According to Monty Python it is important to always look on the bright side of life, and you know what? I completely agree. As we head into 2016, I've been taking the time to reflect on the year that was and you know what I discovered? After a lot of mulling over I realised that IBS has been one of the biggest blessings in my life.
You're crazy girl.
No freakin' way.
Yes freakin' way. Being diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome has been a life changing, eye opening, day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month blessing. Don't get me wrong, there are days where I want to rip my guts out, shove 'em in a washing machine until they're clean and normal and reset my whole digestive system, but in the grand scheme of things, IBS has changed my life for the better.
So as I came to this brain illuminating moment, I came up with a list (there always has to be a list right?) of 5 benefits that I have experienced from having IBS. As you read through them, I hope those in the same position as me can relate to what I have discovered.
If not, then read on anyway just for the lols.
5 BENEFITS OF IBS:
1. You become incredibly aware of your bodily functions.
Now this could be considered a bad thing but there's something to be said about knowing as soon as you eat something whether your body likes it or not. With IBS, and the hypersensitivity developed as a result, I am now aware of and completely in tune with the workings of my digestive system (gross). If it weren't for IBS I may not know what I do now. I know for certain what foods my body agrees with and which it cannot stand. I know when I have pushed my body too far over the physical limits. I can tell if what I ate for dinner last night was good or not so good by what I see in the toilet bowl the next morning. Too much information? Maybe to you, but honestly I am completely okay chatting about the inner workings of my colon. Call me weird, but everyone's got one.
2. You really think about what is in your food.
Before IBS, I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted without so much as a glance at the packet to confirm it was even food. Well, not anymore! As we are living in the age of processed food, and with many ingredients in such foods being intolerable to someone with IBS, I have become an expert at reading labels. Anything containing onion, garlic, honey, apples, pears, agave nectar etc. is no longer edible. And as these are common ingredients, the list of edible foods for those with IBS is incredibly limited. I have had to be a little bit clever with what I eat. I have researched about food and recipes until they appear in my dreams. Food has overtaken my life. But not in a bad way. I can now be considered a health freak. Out of necessity, but still a health freak. I try and eat only real food (meaning food with the least amount of human interference as possible), with most if not all meals containing fresh produce, proteins and fats. I readily consume probiotics such as kefir and kombucha (which in themselves have healed my gut incredibly) and stay away from sugary drinks and other tempting morsels (most of the time anyway). What. A. Difference. IBS or not I have never felt this good in a long time. I have more energy, I'm at a healthy weight, my symptoms have massively reduced and I hardly ever crave junk food! If it weren't for IBS this probably never would've happened and for that I am thankful.
3. You learn to manage your stress levels.
As IBS can be the result of living in a constant state of stress, learning to manage and relieve stress is an important part of recovering from IBS. This is beneficial for not only helping heal your gut but in every part of your life. In my opinion, stress is the disease of the Western world and affects most, if not every single person out there. It has taken me a long, long, long time to rein in my stress levels, and there have been days when stress has gotten the better of me and my sanity. But as I have gained perspective into the false reality of stress (because, let's be honest, there is very little truth in stress), life has become more bearable and enjoyable. That's right, life is good! For more info on IBS and stress check out this post .
4. It teaches you to look after yourself.
Ah, yes. The ancient principle of self-care, a concept that has very much been forgotten in our busy and hectic lives. But our crazy schedules are no match for IBS. No siree. It will let you know in it's super subtle way whether you are pushing yourself too far. As subtle as a brick to the face, that is. I have found that the more I push my body, either by exercising too much, or not taking time out to recharge, the worse my IBS can become. It doesn't matter whether I am eating appropriately or not, if my body is run down I become bloated and crampy. This has left me taking a serious look at how I look after myself. I have had to think about how often and at what intensity I exercise to ensure bowel comfort e.g. running is out and yoga is in. And resting is now not optional. At least one day a week, I force myself to stop and just do nothing, a concept that is surprisingly hard to grasp, but has been incredibly beneficial. I have learnt that it is not a bad thing to be nice to yourself, it is not a sin if you just chill out. Your body isn't going to change in a day, so just relax and do something you enjoy. Your body knows what it's talking about, I'm just glad I have finally listened to it.
5. It has changed my family's lives.
Now this one is a bit of a personal one. At first, when I was diagnosed with IBS it was hard. I felt like an outsider in my family and watched with envy as they consumed foods I loved. Gluten-filled, garlic-infested meals of deliciousness. But Mum being the selfless, generous person that she is, worked hard to make sure that dinner was a meal I could share with the family. Gluten, onions and garlic were out and gluten free dishes with garlic oil became the norm. This not only helped me but over time, my parents and siblings started to notice a difference in their own lives. They started having more energy, felt much less wished down and a heck of a lot less gassy (something we were all thankful for!). Not only that, but my parents have lost an incredible amount of weight and look downright fab-u-lous. Today, my family and I are healthier and happier than we've ever been. We think differently towards food, both low FODMAP and not, and even as I steadily get better we have no qualms about sticking with this no-gluten-no-onions deal for the foreseeable future.
For me IBS has been a blessing in not only my life but in the life of my family. Yes, it's hard and can be more bad than good some days but you know what? It could always be worse. IBS is not forever. It is not a disease that has no cure. It is not a death sentence. It is a condition that with proper measures can be dealt with. I challenge you to look back at how far you've come and really acknowledge the improvements you've made. Take the time to look on the bright side, because Monty Python knew what they were talking about.
What has your IBS or food journey been like? What improvements have you noticed? Comment below and let's get chatting.