Tummy Troubles & Sorbitol!

Helllllo everyone! It has been a very long time since I last wrote on here.

Since my stomach has been doing much better lately, I thought I would explain my tummy troubles on here and hopefully this could help others with digestive issues of their own!

Let’s start in high school when my tummy really started to affect my everyday life. As with almost everyone, starting high school was a scary and stressful time for me. I was going to change schools and leave most of my friends behind to start fresh at a very nice private school about 45mins away from home. This process made me feel very uneasy and stressed which led to major intestinal discomfort.

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High School Graduation

I am about to get pretty graphic so beware of TMI hehe…

I woke up every morning somewhat early and was never hungry and almost always nauseous. I ate what I could since Breakfast is the most important meal of the day right? After breakfast, I got dressed and ready for school. Now if I had a bowel movement (and by BM, I mean diarrhea) before leaving the house, that was usually a sign that it was going to be a good day. If not, the stress began early that day, especially since I was about to get on a 45 minute bus ride with no bathrooms… There were no accidents thankfully but some very close calls and very uncomfortable commutes throughout my 5 years of high school.

Once I got to school, my reactions would very between cramps, upset stomach, bloating, gas… anything you can think of. Everyone had 4 classes per day with breaks between each so that helped me. For example,
– English
–     Recess
– Geography
–     Lunch
– Physics
–     Recess
– French.

Usually by the first recess, things would be going pretty well, second class of the day would be best for my stomach because it had digested all of my breakfast, however this is when I started getting really hungry.
Once lunch came around, I was starving. I ate my sandwich, fruits/snacks/desserts and my stomach started to grumble. This still happens today when I don’t eat lunch at home. No pain, just loud, and I can feel my intestines trying to digest everything I just ate. At school after lunch, our schedule would rotate between 3 options.

  1. Study hall to work on homework or visit with teachers to ask questions
  2. Study hall to have a meeting to talk about behaviour and upcoming events
  3. Sports.

All of the above were mandatory; and if you were not sitting behind your desk in study hall or ready in your sports uniform when the second bell rang, you would get a warning or lunch detention and eventually have to stay after school for night detention.
There were about 200 students in our grade and when we had meetings in the study hall, everyone was present.

One day after lunch, I wasn’t feeling too fresh but the first bell rang and I had 5 minutes to be sitting at my desk in study hall with all the other students so I hurried to my desk on the second floor and hoped for the best. As I sat there listening to the instructor I felt my stomach start to grumble in a very bad way. It was getting worse and traveling lower and lower down my intestines. I tried to ignore it, started to rub my belly and take deep breaths but it wasn’t going anywhere but out and there was no stopping it. The guy next to me asked me if I was alright, probably because I was starting to look a little pale. I replied: no… I’m going to the bathroom!
I stood up in front of everyone and left the room praying that i’d make it downstairs to the bathroom without anyone stopping me or telling me to return to my seat.
I made it 🙂

I think this is when I started to realize that this is not how you are supposed to feel on a regular basis. You aren’t supposed to have tummy aches and diarrhea every day! I had been telling my parents about it for a while and they weren’t ignoring me they just didn’t know how to proceed.

So we made an appointment with my paediatrician who told me to cut dairy out of my diet. I did that for a little bit but saw zero improvement so I went back and the Dr. suggested that I try again but removing Gluten from my diet instead. If you are not familiar with Gluten, it’s in pretty much everything and gluten free foods are 2-3 times the price of regular foods… So I was pretty bummed and I still wasn’t seeing any substantial results so I quit that too and returned to eating everything.

I was becoming more used to my condition and learning how to deal with it the best way I could, not eating certain foods in certain situations when I wasn’t home. When I was home, I would indulge in whatever I wanted knowing I was in the comfort of my own home with access to 4 bathrooms at all times.

I live in Quebec and after high school (grade 7-11) the next step is usually CEGEP (2-3 years), then University (3-4 years). I started CEGEP and that was a new kind of stress because I was changing schools again and going to an English school for the first time. One awesome thing of the CEGEP I went to is that you can make your own schedule and there are no more 8:30-4pm days. I wasn’t always able to get 4 day weeks but even if I had to be there everyday, sometimes I only had 1 class during the day.

I started taking birth control my first semester of CEGEP and this did not change anything with my digestion (Not better/Not worse).

I started swimming competitively when I was 9 years old and once I graduated high school I thought I was going to stop competing because I never really liked it and my stomach made it hard for me to complete a 75 minute practice without escaping to the bathroom at least once. But an old swimming friend of mine convinced me to try out for the swim team in CEGEP and I kept competing for another 2 years. I was even one of the captains my second year!

My stomach wasn’t getting any better and I was starting to get annoyed so I decided to have more tests done. I was now 18 so I changed doctors and was no seeing our family Doc. He wrote me referrals for multiple tests:
– Blood test
– Allergy tests on skin
– ultrasound
And I changed my birth control.
The results came back negative/inconclusive.

I waited a little while and started a food journal but I found this to be very challenging because I was writing down every single thing I was eating and the brand to try and find a pattern. Absolutely no pattern appeared. I could eat a sandwich one day and be 100% then eat the exact same thing the next day and have a completely different reaction.

A friend from school was asking about my symptoms one day and told me her stepmom has similar reactions when not at home. Her stepmom would take probiotics which seemed to help her so I talked to my doctor about it and we decided to give it a shot. I was taking Probaclac once daily before bed. This looked like it was helping at first but only a tiny bit.

My doctor decided to move away so I met with a new doctor, explained my situation and he set me up with more blood tests, a referral to see a gastroenterologist, and made me get another ultrasound and get an upper gastrointestinal series or Upper GI.
blog upper giThis test was terrifying because of the way it looked but I knew it had to be done, so I swallowed the cup of beads and let the specialist X-ray my insides.

Again, these tests had little to no results. I found out that I have Acid Reflux. This is what was making me feel nauseous. I started taking Tums and Gaviscone for the nausea and chewing Gin gins. This helped my nausea but not my intestines and upset stomach. The gastro specialist just told me I probably have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) but to keep living a normal life and to not restrict my diet and eventually if it kept getting worse to get a colonoscopy. Colonoscopies are very invasive so the specialist and my doctor didn’t feel the need for me to have one done at this time.

I continued to live my life. My family and bf knew when my belly was acting up because it affected my whole body physically and mentally. I became grumpy, defensive and would snap at anyone that looked at me the wrong way. This started to put a strain on my relationship. My boyfriend was extremely patient with me but would get frustrated when I couldn’t go out to eat or needed a bathroom soon after leaving the house.

My grandfather got a new doctor and said he was young and fresh out of school and seemed to know what he was doing and having only been with older doctors I thought it was time for a change again and this doctor was much closer to home, so I made the switch. As with all the other doctors, I was assigned blood work and a full physical to see what he was working with 😉
He changed my birth control pills and referred me to a nutrionist that I saw twice on the basis that I had IBS. She gave me literature on digestive issues, including lactose intolerance, Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and a page with FODMAPs. This is a list of foods to consume and avoid when you have IBS.
low-fodmap-foods-to-enjoy-130425
I followed the Low FODMAP diet to a T and found that it was helping but not 100 and I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I knew this was not as good as it was gonna get. I finished my birth control pack for the month and did not start a new one. I stopped taking my probiotics and thought that maybe I needed to clean out my system and let my body rest from chemicals.

I was going through all my medical papers one day when I stumbled upon an old referral for a test that I never had done. It was for Hydrogen breath tests.

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The referrals were expired so I brought them to my current doctor and he gave me new ones.
These tests are designed to measure the absorption of sugars in your intestines. The tests will give you an answer black or white, you are tolerant or intolerant, there is no grey area.
I did 3. Lactose first which came back…… TOLERANT! I was relieved but bummed at the same time because I still didn’t know what was causing me discomfort.
I can’t remember if my second test was Fructose or Sucrose, either way it came back….. TOLERANT!
Now These tests take 3 hours each and you need to fast about 8 hours before and wait 2-3 days between tests. So I was going back and forth to this private clinic, once again getting no results, just eliminating more tests.
I was going to cancel the 3rd test because I was tired of going through the procedure and what even is Sorbitol?? Am I right!
But I wasn’t going to be a baby and I was getting desperate for answers so I prepped for my last test: Sorbitol.
I was starting to become pretty close to the nurse in charge of the testing since we spent a total of 9 hours together…smh
Once the 3 hour test was done, I said my goodbyes to Teresa, the nurse, and went home to wait for my phone call with the results. Expecting a third and final “Tolerant”, I had to ask the receptionist to repeat herself when the phone call arrived. “You are INTOLERANT to Sorbitol” She said.
“Did you say IN-tolerant?” I asked
“That is correct”
“Ok, thank you very much”, I hung up the phone and stood there in shock. Did I finally just find out what’s wrong with me?
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I am very careful with my sorbitol intake, meaning I don’t ingest it at all. It’s not easy but it’s not as hard as when I was on a gluten free diet. The hardest part is finding sorbitol in many things other than food. It is a natural sugar found in certain fruits and vegetables but it is also artificially made to replace sugar in diet sodas and sugar-free products like gum. Sorbitol is often the sweet coating around drugs like Tylenol. It can be found in almost every type of toothpaste, and cough syrup. I just recently read the ingredients of my shaving cream and found that there is sorbitol in one of the brands I was using.

Click here to see a list of foods to avoid: 
Sorbitol_table_english

I am not sure how it affects me through the skin but i’d rather not take any chances.

Things are going really well for me now. I am still not 100% all the time but is anyone?
I have many more good days now than I used to and I’ve started to travel more and go out with friends to eat food which I was always scared to do before.

I really hope this can help other tummy sufferers out there and please don’t be shy to ask me any questions! Never Give Up! Persevere and don’t let the negativity overcome you and take over your life. If something is wrong, fix it. Do whatever it takes to find a solution 🙂

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