely) held off during the four or so hours that I taught at a school each day. I walked there every day – half an hour each way – and then taught for about 3 or 4 hours. And apart from the odd occasion, my colon usually played nice while I was in front of my class. Or maybe my lessons were just so boring it fell asleep (it had been up all night after all).

Just what every IBD sufferer needs. K, pay attention #Chrismukkah #Presents #Multitasking #Productivity

Just what every IBD sufferer needs. K, pay attention #Chrismukkah #Presents #Multitasking #Productivity

So that always felt to me like the psychological component creeping back in. Obviously it’s impossible to completely control a serious digestive disease with one’s mind (unless you’re Dynamo or David Blaine maybe). But, speaking only for myself, I know there’s a huge brain connection and so healing myself is as much a psychological journey as it is a physical one.

It also means that when I go to the theatre with my mom, like I did tonight, and I’m in the queue for the toilet with a gaggle of well-preened older ladies, I just have to bite the bullet and do my shiz, no matter how inconvenient it may be. Because if I don’t (and sometimes, even if I do – like tonight), I have to sit through a 2-hour production with unbuttoned pants and audible fireworks in my belly while the bloat monsters play basketball in my stomach.

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I don’t know why it happened tonight but after I came home and enjoyed some QT with my loo, I felt a million times better. It makes me think it’s something I ate (I promise I only had a few bananas today), and that it could actually maybe (sigh) be the cauliflower. Investigations ongoing.

The point of all this is that going to the toilet is the most basic of human activities; the one thing we all have in common; and that when you need to do it, just do it. Holding it in is never healthy – and as we all know, ‘better out than in’ 🙂

While searching for images for this post, I came across this hilarious piece entitled A lady’s guide to pooping in public. I highly recommend you give it a read – perhaps when next you’re spending 5 minutes in the loo 😉 And her solution to the public poo conundrum? The best EVER. Read it.

Day 50 and my least favourite F-word

I had so much I wanted to write today. I wanted to tell you about all the awesome food I cooked and that I’d prepared some onions to try and how much fun our facemasks were and how I’m going to make almond milk tomorrow for a new batch of yoghurt.

But then 4pm happened, and brought with it a dreadfully familiar routine. Since then (5 hours ago), I’ve been in and out of the bathroom at least 6 times with diarrhoea (and tears of frustration), but I’m trying to stay positive. I’m hoping it’s simply the booze and the litre of yoghurt I consumed on Friday that’s caused this, and that’s it’s just a hiccup and it’ll be out of my system by tomorrow. But even as I type, I feel my tummy gurgling, and I can tell I’m going to have to jump up any second.

I just can’t. I want to crawl into my bed and stay there until this passes. More than anything, I don’t want this to be flare. And that’s exactly what it feels like. If it is… where to from here?

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