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I have lived with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for more than ten years.
It’s a common digestive disorder that causes gas, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation.
About 20% (15.3 million) of Americans suffer IBS. There’s no cure for it, and no one knows what causes this syndrome.
Due to IBS, I have abdominal pain more often than an average person.
My symptoms got worse about 6 years ago due to stress when I was about to drop out of a PhD program.
I went through one of the toughest times of my life both emotionally and physically.
I was in pain most of the time and just couldn’t eat pretty much anything without having to rush to the bathroom afterwards.
I would wake up at 3-4 AM every single morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep because of the pain.
At night, I couldn’t fall asleep until it was past midnight no matter how early I went to bed.
Having 3-4 hours of sleep every day was the norm. I was so sleep-deprived that I feel exhausted and nauseated all the time.
I went to see a gastroenterologist who told me there wasn’t much she could do about my health, and that IBS is not curable.
I gradually came to terms with the fact and learned to live with the syndrome. While IBS is a medical condition, it has a big impact on my budget and sometimes seems to take over my life.
1. I can’t eat oily food.
I love fried chicken, fried potatoes, fried tofu, and fried eggs. However, eating those foods is no longer possible since they will give me really bad stomach cramps.
Sometimes I just want to ignore IBS and eat oily fried chicken or fried tofu dipped in fish sauce to satisfy my craving. Needless to say, I have to pay the price a few minutes after.
2. I can’t eat fat.
Fat is the worst IBS trigger. Sometimes the reaction is instantaneous (within 5 minutes). I can no longer eat the fatty skin from pork, chicken or any kind of meat that comes with skin since it has high fat content.
Every time I eat roasted pork, duck, or chicken, the first thing I have to do is separate the skin from the meat. For some delicacies like roasted duck where the flavor is in the skin, it means I can’t enjoy 70% of the dish.
My parents prepared this delicious goat hotpot for me when I visited them. I was the only one who got stomach cramps afterwards due to the high fat content in the goat skin.
3. I usually don’t cook dishes that need meat/fish/seafood.
One reason why I have decided to cut back on my meat consumption is because whenever I cook something that involves meat, chances are I will have stomach cramps.
It may have to do with my cooking skills. But as a meat lover, I find the experience pretty frustrating.
4. I waste quite a lot of food.
On the weekends, I sometimes want to cook something different and experiment with different recipes.
However, I’ve gotten so tired of spending hours cooking a pork or chicken dish and then having stomach cramps that I have almost stopped experimenting with food.
If Mr. FAF is with me, I will try to make a new dish. If it makes my stomach hurts, he can always help me finish the rest.
But when he was in another city, I had no choice but to throw the food away.
Mr. FAF and I would eat the same thing, and I’d be the only one running to the restroom afterwards.
Sometimes I’m just really jealous of his digestive system, which seems to work well like a machine.
5. IBS makes me nervous about traveling.
While many people get excited about a long road trip or trying delicious local cuisine, I immediately start thinking about what safe food to bring or where I can find the nearest bathroom if my IBS starts acting up.
I try not to think about it too much, but I just can’t help it since my IBS reaction to food can be instantaneous and unbearably painful.
6. I waste a lot of time in the bathroom.
This one is probably one of the worst cons. If you ever had food poisoning and got stuck in the bathroom for at least 20-30 minutes multiple times, you will know what I mean.
I can’t picture how much time I’ve lost throughout my life being stuck in the restroom wondering when the pain is going to end.
1. IBS helps me save money.
When I decided to go on a diet, I thought long and hard about what I should eat. If I just eat only veggies and/or nuts at once, my stomach tends to get gassy and bloated. I love salad dressing with vinegar, but I can’t eat it either since vinegar irritates my digestive system.
In the end, I balanced it out with a bit of everything. Tofu, boiled eggs, and a small amount of beans seem to be the best options for me. They’re also much cheaper than nuts (i.e. pistachio, almonds).
2. I eat more healthy.
Since I need to stay away from greasy, oily, and fatty food, my diet is pretty clean and healthy.
I tend to eat a lot more veggies, fruit and yogurt compared to the time before my IBS symptoms got worse.
3. I can lose weight more easily.
As my diet doesn’t usually consist of unhealthy food (i.e. fried chicken, French fries), it wasn’t too difficult for me to switch to a clean and healthy diet to lose weight.
If I could choose, I would never want to have IBS despite all the potential advantages that come with it. I want to be healthy and to have the ability to choose what diet and lifestyle I like.
However, I also realized that without IBS, I would still continue to eat unhealthy food (i.e. French fries, fried chicken) and not worry about its long-term effect.
The best way to live life, I think, is to make the best of what I have. I have IBS, so I’ll just try to minimize the bad and focus on the good.
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