What is IBS and GERD?

Most people are confused but curious when I tell them I suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome as well as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Both are relatively common conditions but many people do not know the specifics of what the conditions entail. So, I will do my best to expain them and how they affect me.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Taken from webmd.com:

“Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the intestines. It causes belly pain, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. Irritable bowel syndrome is a long-term problem.

Doctors do not know exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome. In IBS, the movement of the digestive tract does not work as it should, but there is no sign of changes in the intestines, such as inflammation or tumors. Doctors think that IBS symptoms are related to problems with the signals sent between the brain and the intestines. This causes problems with the way the muscles of the intestines move.

For some people with IBS, certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, and some antibiotics may trigger pain and other symptoms.”

My IBS is definitely triggered by stress as well as dairy products (except for greek yog!), sugar, artificial sweeteners, certain veggies (raw broccoli, califlower, bell peppers), certain fruits (apples), and overly processed foods. The hard part however is that IBS is very unpredicatable. One day I’ll be able to eat an apple and the next I’ll be curled up in a corner wanting to die. No joke, IBS is that painful. There are times when I am so bloated I look life I’m  9 months pregnant and other times you can literally see my stomach rolling from my spasming intestines. Its embarrasing (gassy + bloated + public situations = no fun) and incredibly hard on my social life (a flare up could occur at any time making social gatherings potentially miserable). Over the past year, however, identifying my trigger foods and developing ways to manage stress has helped reduce the amount of IBS flare ups.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

According to webmd.com:

“At the entrance to your stomach is a valve, which is a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the LES closes as soon as food passes through it. If the LES doesn’t close all the way or if it opens too often, acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus. This can cause symptoms such as a burning chest pain called heartburn. If acid reflux symptoms happen more than twice a week, you have acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).”

Like IBS, GERD is caused by many things. For me, my trigger foods are meat, spicy foods, acidic fruits, alcohol, chocolate (nooooo!), fried foods, fatty foods (nut butters, avocados, nuts….so sad), onions, garlic, tomatoes, and carbonated beverages. Also, I have to make sure I do not lie down right after I eat, eating 5-6 small meals a day is essential, I have to wait 2-3 hours after eating to exercise, and I have to raise the head of my bed 6 inches to prevent acid reflux at night.

Dealing with IBS and GERD in the Real World

In a perfect world I would follow all these “rules” to a T but, lets be honest, I like love chocolate, quacamole has a way of ending up on my burritos, almond butter is dangerously addicting, and sometimes I just need a midnight snack. So, yes, I have suffered from an attack or two 253. Its terrifying to say the least. Imagine that your having a heart attack, food is somehoe stuck in your throught, you feel nauseous, and to top it off you’re burping up acid thats burning holes through your esophageas on its way up! So lovely.

Now for the best part: how to alleviate the symptoms! Well, I’m a rare bread in that I have both IBS and GERD. So, I’m blessed by the fact that the methods used to alleviate IBS (peppermint tea, carbonated beverages, etc.) are my trigger foods for GERD and the methods used to alleviate GERD (tums, dairy, etc.) are my triggers for IBS. Life just doesn’t seem fair, does it? So, when I have an attack I literally have to wait it out.


So there you have it! A hopefully understandable and brief rundown of IBS and GERD. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me with any questions. It has taken me a year to identify my trigger foods and it is still a work in progress. I’d love to talk you if you have any more in-depth questions/comments/concerns with the conditions.


2 Responses to “What is IBS and GERD?”

  1. Hanna July 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    Oh gosh! Reading your take on your symptoms and how you deal with them is so inspiring! I am college student who recently developed steady health problems (due to stress, etc) and reading this makes me realize the importance of a positive attitude when dealing with this stuff! You have such a healthy outlook on your situation – it is amazing and totally inspiring! Thank you for sharing! I look forward to reading your blog : )

    • nourishingnoshes July 13, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

      Thanks Hanna! Its definitely been a growth experience. I have to be honest, I didn’t always have a positive attitude and sometimes I throw a little pity-party for myself, but I figure that I have have one life to live and I might as well make the best of it! Health problems are a pain in the behind but with hard work, determination, and most of all patience, you can overcome anything 😀

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