Many years ago I was diagnosed with severe irritable bowel syndrome. I also have major issues with gluten (even crumbs in a toaster are a problem – darn it) and dairy, and a lesser issue with capsicum and tomato. The recommended diet for alleviating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome is known as low FODMAPs.
It’s a challenging diet to stick to, because depending on what you react to, it can involve eliminating a wide range of foods including foods high in fructose, onions, garlic, legumes and loads more yummy things (you can read more about FODMAPs on my blog www.gluteygirl.com).
After years on my special diet I should theoretically be symptom-free. I wish this was the case, but in fact I still have stomach aches, moments of diarrhoea, and other not so lovey symptoms.
The low FODMAPS diet is not supposed to be a diet that you’re on for life, but I’m still unable to tolerate high FODMAPS food groups, and in fact my sensitivity to foods is getting worse. It was for these reasons that I went to see my doctor who then referred me on to a gastroenterologist for investigation.
Investigation in this instance was a stool (poop) sample, a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy. The stool sample is easy to do, you collect a stool sample and drop it off at the lab with your lab form.
The colonoscopy and gastroscopy are more complicated and were the reason for my brief ‘holiday’ from work. A colonoscopy involves having an endoscope (a long bendable tube with a light and camera attached) inserted via the anus, into the rectum and further up into your large intestine. From there, the gastroenterologist can look for issues such as polyps, ulcers, tumours, and areas of inflammation or bleeding.
The gastroscopy is a similar procedure, where the scope is inserted via the mouth into the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. Often during the procedures small samples are taken for later testing.
That sounds lovely right? The good news is that you’re sedated during the procedure.
Rumbly in your tumbly?
Stomach issues are a kind of taboo topic in society. No one really wants to admit that they struggle with ongoing diarrhoea, constipation, heartburn, reflux or stomach pain. It’s embarrassing.
This is a problem, because some of these issues could be a sign of something more serious. Some gut issues can easily be resolved, but most of them do require some form of investigation. If you’ve got gut issues, it’s important you talk to your doctor about it. And if your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, see a different doctor.
Even if you suspect you have a food allergy, don’t try and change your diet without talking to your doctor first.
With gut-related issues (depending on the symptoms), you may be referred to a gastroenterologist. These guys and gals know their stuff! It’s their job to try and determine what investigation is required (blood tests, stool samples, gastroscopy, colonoscopy etc.) to figure out what’s going on with your gut and work with you on how to correct or manage the problem.
What to look for:
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following for more than a couple of days:
– Heartburn that persists/results in vomiting
– Unusual or persistent abdominal pain
– Vomiting of blood
– Bleeding from the rectum, or blood or mucus in your poo (may appear as if poop is black in colour and tarry looking)
– Dramatic weight loss
– Diarrhoea or constipation
– A change in the kind of poo you’re producing
– Pain or difficulty swallowing/episodes of choking
– Sensation of food getting stuck in the throat or chest
– Sore throat/hoarseness
– Loss of appetite
– Nausea or vomiting
– Pain when pooing
– Generally feeling fatigued or sluggish
You know what everyone does, but hardly anyone admits to doing? Pooing. Because people don’t like to talk about it, many people are unsure what’s normal. Here’s a handy chart to help you figure out if your poop looks okay (type three and four are normal, everything else is not normal).
Don’t ignore it!
In New Zealand bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related death. New Zealand also has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.
Like any cancer, early detection and treatment can save your life. Even if you don’t have bowel cancer, there are many other gut-related issues that do require attention and treatment, and this is best dealt with by talking to your doctor first.
My final piece of advice, don’t ignore gut issues, check your poop, and go see your doctor if you’re experiencing gut issues.
Christina Stewart is passionate blogger, photographer and cafe haunter, who has spent a lifetime dealing with multiple food allergies and intolerances. Her website gluteygirl.com is packed with education, advocacy, tasty recipes and inspiration for foodies and fellow sufferers. Packed with information on all things gluten-free, dairy-free and low FODMAPs, there are also plenty of interviews, cafe reviews, recipes and mischief. www.gluteygirl.com