Sunday, 23 October 2011

I left a doc's appointment feeling...GOOD!

I've been on SCD for a good few weeks now, and am quite proud of myself for how well I have been doing. I'm still eating intro foods because they have been working for me, but have also been introducing new foods every 4 or so days. Pumpkin and green beans have both been successful so far, but no fruit currently seems to be agreeing with me.

However, despite my adherance to the diet, over the past couple of weeks my symptoms have come creeping back. The first sign was the bleeding, which definitely had me a little worried. And then slowly but surely back came the C and the bloating and the tiredness. As soon as the blood appeared, I went back to my safe foods hoping that I had just introduced something that didn't quite agree with me yet. But even when I was in my 'safe zone', the symptoms just kept coming back one-by-one.

I decided that it was about time I got a referral to see a second GI specialist after the first one was such a disaster. So I made an appointment with the GP who has been looking after my family since I was born and went in to see her on Friday. I have to say, Friday wasn't a particularly good day for me. One of our family dogs, who we had for 14 years, was suffering from a facial tumor. Neither of my parents could bring themselves to get her put down, and that morning my 2 beautiful sisters had called me to ask whether I would be willing to go with them to the vet. Anyone who knows my family will know that our dogs are just as important as our human family members, and Buffy was our oldest pet. She was the type of dog who knew when you came home after a really crappy day, and would look at you as if to say 'come on, let me give you a doggy cuddle'.

So I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office and my mum called me to ask about Buffy. I told her what the vet had said, and that we had had to have her put down, and then I started crying right there in the waiting room. The poor other guy who was there probably thought I was dying, because all he would have heard was "they said it was a facial tumor and that there is nothing they can do"....and then me bawling my eyes out. Oh dear.

Anyway, I got in to see the doctor and after 5 minutes realised that I was an idiot for not making an appointment with her earlier. If you've ever had an amazing doctor who actually really gives a crap about their patients, you will understand exactly what I mean. The problem is, this doc is so good that it usually takes about a month to get an appointment with her, and she only works 2 days a week, so I had ended up seeing other people instead.

I don't think I've ever had a more thorough checkup in my regular appointment turned into an hour-long session where she went through the whole history of my GI problems, what tests I'd had done and which treatments I'd tried. She was really worried about the bleeding, especially after there was no sign of hemorrhoids, and called my previous GI specialist a complete idiot which made me feel much better about that horrific experience. The only way the appointment could have been better was if she was a GI specialist herself!

So I now have a referral to a GI doc near me....I can't afford another private consultation, especially because I'll need a colonoscopy and endoscopy, so she has referred me to someone at Box Hill hospital. There is generally a 6 month waiting period to get in to see a public specialist, so she has told me that on one day when I am feeling particularly crappy, I need to front up to the emergency room with my referral and wait there until I can see somebody. I have been pre-warned that ths is likely to take around 10 hours, but that is a lot better than waiting 6 months. Plus my CB has already promised me he will bring a picnic and wait there with me :)

I'm feeling positive about things today, which is a good thing after the past couple of weeks and that fear that creeps into you when your symptoms start returning for reasons you don't understand. My GP was worried that SIBO is not the full story, which would suck...but I'd rather know. Having knowledge arms you so that you can fight whatever it is that is making you sick.

I wish everyone could find a doctor who is as wonderful and caring as my GP...and if anyone living in Melbourne wants her details let me know.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Overseas Adventures with SCD!

A couple of months ago my CB won a tour of Turkey....this seemed pretty exciting to someone who never seems to win much, not even the raffle at the school fete. At the time, we talked a bit about heading overseas and where we would like to go, but after a few weeks we had both kind of forgotten about our plans and our potential trip in the midst of daily life.

So about a month ago, I was surprised when CB again brought up the topic of heading overseas. He had decided that we were going to take the tour and split the cost 50-50. I told him that I would love to go, but that I didn’t think it was fair that he had to pay when he had won the tour as a result of his hard work. After a few days of back-and-forth I reached the conclusion that CB is just as stubborn as I, and that he wasn’t going to budge on this one. I just had to suck it up and accept a half-price tour of Turkey…damn.

On Monday night we took the exciting step of booking and paying for our flights and the tour…I have to say I was pretty excited. I spent 6 months in Europe and the UK in 2006, and since then I’ve had a short trip to Thailand and that’s about it. So the travel bug has been biting hard lately, I have to say. Unfortunately the most time CB could get off work was 3 weeks, so our hopes to visit half of Europe were somewhat dashed. However, we are having a 4 day stopover in Malaysia before heading to Turkey, and will be spending a few days in both Italy and France once our tour has finished.

At first my excitement in booking everything and dreaming up day-trips and adventures completely took over and all I could think about was how much fun we were going to have. But a couple of days ago it dawned on me that my diet is going to be a major issue when travelling, especially overseas. The thing I am most worried about right now is the tour, as a lot of our meals are provided along the way. When I was last in Europe I did a 3-week tour with meals provided (back when I had a happily functioning digestive system), and remembering that experience makes me think it is going to be incredibly difficult to have my dietary requirements met while on the road. So now a little bit of stress has kicked in.

It does make me a little sad that I won'e be able to experience a lot of the amazing foods that Malaysia and some of Europe has to offer. My sister just got back from a 6 month stint in the US and Europe, and managed to put on about 15kg along the way. As crazy as it sounds, I would love to be able to do the same (possibly with the knowledge that I will be returning home to my gym membership). But then I think, better to be healthy than to indulge in foods that I know are going to make me sick. Hopefully I can keep that resolve when faced with the patisseries of Paris! 

I wholeheartedly refuse to let my digestive troubles and restricted diet ruin my opportunities to experience life, so of course I am going to try my best to sort all of this stuff out. And hopefully by May next year I will be less restricted in what I can eat, and won’t be so badly affected by things like I am now. For now I am just focusing on the positives – I am travelling again, and with someone who means the world to me. I guess I can’t really complain about that.

And if anyone has any great suggestions for travelling overseas while on SCD, I'd love to hear them.

Stay happy :)

Friday, 14 October 2011

A Shout Out to Everyone with an IBD

A few times when my SIBO symptoms have been really bad, I've sat there and told myself "Hey, it could be worse. There are a lot nastier illnesses out there." While this doesn't really make you feel much better at the time, it is definitely true.

A lot of the discussion boards and forums I am a member of are filled with people whose IBD has impacted their life in so many terrible ways - months bedridden, trips to hospital, surgery to remove parts of their digestive tract and so on. As much as SIBO sucks, it could be worse.

The past couple of days I've had quite a bit of pain in my intestines. I'm not really sure what the cause might be as I am eating only safe foods, and haven't introduced any new supplements. But the pain has been keep me up at night bad. And then a couple of days ago I started bleeding. Now this is something pretty new for me - I've had a few spots of blood here and there, but never anything major and it always went away quickly. This time, things weren't so simple. The bleeding just got worse and worse until yesterday the toilet bowl was just filled with blood. Strangely enough, the BMs seemed 'good' - bristol 4's and 5's.

I thought about taking today off work to go to the doctor, but decided I'd give it a day or so to see if it clears up on its own. I am sick of handing over money to doctors who I know probably wont be much help.

Anyway, this little episode got me thinking. Here I am, having a slight freak-out at a couple of days of bleeding when so many people with Crohn's or UC have this as a constant symptom that sometimes takes months to clear up even on SCD. Its not an easy thing for people to see blood where it shouldn't be, so I can only imagine how disheartening it must be to have this as one of your symptoms day-in-day-out.

So I guess this post is just a little shout out to anyone with an IBD who has to put up with crappy things like this happening to them on a regular basis. If you are one of these people, I'm sending you virtual hugs and hoping that eventually you find the thing that works for you to beat your disease.

Until then, we can all be there to support each other.

Much love xx

Friday, 7 October 2011

Cravings and Cooking

Even though I only started the SCD intro diet a little over a week ago, I was eating SCD legal before that for quite a while. So its been a good few months since I've had any form of processed food containing sugar, or any refined sugar for that matter. I think everyone who starts SCD will be familiar with the cravings you get for all of your favourite sugar- and carbo-loaded foods...chocolate, a loaf of crusty wholemeal bread, a bowl of pasta, or a handful of Starburst party mix. Did I mention chocolate?

Most of us are also happily realise that within a couple of weeks these cravings lessen quite substantially. They might not go away completely, but the thought of knocking that little kid in the supermarket out and stealing his Freddo Frog is much less strong. After a painful first couple of weeks, I noticed that my carb cravings were becoming less and less powerful as time went on. I also noticed that more savoury foods, even things like broccoli, started to taste sweeter and more appetising than I had ever thought possible. Its quite a novel experience for a long-time sweet tooth.

However, over the past week or so my cravings have been back with a vengeance. Sitting next to my CB the other night, while he munched away on some pizza base with basically all of the toppings pulled off (the poor thing is lactose intolerant and had been given 2 pizzas to take home), the desire to physically assault him for a piece of that topping-less pizza was almost overwhelming. Add to this the fact that my work is incapable of holding any sort of meeting without ordering enough gourmet catering to feed half of Melbourne (one of the perks of working with surgeons I guess). Sitting metres away from a tray of vanilla slices, brownies, doughnuts and cherry slice, or a deliciously cheesy looking lasagne, or scones with jam and cream is just not much fun when you feel like you would knock over your own grandmother for even a hint of sugar.

Sitting in bed with CB last night, we were discussing my suddenly renewed sugar cravings. "Its not you though," he so wisely stated. Its something I always try and remember when I feel like this. These cravings are coming from the bugs inside me, clamouring for some food. If I give in, I'm feeding the bugs and taking 10 giant steps backwards. If I ignore the cravings, I am winning. Cravings are good, I tell myself. They mean that I am beating these bugs - that they are getting desperate. So fight them I do.

Tonight we are having some drinks with one of my friends who has recently been through a bit of a crappy time. My friends have always known me as the baker....and I miss whipping up a batch of brownies, or some choc-raspberry cupcakes, or a Mars Bar cheesecake for whatever gathering we might be having. So I decided that, in the spirit of cheering up my friend, cupcakes were on the menu. Talk about testing myself...baking 30 choc-mud and blueberry-vanilla cupcakes and not even being able to lick the spoon is definitely an exercise in will power. But I passed, and the happiness some cupcakes brought my friends made it worthwhile.

At the same time, I thought I better cook something for myself so I didn't feel left out. On a recent trip to Leo's Fine Food and Wine (my gosh I miss this place), I came across some spice mixes that contained nothing but the herbs and spices litsed in the ingredients. I usually like to make my own spice mixes, but they had some pretty cool varieties so I ended up grabbing some African and Middle Eastern mixes. I decided it was time to trial some of these, and that a slow cooked leg of lamb was the perfect vessel for my Middle Eastern mix.

The result was delicious. Four hours of slow cooking, with some basting every now and then, resulted in a leg of lamb that was an tender as anything and just about falling off the bone. I was so proud I took a photo and sent it to my dad (the expert in roast lamb). I can't wait to try it again with the African spices! Or even a traditional garlic and rosemary marinade. My gosh it was good. 

I guess the moral of the story is this: Sometimes your cravings are going to rear their ugly head and try to make life difficult for you. When this happens (and it will), you need to remember that giving in is like taking 10 steps backwards. My suggestion is to figure out what you can do that is going to take your mind off your cravings, and to focus all of your energy on this thing. On this occasion, my distraction was cooking myself something delicious and SCD legal. I also went for a super long walk while my lamb was roasting, and did some preparation for a meeting on Monday. Take your mind off your cravings, and they will suddenly become less powerful. And if worst come to worst, and you feel that you simple HAVE TO give in, try to do so in an SCD legal way. Grab a piece of fruit, make some gelatine, or even try a little honey. And steer clear of those pesky confectionary aisles in the supermarket!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Intro Diet - Demolished!

Today marks day 5 on my SCD Adventure - and it's been a pretty good 5 days I must say.

I was only intending to do the intro diet for 3 days, but with a hectic weekend and no opportunity to prepare some other foods, I ended up sticking it out for 5. My staple foods for the past 5 days have included:
  • Eggs
  • Meat patties (I like to mix things up, so found chicken, lamb, and turkey mince for some variety)
  • Chicken soup
  • Roast chicken
  • And, of course, chicken soup
I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first that a chicken soup made without stock could taste any wrong I was! It was delicious! I have been having about 1.5-2 cups of this for both lunch and dinner each day, and on Saturday made another 5 litres! Here is my recipe:

- 3kg chicken drumsticks
- 2 whole onions, peeled
- 10 carrots, peeled
- about 5 celery stalks
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- salt to taste

I placed all of the ingredients into my brand spankin' new stock pot, and covered everything with water. It's much easier to leave the veggies whole, so you can find them when its time to take them out (you can only eat the carrots at first). I brought everything to the boil, and then allowed the soup to simmer for around 2 hours. At this point, the chicken should be just falling off the bone, and the veggies will be getting a bit soggy. I'm thinking it could be a good idea to purchase a piece of muslin that i can wrap all of the more advanced veggies in, to make removing them easier. Remove all of the veggies that you can't eat yet, and take the chicken meat off the bones (removing skin in the process). Place the chicken meat back into the pot with the carrots, and continue to cook for another 2 hours.

At the end of the 2 hours, remove the carrots and puree them. I don't have a food processor yet, so I mashed mine up as small as I could with a fork - probably not ideal, but it worked quite well as they were extremely soft. Once you have added the carrots back to the soup, it is ready to enjoy.

I had a whole bunch of people over at my house on saturday for the AFL grand final - all the while my soup was simmering away in the background. I can't tell you how many people asked if they could have some, despite the abundance of your typical 'footy grand final' type foods we had around the house. I guess a pot of home-made chicken soup beats a meat pie or bag of chips afterall. And best of all, my beloved Geelong came away with the win....Geelong Cats, premiers '11!!!

As for how I have been feeling symptom-wise the past few days, I must say I've been great! My bloating is the least it has been in the past 12 months, I have had more BMs than usual (although they are now tending toward the Bristol 5's and 6's at the moment), pain in minimal. I haven't felt this good in a LONG TIME!

I'm rather excited as it is now time for me to add in a new food. It was going to be butternut pumpkin first, however I am currently in possession of 2 extremely ripe bananas that are on the verge of going off. Although I wanted to hold back on the really sugary fruits for a while, any Australian at the moment will understand the reluctance I am feeling to throw out 2 bananas (which are still selling for around $10 per kilo). So banana it is - and here's hoping for no symptoms!