How I Got Over My IBS Flare Up & Maintaining BALANCE with a Plant-Based Diet
It’s been an interesting week with stomach issues cropping up on top of my usual Lyme and fatigue symptoms, and it got me thinking about a lot of stuff I’ve been wanting to write about for a while.
Story time //
So first let me set the scene by telling you my own story from this week, then I will lead into the topic of this post. Sunday night I ended up eating something that sent my body into an absolute tailspin. I was with family at a big family dinner where a special plate of food was made for me (SOS-free & plant-based), which was very sweet, and I was starving! So I ate all of it.
On the plate were veggies, salad, and a big Farro salad. I didn’t realize or remember at the time that Farro is not a gluten-free grain. I eat grains themselves very sparingly, but usually gluten-free oats are okay with me, and occasionally rice is okay with me, so I didn’t think it would be too detrimental.
Welp, about an hour later my stomach was in knots and it felt like there were daggers in my digestive system. I was up all night, the entire night, writhing in pain, crying, feeling miserable, and then woke up early to spend the day in Ojai for wedding stuff. It was not fun. I felt like a walking corpse. I was constipated, felt like knives were shooting through my stomach, and the fatigue and brain fog from eating gluten were eating me alive.
I literally kept telling my mom I felt like I could fall asleep standing up. But even worse, I couldn’t sleep if I tried because the pain was keeping my body in fight or flight.
To top it all off, when I feel this way, my body just gets hungrier for nutrients that will actually satiate me. It’s like my body says, “F it, we already feel awful, pile in the grub!” But the problem is, eating more food on top of this awful feeling leads to a MORE awful feeling. It’s hard to explain, but imagine food that your body is allergic to the foods fermenting in your stomach, causing you pain and bloating and misery, being unable to eliminate it, and then putting more food on top of it. It’s… hell.
And this is a feeling I have been dealing with for my entire life! My parents truly say I was born with my stomach like this. I stopped eating gluten when I was 14 — long before gluten-free was a trend or it was possible to find any decent gluten-free products really. So when I accidentally eat it, which has only been a handful of times in the last 15 years, my body FLIPS.
My remedy //
When I got home from Ojai I fell into my bed and didn’t move for over 24 hours. I could NOT move. I took a 3 hour bath which was the only place my body wasn’t in searing pain. I sobbed to Jonathan harder than I have cried in a very long time, explaining to him how bad the pain really is for me. Not JUST from eating gluten, but also the Lyme pain and fatigue and fog I feel 100% of the time.
Oftentimes I hold it back because if I spoke about it as much as I feel it, I would be talking about it constantly. It’s hard not to feel like you’re complaining or a downer or flat out making it up when you’re simply explaining to the people closest to you how you feel in your own body in every waking moment. But it’s so important to express those feelings, and every time I do I feel so much better.
It was a miserable day and two nights, but it did lead to some clarity. I was up all night for a second night, knowing that this rock bottom (yet another rock bottom) can lead to feeling better if I harness it and allow it to.
So, my remedy! I decided to do a short water fast to reduce the inflammation. You can read all about my first extended water fast here, so you can rest assured I have a lot of experience water fasting so it’s safe for me to do one at home. I had an early dinner on Monday and then a little snack Monday night at 7 p.m., fasted all day yesterday, and had a green juice today around noon. So that means I did a 40 hour water fast to reduce inflammation and give my body a break from digesting food.
And holy moly you guys, it worked. It’s been a while since I have done a short water fast, but they are extremely effective. This year I did a 10 day fast at True North, and last year I did a 2 week fast there. Those were for extreme health issues. And while these stomach issues certainly are extreme, a one day fast felt right to me this time. I will likely follow it up with another short fast this weekend because it’s truly a miracle worker in terms of reducing inflammation and pain.
My digestive system is SO HAPPY and on the road to recovery. It needed that break. I had a juice this morning as I mentioned, and will likely have another few juices today and then keep the foods simple, steamed, and plant-based (or liquids / soups).
I am definitely not telling you to do a fast if you have stomach issues, but if you intuitively feel that its right for you, then I am a water fasting fan. This was more of a long intermittent fast honestly, as water fasts can go for far longer than this. This was a nice digestive system break. And it works for ME, so keep in mind that something different may work for you.
Some thoughts on diet culture //
This morning I checked my FB & had an amazing message from a girl I went to college with. She has a chronic illness and recently went on an anti-inflammatory plant-based diet.
She wrote this to me, and it absolutely made my day, “You have been so helpful with ideas to eat, but also the healthy mindset. It’s easy to get triggered on other extreme, super healthy blogs, but I love how your blog maintains the positivity, is not too restrictive, and focuses on feeling better, not weight-loss or body shape…. It’s a relief to hear I’m not the only one and that there are other people (young, famous bloggers like you) in the world dealing with chronic illness and all the medical treatments, and found a way to enjoy their life and follow their goals.”
Honestly, this made me want to cry happy tears. My ultimate goal in sharing my lifestyle with you guys is to share that my goal is to FEEL well, and the way I eat has nothing to do with how I look on the outside- and inspired you to do the same. To put yourself FIRST. Suffering from disordered eating tendencies when I was younger is something that taught me a lot, and I can truly say that not one iota of me identifies with those old habits anymore.
When you have a chronic illness, the one and only goal is to get well. It eradicates everything else. In many ways, getting sick has been a massive blessing for me because my body image has never been better. I love my body, every ounce of her. My scars, my strength, the incredible willpower it takes to get through every single day with Lyme.
My passion for wellness, before, during, and after this disease, is truly what has saved me. The research I’ve done, the wellness knowledge I have, the amazing practitioners I have access to, but above and beyond, knowing that wellness is also SIMPLE- movement, rest, light, hydration, sweating. These little things have been a miracle in my healing, and have made it so that I will never, ever give up.
(Sadly I know far too many people with this disease who DO give up. And I don’t blame them.)
Which brings me to this… I have noticed a huge stigma in diet culture / anti-diet culture lately about wellness in general. It’s almost like “wellness” has become a dirty word. Something associated with privilege, disordered eating, restriction, a rapidly growing industry, and more. And to be honest — it makes me really sad.
It seems like every time I open my Instagram or peruse a wellness site, there is something about wellness being a problem. Just like every industry, wellness is not perfect. Of course some people take it too far with “flat tummy teas” & the like, but to me, that is NOT WELLNESS. That’s something completely different.
Wellness can be completely free. It means taking care of yourself, getting outside more, moving your body, and speaking kindly to yourself. Not free but affordable in most cases are eating nutrient-dense foods, either from a local farmer’s market, very affordable sites like Imperfect Produce, or your local grocery store.
The amount of people I see online bashing wellness & taking care of ourselves shocks me. Labeled diets get a lot of flack which I understand (I have been attacked by the vegan community and sadly will never feel the same about the term “veganism” even though I am almost 100% vegan and have been for years) and I think moving toward more BALANCE is important.
If you’re reading this, I urge you to take notice of those of us who are living a wellness-minded lifestyle because if we don’t, we suffer. Ultimately, I think a lot of people who don’t treat their bodies well suffer! Especially in the longterm.
When you live with a disease and all of the accompanying symptoms of that disease that leave you absolutely wrecked and bedridden and miserable if you don’t follow a diet or lifestyle that you need to in order to feel well, then you get it. If I say “f*ck it” and eat ice cream, or cake, or even grains a lot of the time, or a saucy dish at even a HEALTHY restaurant, I am literally RUINED. I have to cancel my plans and be in bed for days. It’s a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Wellness is not a choice for me, it’s a necessity. One I am ultimately grateful for.
The message I got on FB this morning (that was much longer than that but I am only sharing a bit of it) gave me so much hope. I know there are so many of us out there who need this content. Wellness content that really is specific to WELLNESS & feeling well, because we all deserve our best shot at feeling well.
Every time I see a blogger or influencer post about taking downtime for themselves, or eating in a specific way for their health and their body, or having to cancel/turn down plans (I am staying home from a very special Goop event tonight because I don’t have it in me to go, and it makes me sad!), or having a DARK/DOWN day due to their symptoms from whatever they’re dealing with, I feel seen.
And I want to be that for others too, so I will keep on sharing my truth even though I see so much hate being spread about wellness in general right now. People hating on plant based diets, food combining (I literally die if I don’t food combine because of my stomach issues), self care, celery juice, supplements, gluten-free foods, avoiding nightshades… I mean, simple things. Come on.
Can’t we just let everyone do what works best for them?
I have been a wellness junkie since I was about 14 years old, like I said before, wayyyy before it was a trend. I LOVE reading the latest wellness studies and books and following people from functional medicine doctors to the Medical Medium who speaks to spirit. It brings me joy, and also gives me hope. The lifestyle I follow may seem restrictive to some, but in my eyes it’s given me my freedom back.
Wellness also brought me to spirituality, and I find them to be completely synonymous in my eyes.
I guess what I am saying here is that I think the WELLNESS industry is an amazing thing. I do not miss the days of having absolutely nowhere to turn for information or good healthy products. But I do miss the days of when I first started blogging and there was really no hate about wellness whatsoever. I think adding to that hate only creates more hate, more stigmas, more separation, and more insecurities to be honest.
I do think like any industry, wellness can improve and extremes don’t need to be so extreme. But for those of us with sickness & autoimmune disease, thank god for wellness. Thank god for the abundance of free information on the internet. Thank god for healthy products and healthy restaurants and the amazing little app called Instagram that connects us to hundreds of thousands of people who are feeling the exact same way.
I am grateful for wellness, and I am grateful for YOU. Thank you for being here and reading. I would love to hear your thoughts. <3 Please share them below! Let’s get a conversation going!