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"The free, natural way I cured IBS"

It starts so slowly. A dangerous little rumble in the tummy. A gradual tightening of the intestines.

Blood immediately rushes to my cheeks and I start looking for the nearest bathroom, mentally trying to calculate exactly how long I have before there’s going to be a very messy accident.

Welcome to the world of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. An embarrassing, unstable, hideous world where every food item has the potential to cause major distress. A world full of unexplained bloating and stomach pains and very unpleasant bowel movements.

It all started at the beginning of last year, with a stroke of extreme bad luck. I got the kind of parasite that’s so rare that my doctor had to pull out a textbook to try and remember what it was, and how to treat it. The Department of Health investigated me and asked me things like, “what kind of pools have you swum in for the last year?”

My answer: “Uh… wet, blue ones?”

The parasite cleared out the good bacteria from my gut and made it a very unhappy place. Following that, my doctor misdiagnosed me with another ailment and put me on some unnecessary antibiotics that absolutely ruined me.

Another diagnosis was made, and it was IBS. Which is essentially an umbrella term for all the gut-related mishaps that can’t really be explained and can’t really be healed unless you find something that really, really works for you.

So far, I’ve tried:

– Going lactose-free. (This made no difference, although I did become addicted to lactose-free Parmesan.)

– Going gluten-free. (Also no difference, although my wallet felt the pain – GF stuff is expensive.)

– Trying the FODMAP diet. (No help.)

– Drinking shiteloads of water every day. (Had to pee all the time. Otherwise, no difference.)

– Keeping a food diary. (Showed me nothing. Stomach upsets have been caused by everything from sushi to plain pasta.)

– Taking lots of probiotics. (I’m sure they help a little, although they’re definitely not a miracle cure.)

– Starting every day with a glass of lemon water. (Of anything, this has helped more with my immunity than my digestion.)

– Cutting out alcohol and all artificial sweeteners. (A life without any wine or cider is the actual worst.)

– Eating more fruit. (Gave me lots of bloating.)

– Eating less fruit. (No noticable differences.)

I was about to book myself into a colonic when I decided to download a few books onto my Kindle that might help (I refuse to read anything related to IBS in a format where other people might see what I’m reading). Trust Your Gut, by Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff and clinical health psychologist Dr. Mark Weisberg, was one of the first books I downloaded and started reading immediately.

And you know what? The tiniest little trick from the book changed my life – and, so far, has healed my IBS almost completely.

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In Trust Your Gut, Dr Plotnikoff and Dr Weisberg explain that your gut is smart. So smart, in fact, that it’s commonly referred to as the second brain. The intestinal brain receives and transmits information just as the normal brain does. And when you’re used to having serious bowel issues, often your gut-brain and your brain-brain have both been conditioned to react to a threat that may not even exist.

As the doctors explain in the book:

In the case of an attack of digestive distress, you have a hypersensitised amygdala – a primitive part of the main brain which decides whether a threat exists. It can take a small, harmless sensation and encode it as threatening. this sends a danger signal to the gut, which reacts by tensing up and causing distress. The intestinal brain sends these amplified distress signals back to the amygdala, which totally freaks out and sends more emergency signals back to the gut, so then the gut goes bonkers as well, which gives you awful pain and distress.

It’s so true. After all my negative gut experiences, I automatically freak out when any kind of movement happens in my belly – even if it’s just my tummy normally digesting a regular bit of food. My gut-brain and my brain-brain both go into overdrive, causing much more distress than there would be if I simply relaxed.

So these days, if my tummy makes any kind of noise or movement, I sit, listen carefully and centre myself. I don’t panic and immediately perceive the noise or movement as a threat – instead, I just try and see what’s really going on in there.

Generally, I recognise that it’s just a little bit of digestive activity, or a tiny bit of gas that is rumbling its way around the system. I accept that it’s happening, and I let it go without feeling alarmed, knowing that it’s all normal and doesn’t necessarily have to turn disastrous.

If my stomach does feel a little bit unhappy, or out of sorts, I don’t start to panic and look for the nearest bathroom. I just breathe. Yoga breathing techniques are good for this – I usually breathe in for two counts and out for four, focusing entirely on the breath filling my lungs.

And you know what? The pain passes quickly, and then it’s forgotten. Always.

Of course, I combine the above little tricks with a generally active lifestyle, a (relatively) healthy diet, plenty of water and some probiotics when I remember them. But otherwise, I’m on no medication and I eat whatever I want, without restricting lactose, gluten or sugar.

I’ve been doing this for three months now, and it’s the longest I’ve ever gone without experiencing any severe bloating, stomach pain or urgent trips to the bathroom. I no longer feel panicked at the thought of situations without bathrooms in the immediate vicinity (long car trips, for example).

And I didn’t have to spend several hundred dollars on (potentially useless) colonics – so thank goodness for that.

Have you ever dealt with IBS? What has helped you?

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