So where did my IBS adventure start?
I started developing symptoms about 2 years ago (it seems much, much longer than that). At first I thought I had a stomach flu that just wouldn’t go away!! I was truly miserable. I soiled my pants. Running to the bathroom became an awful sporting event. As you probably know from your own experiences, feelings of anger, sadness and desperation all take turns in your head.
Then it tweaked on me that dairy might be the problem. I made this discovery while I was on vacation – I don’t eat very well on vacation: wine instead of milk, a snack of fries instead of yogurt, you get the gist…
Once I discovered what was giving me trouble, I had to decide what to do next. I had many, many worries. What if there is something really wrong with me? How can yogurt possibly be bad for me? How can I live the rest of my life without dairy? Is that even possible?
My biggest fear was wondering what could be causing this. Peoples stomachs just don’t suddenly start disliking certain foods, do they?
I met with my Doctor, and she assured me that yes, stomachs sometimes suddenly do just that. She thought it would be a good idea for me to have a couple of tests to make sure there wasn’t something structurally wrong with me, and so a stool sample as well as a colonoscopy with biopsies were arranged.
Let me be the first to tell you, these are very, very fun tests to take. If you have any sense of pride and modesty, just take a deep breath and learn to love your wild side.
On the bright side, everything came back clean. I was healthy!! (insert maniacal laughter here).
So, all that was left for me to do, was to remove dairy completely from my diet. This was a pretty big change for me, and besides being irrationally irritated at the thought of life without cheese I also had a worry about long-term consequences. My mother has osteoporosis, so cutting dairy out of my diet probably wouldn’t be good for me, right?
I was feeling pretty low at this point. It seemed that my life was turning into a life of denial. Not that I was a big glutton before, but it’s always unpleasant to have options taken away from you.
My next stop was to a Registered Dietitian. This was a really positive experience, partly because of a lucky coincidence – she was also lactose intolerant. She was able to give me lots of pointers: how to ensure I’m getting enough calcium, how dairy can be disguised on a food label (who knew there were so many code words for ‘milk’?), and even what sorts of dairy alternatives exist in the grocery store.
She wanted me to test for my tolerance for dairy – and I discovered in a rather unpleasant way that just a spoonful of yogurt has nasty consequences for me.
My Dietitian did suggest trying goats milk cheese – the protein in goats milk is structurally slightly different than in cows milk. By now I was terrified of anything dairy, and was reluctant to just give it a try. I quizzed the folks at my local cheese boutique as well as the cheese stall at my local farmers market. Once convinced that the two dairy products are in fact quite different I summoned up the courage to try chevre (the word for cheese made from goats milk). I was thrilled to learn that goats milk is an option for me!
So, from my Physician I learned I was healthy (ha ha) and from my Registered Dietitian, I learned how to ensure I would get my daily calcium needs met… as well as finding out that my life could go on.
Once I got dairy out of my diet, I was thrilled to discover side benefits – no more running to the toilet, and (bonus round) no more of those weird headaches I had been getting for years.
It was a “cure” (I understood that it wasn’t really a cure) like many others – a cure with a price. I was pretty angry that I had to give up dairy, and all the foods it hid in. Chocolate bars will be forever off limits to me. Here’s my embarrassing confession: every time I’d see that commercial with happy women saying that my bowel problems would go away if I just ate more yogurt I would go and buy some. Talk about the power of marketing!! I’d be too scared to eat it, and always end up throwing it away. What a terrible waste…
Yup, a cure with a price. But I’d take it.