I will try to not let myself rant too much on this subject, but it is something I feel very strongly about! After living with Ulcerative Colitis for six years now I have learned a thing or two about Gastroenterologists, and that is they never want to hear the two words: food matters.
My experience with GIs
I saw many GIs in the beginning, when I first developed my UC symptoms. Every GI I talked to said that what I ate didn’t matter, and if I took the medicine that I would be fine. My GI literally said and I quote:
“Oh ya, you can still eat at Taco Bell. Just take the Lialda.“
I have been on Lialda, Colazal, you name it, I have probably tried it. Well, guess what? Even on these medications, I didn’t get any better. After doing more of my own research, I decided to quit the meds and go a more natural route with my diet. After all, how could a disease of the colon not be affected by food passing through it? Also at that point I really had nothing to lose.
Fast forward a couple months and my symptoms were pretty much gone. I had a checkup with my GI and told her what I had been doing. I told her that I quit my meds a while back, without her permission, and she looked at me with disbelief. I told her my symptoms are pretty much gone, simply by changing my diet. She still couldn’t accept that my diet is what had helped me. Long story short, I ended up walking out of her office after telling her I won’t ever back, and thanks for the help, or rather misleading me for months?
People need to remember that GI’s are medical doctors. They went to medical school and are trained by professors and textbooks, just like the rest of us. Well, guess what? What I do for a living is nothing I learned in school, I taught myself everything. And I would like to think I am pretty good at it. Personal experience is sometimes the best experience.
GI’s, unless they have been through the pain of living with a digestive issue, have no clue what it is really like. Sure they can read that people have pain, but it is not the same. I am sure anyone with Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s, or Celiac Disease will agree with me on this one.
And then there is that “brushed aside” feeling you get at the end of your GI appointment. Makes you wonder what is the point of all this?
Now find me a GI that has Ulcerative Colitis and I might listen. I’m sure they exist, but are probably very rare. I live in Scottsdale, AZ (6+ million people) and have yet to find one. But I can tell you who not to go to lol.
In the end, I learned that food matters and to trust my body. Do the research and don’t always solely rely on what doctors are telling you. I’m not saying all doctors are bad, but this is one area where I think it is a lot worse than others.
Having digestive issues? Here is what to do
I have learned all this the hard way over years of trial and error. I really do hope from the bottom of my heart that this helps you, as I wish I had something like this when I was in agony.
Digestive issue index
- Get your blood tested
- Get a vitamin deficiency test
- Get a food panel/allergy test
- See naturopathic doctor or nutritionist
- Go gluten-free
- Create a food journal
- Food exclusion diet
- Find healthier alternatives to your cravings
- Exercise more
- Relax more
- Drink lots of water
- Get more fiber
- Last resort: See a Gastroenterologist
The very first thing you should do if you are having digestive issues is to get your blood tested, both for Celiac Disease and for gluten intolerance. You need to be eating gluten up until the test for it to work accurately. I had my test done with my primary care physician, but most labs can now test you for it. My gluten intolerance was off the charts, even though I didn’t test positive for Celiac. I later found out I had Ulcerative Colitis. Another way to get tested is to get your gut biopsied.
Many people with digestive issues have vitamin deficiencies and may not even know it. I was severely low on iron and had to take supplements to get back up to normal levels. Don’t assume your vitamins are in check… just get the test. I recommend doing this even for healthy people. Again, my primary care doctor did this.
Many people don’t realize that doctors have tests in which they draw your blood and then test it against all sorts of different foods. I got a 250 food panel blood test and an amazing report back with foods I needed to stay away from. Gluten again was bright red on my chart. I had other odd ones such as cantaloupe, brown rice, etc… This helps majorly speed up trial and error.
Before going to a GI, I recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor or a nutritionist. Both can give you alternative ways to deal with your digestive issue. Their solutions are way less expensive, safer, and less invasive. I actually sat down with a nutritionist for an hour after getting my food panel results and we worked out a whole plan together. Nutritionists can be very helpful!
After you have had all your tests done, this is the most important next step! Go gluten-free, trust me. After two weeks of eating gluten-free and cutting out the bad foods from my food panel, I saw a complete 180 in my symptoms. By going gluten-free you will not only feel better but also have more energy, be more alert, etc. As of writing this I am getting close to the one-year mark of eating gluten-free and couldn’t be happier. It is a journey, you pretty much have to re-learn what to eat, but it is worth it. That is one reason I started this blog, was to help to others learn how eating gluten-free doesn’t have to be hard.
Also, eat lots of blueberries and bananas. These two fruits are generally tolerated by most people. Bananas are an easier source of fiber (which is hard for people with digestive issues to get sometimes) and blueberries are amazing for gut flora and your immune system.
This is something everyone with a digestive issue should be doing at the start. Thankfully if you get a food panel test this becomes a lot easier, but keeping a food journal will help you narrow down exactly what causes pain and discomfort. Then it is as simple as staying away from those foods. Sometimes at the beginning this means eating a lot of the same thing and introducing new foods slowly, it is a process, but it works.
This can sometimes go hand in hand with creating a food journal and getting a food panel/allergy test. But a super-easy way to see if diet helps your issues is to simply start yourself on a food exclusion diet. Start with super simple foods, one or two, that you know don’t irritate your stomach, and go from there. What you want to focus on is keeping track of the foods you have to exclude from your diet.
My recommendation would start with something like bananas and a lactose and soy-free yogurt. Those are two things my body tolerates really well. Slowly build up your list of foods from there and exclude everything that causes you discomfort. And of course, as I said above, keep a food journal to know which foods you can and cannot eat.
It’s important to listen to your body.
So my one achilles heel has always been caffeine. I used to drink a grande raspberry mocha every day from Starbucks. Unfortunately, my stomach can no longer tolerate regular milk, soy milk, or coconut milk. 😢
I finally switched to almond milk. I have done lots of research on milk, soy milk, coconut milk, etc. over the past year and many people don’t realize all of the benefits that almond milk has! Almond milk also settles fine with my stomach. Make sure to get the unflavored kind if you are cooking and the brand without carrageenan.
I’ll admit it, I drink a lot of Dutch Bros coffee. My guilty pleasure right now is an almond milk latte with no flavors. I’ve found that getting it with no flavors helps a lot. But it’s definitely an acquired taste.
Besides drinking coffee, I have also tried to cut out all soda and carbonation from my diet. I honestly think the carbonation was a big part of my problem. That and the artificial sweeteners.
I hopefully don’t have to state the obvious, but if you can cut caffeine out of your diet altogether, by all means, go for it!
Exercise is so important in your overall health and well-being. When you exercise you simply will feel better, period. This was hard for me at the start because I was always in pain. So introduce this more and more as you start feeling better.
Relax more! Anyone that has lived in chronic pain probably knows not to take any day for granted. Life is way too short! One thing that I did to relax more was that I started seeing a chiropractor. I am a skinny guy and have always had joint issues. Seeing a chiropractor for me is very therapeutic and I always leave the Chiro office feeling like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Find ways to relax, whatever it is.
I’m not a huge fan of lots of supplements, but there are a few which speed up the healing process in your gut. I have linked the exact products I use.
- Metamucil (adding fiber to my diet did wonders, check out my Metamucil review)
- L-Glutamine powder (I take this mixed with lactose-free yogurt every day)
- Probiotic (I recommend something over 25 billion strains and one that is refrigerated. Ultimate Flora was on the only one my stomach liked)
- Glycine and L-Proline (have you heard of bone broth? these are the healing ingredients in bone broth)
- A multivitamin is also good, especially if you have vitamin deficiencies like I did.
I drink a lot more water than I did when I was a kid. I actually prefer drinking alkaline water myself. I believe keeping as much acidity out of my body the better. Beware of products like Propel, as they are way more acidic than even tap water.
I can’t stress this enough, get more fiber! After chatting with many people who have had Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, after introducing more fiber into their diet, it usually always has a positive effect. Taking Metamucil before each meal and eating bananas on a regular basis has done wonders for me.
And if you have tried everything above and still not seeing results, then I do recommend seeing a gastroenterologist. You might need to get an endoscopy or colonoscopy, which can only be performed by a medical professional.
Again, I am not a medical professional, but I urge you to do the research yourself first, before wasting tens of thousands of dollars (yes, that is how much I spent) on doctors. Unlike what GI’s will tell you, food matters! Everything we put into our bodies affects us in some way or another, for good or bad.
If this was helpful, or you know someone that this article might help, please share it!