Athlete/Fitness Enthusiast with IBS - Healthy people get it too!Athlete IBS Story Running Incomplete Bowel Movements Diet Probiotic Relationships Food
Posted 24 February 2018 - 11:37 AM
I've been wanting to tell you my story but I'm pretty much always busy having to go poop 4-5 times a day or doing Uni work, but I've decided to take this weekend off.
THIS IS A LONG READ - WARNING! TRIGGERS FOR EATING DISORDERS.
An introduction about me and how I believe I developed IBS.
I got into health and fitness about the age of 11 and loved it all the way until I was about 19 where I went down a bit of a spiral...
In my first year of university I was a 100/200m sprinter lifting weights 4 times a week and sprinting 3-4 times a week, eating very healthfully (able to digest ALOT of fruit [Maybe 3 apples a day, 2 bananas, 2 plums and probably 2 handfuls of dates] without any problems!).
I was pretty much on my way to being able to sprint a 10.6 or 10.7s 100m. However, during the examination period a new trend in the fitness industry was sparked which seemed to somehow trigger a mild eating disorder (If it fits your macros/calorie counting) and I was obsessed with getting my bodyfat low as possible. This led to a severe cycle of bingeing. Among the stress of restricted eating, studying, training and guilt, I managed to do my back in extremely bad. I went to the gym to do my usual lower body day, didn't warm-up too well, came out the bottom of a heavy back squat and had a pain shoot down my spine and right leg. This specific injury had me chair bound for almost 5 months, not even a chance of exercising without immense pain. I was on naproxen, codeine and copious amounts of paracetamol and ibruprofen.
Of course.. My expectation of becoming a high level sprinter was completely destroyed, I lost major amounts of muscle mass, strength and gained a load of bodyfat. During this time I had no purpose in my life as I didn't even have studies to keep me occupied (I like to have things to do, my mind goes at a million miles an hour!). Please bear in mind that training and fitness was my entire life at this point as I was studying Sports Exercise with consistent grades over 70%.
I began to experience incomplete evacuation during this period as I believe my severed back caused a lot of muscular co-ordination problems. A year later my back had improved mildly and I was able to run again, but not sprint. So I took up Gymnastics Strength Training and began long distance running as a hobby. During this point I had gained that lost muscle but became much leaner than I had been previously. I was experiencing some problems with certain foods, mainly oats and nothing more. I was drinking strong coffee 3-4 times a day and only pooping 2-3 times a day, which is normal for me (Once in morning, after lunch, then after a coffee if I was training by 5pm). My bowel movements were pretty much always complete and non-problematic (I got over the fear of pooping round housemates by playing music out loud - we all did - so we all knew when we were pooping).
After that year of living with people, I took a gap year and worked an extremely stressful retail job (40+ hrs a week w/ no scheduled breaks or lunches [the rule was you eat, if you can - likewise, you go for a poop if you can] and always filled with customers who need a shoe fit or gait analysed). Now being the goal oriented person I was, I upped my running from 20 miles a week to a solid 50 miles with 10,000ft of elevation gain, which equates to approx 8 hours of running per week. Because of my vanity side too, I was lifting weights 4 times a weeks. In total, that's 12 hours of training, 40+ hours of a job w/ no breaks (whilst being stood up the whole shift) and 12 hours of commuting every week (6 hours of walking! 6 hours driving!).. all at £5.50 an hour, later onto £7.20 an hour.
I'm aware the above is excessive but I was deluded at the time, I wanted purpose again and that felt like the only way. I was still drinking 3-4 cups of coffee a day and having to tense my stomach constantly to prevent digestion so I wouldn't need to poop in a very busy store when the toilet is right next to the customer area with no noise reduction!
I began to run out of time to cook for myself and the majority of my calorific intake quite literally came from peanut butter, jam or banana sandwiches, often eaten quickly and in excess because I never knew when I'd have time to eat again. Because I wanted to go train before family dinner, I started to force my fecal matter out as quickly as possible and use coffee as my laxative.
Eventually, because I never took the time to poop properly, I'd get up and go running/weightlifting the millisecond there was a break in my bowel movement. I was drinking strong black coffee in the morning on an empty stomach, after eating A LOT of foods the night before that I am now intolerant to. I would go run, and by 2 miles in I had to go squat in a bush or jog slowly back home so I didn't have an accident. These bowel movements were explosive, dark and extremely pungent, a mix between constipation and diarrhea. After a run with many poop breaks (sometimes 2-3) I'd then go have breakfast of peanut butter sandwiches, and maybe 2-3 more depending on how much energy I'd expended (which was often in excess of 800 kilocalories).
This was all because I wanted to train for a marathon and score high (which I did!). I completed the marathon in 30th place, in a pair of slippers (basically [I thought it was a trail marathon, with no hard road, I was misinformed]). Literally the most memorable moment of my life so far, I had so many emotions, I nearly cried with some other dude who I crossed the line with.
HOWEVER - Something was wrong, I remember I started the race somewhat dehydrated and had a dodgy bowel movement 20 mins before race start and felt incomplete. I became very dizzy, pale and nauseous. I assumed this was because of the marathon and how hard I pushed myself, but for 2 weeks straight I became very ill with a virus. I did not take anti-biotics (because I understood the danger of destroying your good bacteria). But then it all made sense - I had trained way too hard, didn't eat properly, stressed myself out to the point of crying and nearly falling asleep driving to work and then finished my body off by running a marathon in my already terrible state.
After the marathon, I reduced my hours at work because I became ill, and I lost a sense of purpose again... I wasn't training because I was very ill, I wasn't working because I was ill and I went through another hit of depression, gained weight and struggled to find my feet. But this time I struggled more because I was now suffering abdominal pain after eating peanut butter (my godly favourite and forever satisfying spread) and was taking a poop before and after breakfast, and before and after lunch, then before dinner, even though I wasn't stressed and was taking better care of myself?
I dealt with this and just thought it had to with coffee (to some extend it did) - but then I changed lifestyles again and went back to uni, had to make new friends and try to get comfortable again. THIS WAS HARD! I was used to being stood up all day, having my own loo to recover on and having a physical job which didn't require as much thoughtful thinking.
I am an introvert and had to remake friends and get re-comfortable with them. Basically, I was running just as much (8 hours) and trying to clean and organise everything in the house to stay physically active whilst trying to meet all my deadlines.
This hit me hard and I've never had to experience such dramatic toilet events. I was scared of someone walking in or listening to me on the loo, so I tensed up and forced hard to get anything out when I knew everyone was away in their rooms or out the house. This resulted in extreme lower abdominal distention, leaky gas, diarrhea, pungent fecal matter and nausea. This also resulted in extreme diarrhea during training runs with my local athletics club where I''d have to sprint off to the local supermarket to let loose.
So, basically, over the years of putting myself to extremely high standards, ignoring my bodily senses and pushing my body when it shouldn't have been, I've developed an Irritable Bowel. NOTE: Running a marathon or training 8+ hours a week is not unhealthy, just don't do these things when your body is weak and take extra care of what you put in your body, especially stress!!
How am I doing these days?
I have a girlfriend who understands that my bowel is an absolute ###### hole and that I am high maintenance i.e. I have to be up and moving, I literally cannot be sedentary after eating or my bowel movements will become multiple or incomplete, then if we go for a walk, I''ll have to turn back to go poop.
I no longer drink coffee, but do often enjoy a pepsi max or similar caffeinated drink to hype me up for workouts.
I've changed my diet after reading Dr Michael Moseley's "Happy gut diet" book - or something along those lines? I DO RECOMMEND READING IT! (Plenty of soluble fibre veg like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and small but now increasing amounts of cruciferous veg). My lunch and dinners are always led with a lean protein and soluble fibre carbohydrate - I season my food well to keep things interesting and tasty.
I can eat singular portions of wheat without problems (thank god because I love bagels).
I no longer eat peanuts in any form, but do not eat nut butters at all (they give me incomplete BM's) but eat nuts in cereals (I do however notice nuts in my stool).
I still struggle with having a BM before and after breakfast (I believe this to be an ingrained habit through the stress I went through and am now focusing on this because this is the thing that annoys me the most!)
I am taking probiotics which seemed to have helped to some extent in my early repair stages, but has had minimal effect on the above problem of 2 morning BM's. (I have been taking Aflorex/Probio7 Advanced Formula/NutriPreme Acidophilus along with Aloe Vera Colon Cleanse an hour before bed). I also take digestive enzymes if I had a big meal or am having desserts or foods I am unaccustomed to.
I took 2 shits whilst writing this! Me and my girlfriend went out for a Cornish pasty and pastry! This confirms that IBS does not go away - You just have to overhaul your diet and stress coping strategies!
I have been running but I feel like my IBS has ruined it for me a little as about 2 out of 5 runs require a toilet stop at supermarkets which means trail running is dodgy if I can't find a secluded spot! This is mainly between breakfast and lunch.
Instead I lift weights 4 times a week (very happily) and am working with a much more promising physiotherapist who should be able to get me squatting underneath a heavy bar again sometime soon! (My back still bugs me to this day). I would love to be the stronger guy in the gym again, whereas right now I'm the obvious long distance runner in a crowd of meatheads!
I'm very open about my IBS to others - I don't dig into details unless they have good toilet humor! For example, on a trip to my friends house for Chinese New Year I admitted that I will be bringing my own veg as this mum does not typically cook very healthy (I.e. just rice, wheat noodles and saucy meats). HOWEVER, I do get extremely pissed off and will pipe up when individuals say things like "what's that mental thing you had again?".. Implying that it's in my head, which I assure you it is not.
I am doing much better than I was 4 months ago, although it is still difficult for friends, family and others to understand this syndrome. It is frustrating as people tend to ignore your plea's for healthy food, time alone and why you are high maintenance.
Whilst there's not much light at the end of the tunnel yet, light has emerged but still could take a LONG TIME.
For all my sufferers out there, you must understand that the majority of IBS cases are developed due to a stressful life event. If fixing your connection to this stress does not work out, please try rescheduling your diet properly. I have seen people "follow" the fodmap diet but still continue to eat wheat, rice, cheese etc. You MUST overhaul and eliminate all potential irritants. I'll admit, this bit sucks like hell and you will likely encounter attacks whilst doing so, but it will get better. Little and often is best! Introduce soluble fibres first (Carrots/Parsnips/Sweet Potato/Potato etc.) These are easily digestible for most - cooked is best, don't eat raw until you're sure.
By sticking to a proper FODMAP/Elimination diet I improved immensely after 2 weeks. It's all a case of improving your gut health. Be strict, but don't go hungry.
This is all the advice I can give. Cook ahead of time if you need and use seasonings!
Best of luck to you all,
- flossy likes this
Posted 20 May 2018 - 08:35 PM
Posted 21 May 2018 - 09:14 AM
Well written and I throughly enjoyed the read. Thank you! I am holing to nail down if I have IBS within the next few weeks. I think stress over th last couple of months with work has taken a toll on me. Im gonna try and start doing some relaxing stretches and maybe yoga.
Thanks @Jmicm13, glad you enjoyed it and hopefully took away some helpful cues.
Hands down, stress is by far the greatest trigger. The thing you have to remember is... Whatever stress you are dealing with right now, probably isn't as important as you think it is and it's time to change your mindset on that because you can't live in that state forever, simply not possible. My solution is to remember that when at work, I'm only going to do as much as I need or can do that is given to me on that day. Is my boss argues otherwise I threaten to quit and tell them they can go find someone better (which is unlikely!). You'll notice that managers tend to push the harder workers even harder because they see them as capable. Don't allow it. Simply tell them you are not the problem for the lack in productivity and their efforts to increase productivity should be on the lazier members, and additionally, you will only do what you can do.
You have to remember that when you leave work for the day, it's now your time to enjoy and relax yourself, do things that you genuinely enjoy and make you feel great. Mine was running and weightlifting but I took that too seriously and it became almost a second job, and stressful at that. Enjoy your yoga and stretching, do it alone if you're introverted like me, never feel guilty to take care of yourself, others problems are not your responsibility.
Lastly, if your boss/manager is still insistent or still pursuing you, find another job where you're respected for the effort you put in. Also, respect yourself for the work you've put in, and don't be afraid to make your manager aware of the work you've done too. Often the top-dogs forget your contribution.
But I say stress is the largest trigger as I have progressed with my health and am now having regular expected bowel patterns and beginning to drink coffee in the morning again without negative response.
No luck needed, just take genuine care of yourself, before others and before work.