How I overcame IBS and found my purpose!
I am extremely excited to be writing the very first blog post for the Purpose Community page. This site will be full of brutally honest and motivational stories and I am going to kick it all off by telling you a little bit about myself, and how Purpose Foods came to be!
Everyone's got a story, right?
Well, mine started 14 years ago when I was introduced to the wonderful yet mind-blowing world of health foods. I was working for a large natural health company in Norway and found it surprisingly interesting & fulfilling to learn about the way different foods affect the body and how they can help us heal naturally instead of using prescription medicines. I became quite the advocate on the subject which my family and friends can certainly vouch for! I had clearly discovered something I was passionate about and remained with the company for 10 years as a result.
I had never really experienced any issues with food growing up. However, in my early 20's I experienced a sudden change in the way I digested food. Even food that was deemed healthy, such as raw vegetables, fruits and salads were giving me problems. I was constantly bloated, gassy and experiencing painful cramping, especially in the night. Constipation became a huge issue and it would normally be 10 days between even the smallest release. It just made me feel like shit (excuse the pun).
I was quickly diagnosed with IBS, which basically means "we don't know what is wrong with you, but it seems to be affecting your digestive system." The causes for IBS vary greatly from person to person and are normally linked with lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise, stress, trauma and sleep! Therefore, there is no easy fix and it can take time to understand what triggers these symptoms, making it a very difficult condition to treat, but not impossible! You just really need to dig deep and try to identify those causes! Also, I would highly recommend keeping a ‘food and poo’ journal. I agree not very glamorous, and you’re going to want to keep a lock on that one. God forbid your boyfriend should find himself reading up and down on last weeks toilet adventures, not sexy!
Looking back now I clearly see where I was going wrong. I had completely failed to realise how on edge and stressed I had been. Balancing full-time studies, a job and a highly dysfunctional relationship, made it almost impossible to relax. Not only can IBS affect the way you feel (nausea, bloating, fatigued, gassy, brain fog) but it can also affect your self-esteem, mood and even social life - last thing you want to do is go for a meal that's going to make you gas like crazy, only to receive deathly stars from your mates, or squeeze into tight leather pants (yes these were the bomb in 2012!) and hit the town...No thanks!
The doctors suggested a low FODMAP diet, which suggests you cut out certain food groups that are causing the most severe bloating and gas to give your digestive system a rest. However many fail to come off this diet (myself included) and in the long run, it can make you even more intolerant. I tried enzymes, fad diets, fasting (yes I did not eat for 14 days, went to a party and almost fainted) but again, no solution.
I remember sitting in the toilet for hours and just crying, feeling like giving up. Why wasn't my body working? At this point, I was feeling really low, even depressed (link mental health and gut) and not myself at all.
After ending up in the emergency room one night in excruciating pain, I decided I could not live like this! It was at this point that I decided to go to extreme measures, I had to drastically change the way I lived.
My first step was to change my current ‘situation’ so I ended my relationship, which to be fair was long overdue. After some research, I came across a holistic hospital in Bali with great reviews on the matter of digestive health, so I booked 3 months off work and school, got myself a bungalow and off I went!
Upon arrival, I was examined by an Australian specialist. I remember she touched my stomach and immediately I started to cry. The first question she asked me during the examination was, ‘How on earth are you able to eat anything?’ I quickly realised the severity of my condition and I was told that we needed to start the treatment the very same day. Due to the fermentation of food, possible growth and gathering of toxins in my body, abdominal cancer (along with other serious illnesses) could quickly appear.
She immediately called a different specialist and told him to clear his calendar (literally) - just like that, I was booked in for my first colon therapy, the first of many! I know what you’re going to ask… Yes, it does feel strange taking a dump in front of someone else, especially when that someone is a male in the same age bracket as you, but hey, I was desperate! For those who don’t know what colon therapy/irrigation is, it basically involves getting a thin tube up your backside and having water running through it that flushes out waste, in my case rocks! You can also go really fancy and add some coffee, herbs or rose petals in there.
Aside from doing colon therapy each day. I was also put on a strict cleanse, only allowed green juices and lemon water for the entire time (2 weeks). Although I must admit one evening I was battling this raw bar and to me and my doctor's disappointment, the bar won...
I found myself relaxing for the first time in a long time, my mood started to lift and I realised that the times when my stomach was working, I was relaxed (aha!). It didn't really matter how healthy I was eating if I was stressed my stomach would react to any food like it was toxic. (More recent studies have also confirmed the link between stress and gut health insert link)
Me very happy post-treatment
I felt very lucky and privileged to have been given a fresh start and was determined to do it right this time.
Shortly after Bali, I moved to Melbourne to finish my master's degree. This place was booming with the latest healthy food innovations, tanned and happy yogis, to me this was heaven!
My biggest hurdle at this point was finding food that was easily digestible because, although I learned how to relax more, life is not stress-free. I wanted to make it as easy for my body as possible.
With very few gut friendly 'on the go' options available, I started making my own snacks. I tried different recipes and ingredients and as soon as I started noticing bloating or any negative impacts I would amend the recipe. I finally ended up with the perfect formula, not only did they taste fab, but they did wonders for my digestive system. One of the key ingredients was Inulin/chicory also known as Prebiotic Fibre, essential for growth of good bacteria in the gut!
My body responded really well to these snacks and I could feel my digestive system finally waking up! Of course, I still have the occasional bad day where I feel bloated and slightly constipated but the main difference is that I am now aware of the triggers (stress, alcohol, gluten/dairy raw vegetables) and how to best deal with it, but overall my life has completely changed. I have all this energy and I just feel comfortable in my own skin again.
By this time I had completed my master's degree but was unsure what path to take next. I experienced a moment of clarity. Why not make my snacks available for anyone struggling with digestive issues?! It made complete sense, at least then all the suffering wouldn't have been for anything right?! But how did I go from making snacks in Melbourne to launching Purpose Foods in England?
Well in the meantime I had met the love of my life Harry from England (kept that quiet didn’t I) so I packed my bags of ideas and moved and slowly but surely I brought Purpose Foods to life in the UK. Fast forward 1.5 years I find myself sitting here writing this blog post, anxiously waiting for my babies to launch next month and I couldn’t be more excited!
Also hola! to you readers out there that have experienced a similar journey, or perhaps you are still struggling, please leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you! As thanks for sharing your story, I will send you a sample box to help improve your gut health! Terms and conditions apply - I can only offer this on a first come first serve basis due to stock quantities, UK only.