Trusting and Following My GPS: "Gut Positioning System"
I know the pain instantly. It's a pain, unlike any others. Different from menstrual cramps. Different from gas pain. Different from a night of drinking too much. The ulcerative colitis flare pain acts like a different beast – literally and figuratively.
If I accidentally eat a trigger food, my gut signals my brain, "Here’s your payback." It's just that simple.
30 years of navigating colitis
For more than 30 years of living with colitis, I regard my IBD as a traveling companion. It rides along life's journeys with me and pays particular attention to my diet, stress levels, and environmental factors. If I'm kind and sensitive to it, it gives back in kindness. If I disregard it, the "beastly" side of it pays back accordingly.
Before anyone looks upon me as a prime candidate for psychological evaluation, please understand that experience has been my BEST teacher. After more than 3 decades of living and struggling with IBD, I've learned to listen to my body. And I pay attention to the signals it communicates.
One rule that I've learned is that the same diet or foods affect people differently. For me, I know certain foods cause inflammation in my gut and lead post-haste to a flare.
So, what are the foods that I avoid?
Avoiding my UC trigger foods
Sadly, I’ve learned to quit my beloved sunny-side-up eggs. No more. Nope. Every time I eat bright-eyed, sunny-side-up eggs, my gut churns, and I'm running to find a bathroom. Experience has taught me this. On a good note, my colitis beast does tolerate hard-boiled and scrambled eggs. So, I stick to that path. It's not worth the pain or diarrhea.
Next, I've learned to peel the skin off scrumptious Honeycrisp apples. I just love the sweetness of the Honeycrisp variety. So much so, that I take one in my lunch every day. But each day, you'll find me peel, peel, peeling away the skin before I get to enjoy the crunchy, crisp treat. What's most sad (and ironic) about removing the skin is that I know I'm removing the ursolic acid that offers some promising healing properties.
But my gut says, "You can’t eat that." So, I peel it away and enjoy the other benefits of apple eating, such as the pectin found in them that may help reduce cardiovascular disease and antioxidants that help reduce the risk of cancer. Also, I discovered more recently that eating an apple around my meals also seems to keep my acid reflux at bay. Sweet varieties of this fruit seem to work better at acid reduction than sour ones. My body has also taught me that lesson.
Gluten and my gut
Finally, my biggest trigger food can be controversial. It emits eye rolls from the majority of restaurant servers I confront. But my body absolutely does not tolerate gluten. This protein – found in many grains such as wheat, barley, and rye – doesn't play well with my gastrointestinal system. As a matter of fact, my body rejects gluten instantly.
When I ingest gluten, an automatic inflammatory response occurs. My GI tract just refuses it and punishes me for not paying attention or avoiding it. So, if I don’t want to spend an entire day on the commode – or even start a colitis flare – then, I say "no" to any gluten product.
My "GPS" through the curves of colitis
If I want to live at peace with my traveling companion, then I consciously avoid foods that bring out the worst in my colitis beast. Period. It's not rocket science. But it sure took me the majority of 30 years to figure this out. I've learned to treat my gastrointestinal system with the utmost regard.
As cheesy as it sounds (and yes, cheese works fine for me), I say: choose the food path of least resistance. For those with IBD, one must always select the "safe foods." We all travel along many roads in life. If the joy is in the journey, then choose a nutritional path that brings out the joy in your gut.
But I know words don't teach. Experience does.
So, let your food experience inform you of what you can and cannot eat. That inner GPS – Gut Positioning System – will navigate you to the smoothest path. Trust me and my gut.
How open are you about being diagnosed with IBD?