I’ll try not to let myself rant too much on this subject, but it’s something I feel very strongly about! After living with Ulcerative Colitis for six years now, I’ve learned a thing or two about Gastroenterologists, and that is they never want to hear the two words: food matters.
My horrible experience with Gastroenterologists
I saw so many Gastroenterologists in when I first developed my Ulcerative Colitis (UC) symptoms. Every Gastroenterologist (GI) I talked to said that what I ate didn’t matter, and if I simply took the prescribed medicine, 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’ve been on Lialda, Colazal; you name it, and I’ve probably tried it some point. Well, guess what? Even on these medications, I didn’t get any better. After doing more research, I finally decided to quit the medication 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, I had already arrived at the point where I really had nothing to lose.
Fast forward a couple of 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 medication a while back, without her permission, and she looked at me with disbelief.
I told her my symptoms were pretty much gone, only by changing my diet. She 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 wouldn’t ever be 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. 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 the experience is really like. Sure they can read that people have pain, but it’s not the same. I’m sure anyone with Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s, Celiac Disease, or any type of digestive issue, will agree with me on this one.
When you’re experiencing pain, it impacts your entire life (from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed), and it’s almost impossible to think bout anything else.
Then, there is that “brushed aside” feeling you get at the end of your GI appointment. It makes you wonder what the point of all this is? Do they even care at all?
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 visit, haha.
In the end, I learned that food matters, and I need to listen to my body. Do the research and don’t always solely rely on what doctors are telling you. I’m not saying all doctors are wrong, but this is one area where I think it’s a lot worse than others. There is so much that science has yet to understand about these types of diseases.
Having digestive issues? Here’s what to do
From the bottom of my heart, I hope some of the following tips help you on your journey. I’ve learned all this the hard way over years of trial and error and wish I had something like this when I was in agony. It’s not easy, but the important thing to focus on is that it can get better. I went from completely rock bottom (literal hospital beds) to becoming a CMO at a fast-growing tech company. I now run my own business.
The first thing you should do if you are having digestive issues is to get your blood tested, both for Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance. You need to eat gluten right up until the test for it to work accurately. I had my test done with my primary care physician, but most labs can now do it. My gluten intolerance was off the charts, even though I didn’t test positive for Celiac Disease. I later found out I had Ulcerative Colitis.
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.
This is another thing I’ve found that many don’t know. Doctors can 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 was bright red on my chart. I had other odd ones such as cantaloupe, brown rice, etc. This significantly helps speed up trial and error.
If your primary care doctor can’t do this, ask where you can get it done.
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 issues. Their solutions are way less expensive, safer, and less invasive. I 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 critical 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’ll most likely feel better, have more energy, and be more alert.
I’ve been gluten-free now for over four years and couldn’t be happier. It’s a journey, you pretty much have to re-learn what to eat, but it’s worth it. One reason I started this blog was to help others learn how eating gluten-free doesn’t have to be hard. Especially these days, there are a lot of options.
Also, eat lots of blueberries and bananas. Most people generally tolerate these two fruits. Bananas are a more accessible source of fiber (which is hard for people with digestive issues to get sometimes), and blueberries are excellent for gut flora and your immune system.
A food journal is something everyone with a digestive issue should be keeping 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’s as simple as staying away from those foods. Sometimes, in the beginning, this means eating a lot of the same thing and introducing new foods slowly. It’s a process, but it works.
This can sometimes go hand in hand with creating a food journal and getting a food panel/allergy test. A super-easy way to see if changing what you eat helps is to go on a food exclusion diet. Start with simple foods, one or two, that you know don’t irritate your stomach, and go from there. You want to focus on keeping track of the foods you have to exclude from your diet.
My recommendation would be to start with something like bananas and lactose-free yogurt. Those are two things my body tolerates 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 remember which foods you can and cannot eat.
It’s important to listen to your body.
So my one weakness 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’ve 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 Starbucks 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 an acquired taste.
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! I’m just not quite there yet.
Exercise is so important to your overall health and well-being. When you exercise, you simply 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’m 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, whether it’s a massage or a bubble bath.
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.
- A multivitamin is always good, especially if you have vitamin deficiencies like I did.
- Probiotic: I recommend something over 25 billion strains and one that is refrigerated. Ultimate Flora was on the only one my stomach liked. You could also do a probiotic lactose-free yogurt.
- L-Glutamine powder: I take this mixed with lactose-free yogurt every day.
- Glycine and L-Proline: Have you heard of bone broth? These are the healing ingredients in bone broth.
I drink a lot more water than I did when I was a kid. I prefer drinking alkaline water. I believe keeping as much acidity out of my body, the better. There’s some controversy over whether higher PH water helps or not. But opinion aside, it’s healthier than soda. Beware of products like Propel, as they are way more acidic. It would be better to drink tap water than a lot of sports drinks.
I also drink a lot of Spindrift, which is sparkling water without any artificial sweeteners. This actually helped me completely quit my soda habit. It has just enough flavor and in my opinion, tastes better than some of the alternatives like LaCroix.
13. Get more fiber
I can’t stress this enough, get more fiber! After chatting with many people who’ve had Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, introducing more fiber seems to always come up in conversation. Taking Metamucil before each meal and eating bananas on a regular basis has done wonders for me.
If you’ve tried everything above and still aren’t seeing results, then I do recommend seeing a gastroenterologist. You might need to get an endoscopy (esophagus, stomach, small intestine) or colonoscopy (large intestine, colon, rectum), which can only be performed by a medical professional.
Summary: Food matters
Again, I’m not a medical professional, but I urge you to research yourself before wasting tens of thousands of dollars (yes, that’s how much I’ve 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.
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