At 4:30 a.m. the other morning, you could find me in my dark living room, kneeling on the carpet with my forehead pressing into the rug in a yoga pose which is basically an upright fetal position. Since early November, I have been rudely awoken at 3:00 to 4:30 a.m. many days with sharp pain in my lower abdomen that radiates into my hips. Each time, I lose at least two hours of sleep as I wait for the pain to subside.
Late December, I saw my gastrointestinal specialist who prescribed me a medication that seems to exacerbate my condition once the medication wears off. I also was given the FODMAP diet which is supposed to relieve the painful symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which I have nicknamed the paper and cotton ball diet because it is gluten and lactose free with so many foods I can’t eat, that I’ve narrowed it down to a diet of paper and cotton balls. Even this has not made any difference.
I have been using a journal app to help me determine the “triggers” but other than the probiotic my doctor recommended to help (but it had the opposite effect), I have yet to discover what is really causing this. Desperate, I’ve been researching online and in books about IBS but it seems they know very little about it but I keep reading the same things over and over. The key word is “Syndrome” which means that there is really not a medical cause they can find.
As I read anything and everything I can find on IBS, stress, anxiety and depression seem to be the common thread. The gut/mind connection has been proven by scientific studies and they continue to explore this. Well, I thought, the last few years have been really hard. Depression runs in my family on both sides and I have had several major depressive episodes in the past. As I wait for the ibuprofen to kick in as I stay in the only pose that affords me a bit of relief, I start wondering if my problem is not so much what I eat but the fact that my body has been through extreme amounts of stress and grief and maybe it’s just worn out.
Since this started early in November, I wonder if the fact that I had pretty much quit riding the 50 miles or more a week was a trigger. I’ve been exercising steadily to deal with grief and stave off depression. For almost three months, my exercise routine has been minimal so I have not had the benefit of the ‘runner’s high’ so to speak from the vigorous exercise of cycling to help me combat stress and keep my body running well. Stress. I realized the two college classes I have starting in a few days are weighing heavily on my mind. I had just read where 60% of IBS sufferers also suffer anxiety and 20% of them deal with depression. In other words, I was a prime candidate for aggravated IBS symptoms.
Desperate for any relief, exhausted from night after night of interrupted sleep, I decided to drop my classes for now and focus on some serious self-care. My body is screaming at me but I haven’t been listening. Slow down, let me heal, it’s been a hard ride. Today I am going to sign up at the gym and start exercising almost daily to combat stress and depression. I just am unable to get in enough exercise riding my indoor rollers, etc. And I also need to pay attention to stressors. As well as making sure I eat well. One can not live on paper and cotton balls alone.
Will this work? I have no idea but it can’t hurt. My body is forcing me to step back and look at my life and make adjustments. Hopefully my theory is right because nothing else is working. Wish me luck!