Last week I shared with you about my diagnosis of both mild Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and if you’re familiar with either condition you know they both negatively affect one’s digestive system. Basically, I went years with bloating, gas, and abdominal pain – all the textbook symptoms. After numerous tests and follow-ups, the diagnosis came in, and so I took that information and tried to see what was out there to ease my woes.
My first venture was to see a naturopath because I wasn’t too keen on being pumped with medications right away. She suggested that I avoid wheat, dairy, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers in order to ease my symptoms. Now when you’re told you basically can’t eat two food groups – along with many other food items – you assume your life is over and you’re going to starve. How can a person avoid wheat and dairy?! Just the thought of it was quite daunting.
Gluten-free products line the shelves of the stores nowadays, but if you actually take the time to read the labels you may still find wheat, so my pickings were very limited.
At first, I went out to buy any wheat-free bread out there in hopes to find one that I enjoyed. Trust me, there were plenty that were near inedible, and I ended up not eating plenty of it – needless to say, money not well spent. But at last, I started to find some options that I could enjoy.
As time passed, I realized I didn’t even need to spend money on wheat-free bread because I really wasn’t consuming that much bread anyway. Also, finding pasta to enjoy was even simpler, as there were plenty of corn and rice options, so having solid meals was getting much easier.
The struggle though came when I wasn’t at home. Although the world is jumping ship with gluten-free, it’s not very dairy- or wheat-free, unfortunately. Needless to say, ordering at a restaurant was quite the challenge.
I would pick a seemingly safe menu item, excited to be able to eat it, but once I read the description I would find hidden cheeses, sauces, creams… and wheat. Luckily, though, many restaurants nowadays allow you to make substitutions, meaning I can find something to eat without too many problems.
I know I may come off high maintenance asking the wait staff, “Hold the cheese, please. Can I replace the bread? Can you not add the sauce?” But I know what I’m doing will save me a night of pain and discomfort. So I apologize to all the waiters and waitresses I’ve encountered and will encounter in the future, but those are the little changes that allow me to not only enjoy my meal, but my evening as well.
As a general rule, I would say that Italian cuisine – pizza, pasta, and bread galore – isn’t always the friendliest when it comes to being wheat-free. And I find Asian-inspired restaurants along with steakhouses and grills offer greater variety, which makes it easier to avoid wheat. You may want to keep this in mind if you’re heading out.
It’s been a few years now and I still get questions like “How can you not eat bread?!” on the regular, but trust me, when you experience the pain after consuming something you shouldn’t be eating, it basically becomes second-nature to avoid wheat and all its products like the plague.
I must admit though, I don’t always stick to a wheat-free, dairy-free lifestyle – I have an incredible love for cheese! At the end of the day, I am human and, unfortunately, you can’t quite get an amazing wheat-free pizza all the time, so I “cheat,” so to speak, and indulge a bit. I have noticed that as long as majority of my days are wheat-free, I can enjoy a slice or two of pizza or a piece of Melba toast without too much distress. But the key is to know my limit and know when to say “no.”
But cheating hasn’t always been pleasant. There are still times when the pains, cramps, and bloating rush over me at the first bite. As a general rule, I tend to leave my cheat meals for days that I know I will be at home to save me from rushing to public bathrooms or being out in public with such horrible gastrointestinal distress. Nothing will ruin your night out quicker than stomach issues, that’s for sure. And even prior to my diagnosis, there were several occasions when I had to leave early or didn’t even venture out as I was bogged down by my symptoms. And I had to forget about wearing tight jeans or dress pants. For a while, you would only see my in leggings or stretchy pants, because I would be so bloated that the thought of buttoning up pants was unbearable.
Would I necessarily recommend getting off wheat entirely? No, probably not. If you do have some sort of bowel syndrome I would suggest maybe cutting down, but definitely speak to your doctor, or maybe see a naturopath, about any food allergies or intolerances you may have.
I truly believe that diet plays a large role in our health, and I can honestly say that personally I have noticed a difference in my own health by eliminating certain foods. But I need to be honest, it isn’t always easy, and some days I want nothing more than to simply eat food without thinking of the consequences. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the life I live. Do I starve? Heck, no. I eat plenty of dairy-free and wheat-free meals that keep me full and satisfied. Do I crave pizza? Of course, who doesn’t, but it’s all about moderation and making good choices.
Do you or someone you know live with IBS or have embarked on an elimination diet? Tell me about it in the comments section below!
Until next week,