True Life: [I Think] I Have IBS

This is a sort of follow-up from my related blog about a recent episode of MTV’s True Life about people with social anxiety. This will likely become a series of blogs as I learn the ins and outs of what I’m pretty sure is my own battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

In 2010, I began using protein shakes and taking creatine as I was beginning to take weight training more seriously. However, I began to notice some time in 2011 that my belly area bulged in the most unflattering way. I was aware that creatine supplements can cause water weight, but this giant bloating was clearly far more than just water. The first thing that came to mind was abdominal fat, so over two years I intermittently proceeded to waste time doing cardio and taking countless fish oil capsules, so many that they turned my stools tarry and back due to possible intestinal bleeding. Eventually, a lightbulb went off in my head; something isn’t right that I have such a swollen belly while the rest of my body remains the same. I decided that it might be a bowel problem as I’ve noticed for quite a while that I didn’t pass nearly as often and healthily as I used to.

From here, I took note of any symptoms. I noticed that up to two or three days could pass and I’ll often release nothing more than a pebble, and if I did have a more voluminous release, the stools would look like ribbons or sickle cells planted at the bottom of the toilet like heavy rocks. Flatulence would come and go, and the smell would be lethal. Any remote pain that I felt was little different from the common stomach ache, but I’d also feel pressure as if a lot of waste was trying to pass but couldn’t. The most pressing issue for me was the distention, or swelling, of my belly area. My gut would swell so much that I looked pregnant, and it would be the most annoying sensation as I’d literally feel something just rested inside of me. With a little Googling, all signs pointed to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS.

Below is a gallery of photos taken today while getting ready for work. The bloating was moderate to minimal, but it’s as flat as a pancake compared to my worst bouts.

IBS is very common and it affects one-fifth of American adults, nearly affecting just that much of the population at some point in their lives. IBS isn’t a disease, but is understood to be a dysfunction in the lower bowels with no specifically known root cause. Those who have IBS usually have to deal with either constipation (IBS-C) or diarrhea (IBS-D) as their primary symptom, but many sufferers struggle with both, or IBS-A for “alternating”. My primary issue, of course, is constipation.

I learned that drinking six to eight glasses of water per day can increase bowel movements and lessen IBS symptoms, but I also learned about probiotics. Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that aid in your bowel movements. With the constipation caused by IBS, your stools are essentially rotting in your lower intestine, causing the gas and bloat, as well as some of the most ungodly farts. This all, from what I understand, stems from the “bad bacteria” that have taken over. Probiotics restore the balance and for me, gradually get things going. People express their experiences with probiotics as hit or miss, but it needs to be noted that probiotics…are…living…things. They’re bacteria, and they should always be refrigerated because warmer temperatures will kill the organisms off, making the supplement less potent. I buy mine at a local health foods store called Vitality on Oak Villa Boulevard next to Cortana Mall, and I go for the strongest supplements possible–usually a few hundred million to tens of billions of bacteria per serving. A bottle costs me $10 to $20 depending on what’s in stock, and they are housed in a cooler.

I’ve yet to go to Dr. Mayo, our family’s general practitioner, for an official diagnosis, but in the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with a cocktail that has worked well over the past few months. It includes probiotics to restore balance, six to eight glasses of water per day to help get things moving and the sporadic glass of prune juice for my impatience, but also Miralax to help draw water down to the bowels and get things moving even faster. All of this is working for me, especially for the hideous bloating, but I highly doubt that the swelling will go down completely as long as the dysfunction still exists. As of today, I’m trying to streamline things more and develop a better regimen until I finally go to Dr. Mayo. Right now, I’m experimenting simply with water and probiotics, but constantly having to make sure that I’m drinking water, drinking water, drinking water not only becomes tedious, but annoying as well. Nonetheless, I’ve been on this specific experiment for the past two days, and I did have a decent movement this morning with less mucus than usual.

A few days ago, I learned about a probiotic juice called GoodBelly, which has 10 billion probiotic cultures per serving. It has gotten great reviews from people who have the symptoms that I do, so I want to add this to my ongoing experiment. One site has a 32-ounce carton listed at almost $6, but I’m not surprised as probiotics tend to be costly. Either way, they work. I know that the local Whole Foods Market here in Baton Rouge sells GoodBelly drinks, but I will continue to shop around to see who all sells them around town. As a side note, it was also refreshing to learn that my grandmother actually has IBS, and so did my late aunt. This project will continue and I plan to document it all right here.

Follow me on Twitter and check out my work on here, YouTube and also Soundcloud. Toodaloo.

–Javan H.

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