|Well...you can have mine!|
(Thanks to Gluten Dude for the pic!)
To help celebrate IBS Awareness Month, though, I'm opening up on a subject very near to my heart...a handswidth below it actually. The lovely adventure that is bloating.
Looking back at my pre-diagnosis self, one of the weirdest things - besides the limitless gluten consumption, of course - is how well behaved my stomach used to be. Working out + eating semi well + a teenage metabolism = a mostly flat stomach. Today, though? That equation is muddled depending on what I eat, how much I've slept, and whether I've performed the required rituals to the gastrointestinal gods.
As frustrating, embarrassing and - I'll admit it - debilitating as bloating sometimes feels, my goal is always is to do the best with what I have. And, with these top 5 tips, I can.
1. If you fail on one diet, try, try again! When I was first diagnosed, I kicked gluten and dairy out of the kitchen and thought I was done. As month's dragged on and my stomach kept ballooning, though, I knew more changes had to happen. (For me, nothing is worse than having a doctor press your stomach during a check up and exclaim, "Oh you're bloated!" when you thought it was totally normal!)
|My "new" diet...(source)|
That's where the low fodmap diet entered my life. Fodmaps refers to foods that contains high levels of certain sugars like fructans and lactose that can cause gas in certain people. My mom was suffering from similar problems and, after hearing her improvements on the diet, I decided it couldn't hurt. Bye bye mangoes, apples, onions, garlic, and other grocery staples! But, as weeks passed, I said hello to less regular bloating.
Now, I don't totally cross off every item on the high Fodmap list, but I try to limit my overall intake. Along with nanas, I make my banana ice cream with cantaloupe and dragonfruit instead of peaches and apples. And I fill my salads with less cabbage and more cucumber. It's not a panacea by any means, but it has taught me to pay more attention to my body. And accept the drawbacks when I eat a (bloat-causing) treat!
|Limits doesn't mean limited!|
2. Next, don't compare! Even after changing my diet, however, I still deal with flares. During midterms, I felt like a bowling ball rolled up and camped out under my shirt all week. Apparently stress and sleep deficits are two big tummy triggers of mine. What makes an unhappy belly worse, though? Seeing girls flash taut belly buttons while devouring chicken tenders and fries.
Fact is, it isn't fair. It isn't fair that I follow a reasonably healthy lifestyle and my body refuses to play along. That I work hard for the abs that disappear with one wrong meal. But, I'm not those girls. And those girls aren't Casey the College Celiac, for better or worse.
Without knowing their health history or daily lives, comparing one part of our body at one time of one day isn't even accurate - so why even bother doing something that makes me feel worse anyway?
3. A better place to focus? Stocking your closet with camaflogue. When my tummy flares up, I break out the flowy tops and dresses. I also love pulling on a high waisted skirt with an elastic waist band. Not only are they comfortable, but the high waistline also hides bumps and draws the eye upwards.
Still, the best camoglogue to wear is the piece that makes you feel like a million-flat-bellied-bucks! On a particular awful day last month, I threw on my favorite long green dress. And while all I could see was my bulging belly, all eveyone said was: "You look gorgeous!" Who says dresses can't also serve as suits of armor?
4. Besides taking medication during flares (I use charcoal tablets or Gas-X pills), I also force myself to get moving! First off, exercise helps get that trapped air moving. Secondly, it's a great distraction! Depending on my level of "mobility" (great practice for pregnancy, perhaps?), I'll usually stick to the stationary bike, stairclimber or walking on the treadmill. When I'm really desperate, I'll force myself into a yoga practice - you can imagine the entertaining google searches on my computer.
|A post-workout selfie after yoga!|
For me, sweating is the ultimate stress reliever. More than that, though, it lets me appreciate my body for all it does do. It may freak at certain foods, but I can still bike 12 miles. The mirror may not show what I want, but let's see it try and catch me on the treadmill! I'm more than my bloat - and my body is too.
5. Finally, when all else fails, do what makes you happy and try to accept that the bloat has bested you for now. For me, that translates into pj's (thank you high school gym shorts!), Netflix and the heat pack. Sometimes, I like being alone with just me and the belly. I don't have to worry about how I look or explaining feeling crummy.
Other times, friends make me the happiest. Nothing gets your mind off your own problems like watching horror video game walkthroughs in a dark room packed with college kids!
I can't say that I embrace my bloat - I can't say that I even accept it. I've got Amber to look to for inspiration on that. But, I'm getting better. I may never totally best the bloat or all of celiac disease's other "fine prints." But, I will keep doing my best at it.
And, to me, that's what IBS Awareness Month is all about.
*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*
Do you deal with a fine print of celiac disease? What is your best bloating tip? Comment below?