All The Ways We Misdiagnose Stomach Issues

June 11, 2018  |  
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As someone who has suffered with irritable bowel syndrome my entire life, I cannot even recall all of the things I’ve tried to do/lengths I’ve gone/diets I’ve suffered through/experimental treatments I’ve undergone to try to get to the bottom of my problems. Everybody I spoke to felt certain they had the answer for me. Name an elimination diet, and I’ve tried it. Name a supplement, and I’ve purchased it. I own a squatty potty, a bowel movement journal (sorry if that’s TMI but, this is a stomach issue post after all), and about five different types of probiotics. At the end of the day, I was able to get to the bottom of my problem but I first believed it was a slew of other things. And, to be fair, many of the diagnosis I gave myself really are the problem for other people. But, unless you can confirm the diagnosis through actual medical tests, you could be barking up the wrong tree for nothing. Here are all the wrong ways we diagnose our stomach issues.

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Bulking up on fiber

Some individuals do need more fiber—that is true. But, adding more fiber without adding more water to a diet can make issues like constipation and gas worse. Furthermore, sometimes a lack of fiber isn’t the issue at all but rather the individual is eating some irritant that their body struggles to digest.

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Going vegan for IBS

I went vegan for my IBS, thinking that eating nothing but fruits and veggies would alleviate my constipation. But…it didn’t. I, personally, need to follow a Low FODMAP diet to feel better. But that means I actually cannot eat several types of fruits and vegetables—kinds that I was eating en masse as a vegan. Today, I eat meat and animal products but I avoid foods that are high FODMAP.

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Downing kombucha

Kombucha is praised for its ability to introduce healthy bacteria into your gut and aid in digestion. Here’s the thing: if you have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) adding bacteria to your gut can result in painful bloat and gas. Plus, simple carbonation bothers some with IBS. Kombucha isn’t the cure-all for everybody.

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Eliminating gluten

Everyone seems to believe that everyone in the world is sensitive to gluten. But, that simply isn’t true. What’s worse is that, when people cut out gluten, they often start buying gluten-free bread/pasta/baked goods, and these can be made with additives that upset stomachs. Gutting gluten can also mean eliminating some important fiber you get from gluten products. Make sure you’re actually gluten-intolerant before cutting it.

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Eliminating dairy

If you’re going to eliminate dairy, this is another item you should actually do an allergy test for. I thought I had to be dairy-free, but it turns out, I just need to avoid some dairy (as indicated by the Low FODMAP diet). I can, and actually should, have things like low fat yogurt and cottage cheese. Remember that cutting dairy entirely means eliminating your calcium intake substantially. So make sure you must do it, if you’re going to do it.

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Chowing down on cruciferous vegetables

Any time I’m backed up somebody suggests I try some broccoli or Brussels sprouts or something along those lines. Here’s the thing; while those foods can help some individuals, they can cause too much gas and bloat in those with SIBO.

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Guzzling more water

At one point, after a friend told me that she brought a giant jug of water with her everywhere and is very regular, I thought I’d try the same. But I just wound up peeing so much that it interrupted my sleep, and being sleep deprived made my stomach issues worse. The thing is that there is such thing as drinking too much water. If you pee constantly and release a river each time, your organs don’t need all the water you’re giving them. Adding water can help some with IBS, but probably not those who are already properly hydrated.

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Changing the eating schedule

I tend to eat late at night. Someone suggested that that can mess up digestion, so I moved my dinners from 10pm to 7pm. Nothing got better. But, that individual who suggested it also goes to bed at 10pm wakes up at 6 in the morning. I have a different lifestyle and go to bed at 1am and get up at 9am. I already was giving my body plenty of time to digest my dinner, even when I had it at 10pm.

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Blaming spicy food

Let’s be honest: spicy food can do a number on one’s stomach. But, unless you’re someone who eats spicy food every single day, then it likely isn’t at the root of your daily issues.

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Eliminating all sugar

We could probably all do with a bit less sugar. But, cutting out all sugar (that means in canned pasta sauce, condiments, and even fruit) is a lot of work. And, it may not be sugar that’s bothering you. If you have SIBO, for example, it may just be certain fruits that upset you. But you can handle lower sugar fruits like raspberries. Or, perhaps the additives in condiments that you use every single day upset you, but not the sugar.

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Switching to six mini meals

Eating something every few hours is a good idea for maintaining blood sugar. And, in some cases, it can keep your digestive system more active, which can improve regularity. But, once again, if you are just eating something to which you’re sensitive, eating that thing every three hours as opposed to every seven won’t help. In fact, it could make things worse.

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Cutting coffee

Many people with IBS cut out coffee, thinking that the acidity upsets their stomach. I’d suggest that if constipation is your issue, but you want to cut acidity, cut acidity in other areas (tomatoes, citrus, vinegar). One little cup of coffee can actually jumpstart your digestion.

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Asking our friends

Your friends mean well but they are not (I’m presuming) gastrointestinal doctors or allergy specialists. Everybody’s body is different. What worked for one friend could make your issues worse.

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At-home elimination diets

People often guess what they’re allergic to, and try an elimination diet on their own. The trouble with those is that sometimes, you’re looking in the wrong direction. Let’s say, for example, you cut out cheese. And you feel better, so you think it’s the cheese. But maybe the way you used to always eat cheese was on corn tortillas in quesadillas, so during your elimination, you aren’t having those either. It’s very possible your sensitivity is to corn, not cheese. Again, it’s important to see an allergy specialist.

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Not addressing stress

Stress plays a major role in our digestive issues. Your brain and stomach are strongly connected. If you aren’t addressing the stress in your life, then all of your other efforts could be in vain.

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