Why I went vegan for a bit…and why UK gastroenterology is not helpful if you have 'IBS'.

And no, it had 0 to do with Veganuary or ‘saving the planet’.

If you’re new to my posts, welcome.

For those who know me and have already been following my work for a while, you already know where I stand on the whole vegan vs. omnivore debate (the clue lies in my use of the word ‘omnivore’, which is factual and less sensational than that other term which some vegans like to throw around, ‘carnivore).

So, I’m not going to go into it again, but if you did want to take a peek inside my mind and see why I am very pro being an omnivorous pegan flexitarian, check out my instagram post here and here.

Rewinding back to just before Christmas kicked off, a friend and I went to a wonderful West end restaurant which is touted as a prime steak spot. Now, I don’t normally indulge in steak anymore as I do find it quite taxing on my stomach. I much prefer a spot of slow cooked beef or lamb.

Anyway, I digress.

We ordered a fabulous grass fed sirloin to share, and I chased it down with a delicious glass of Pinot Noire (also not something I frequent). 24 hours later, I found myself starting experiencing some very strange stomach bloating, nothing like I’d experienced before (I was well versed and experienced all things gut symptom related due to my history of SIBO, candida and dysbiosis).

This was different.

The following day was Christmas Eve, where my partner and I were hosting a small get together (with lots of indulgent snacks and more pinot noire, which I devoured without hesitation).

By Christmas day, I was in agonising pain. My stomach was now resembling a pregnant women in her 2nd trimester, and anything I’d put into my mouth seemed to make my stomach angry. To put it bluntly, anything I put down my trap made my stomach feel like a party where Satan and all his demon friends were getting lit. Literally, lit.

My stomach felt like it was burning and digesting itself. Even water was giving me discomfort. I could feel my blood pressure getting higher, my whole body getting hot and my face completely flushing. This was nothing I’d experienced before, and I was concerned.

After a few days of this nonsense, I deduced that what I had was a peptic ulcer. If you’ve never had the displeasure of having one of these, imagine having a massive graze or cut on your skin. Then imagine constantly splashing this cut/graze in copious amounts of vinegar or alcohol. But in your stomach.

Eating became a quagmire. Any sort of animal based foods were a no-no. I discovered that the hard way. And it wasn’t just animal based products. It was also seemingly ‘harmless’ foods like rocket, tomatoes, salt, rice, most fruit and many more. All of these foods were triggering violent and prolonged burning sensations in my stomach, along with nausea, very strange bowel movements, plus all the stuff I mentioned earlier. I put 2 and 2 together and figured that any foods which triggered a stomach acid release (which is what you want to happen ordinarily to chemically digest your food) were going to cause this burning sensation to magnify.

So I was limited to very bland foods and had to resort to eating very small meals every 3 hours. Coffee, peppermint tea and green tea were off the menu too. Everything was giving me either heartburn or stomach burn, along with a generous helping of gastritis.

Fortunately, this couldn’t have happened to a more suitable person. I started to pull myself together and went into research mode. It turns out that 80% of ulcers are caused by a nasty dysbiotic bacteria known as helicobacter pylori, also known as H. Pylori.

H. Pylori is contracted mainly through water and food, and is due to faecal contamination. This means, if you’re eating out and the people handling your food aren’t washing their hands or maintaining utmost hygiene standards, you’re at risk. It is commonly contracted, especially if you eat out often and travel frequently. It is abundantly present in ice in certain countries *cough EGYPT*.

After some research I put together a great protocol where I was aiming to tackle the H. Pylori head on, and in the meantime had booked in with my gastro clinic at UCL hospital in hopes that they could help me diagnose and treat the cause of this ulcer.

Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), I was met at the gastroenterology clinic with a lot of snarky and dismissive statements from the young doctor whom I had been booked in with. He simply went into the fact that it was normal to experience such symptoms from time to time, and helpfully reminded me “don’t forget, you have IBS”. To which I frustratedly replied “and what exactly is IBS? A bullshit diagnosis that doesn’t really tell anyone anything.” At this point, the young cocky doctor’s expression changed, and I saw his face go bright red as he momentarily looked away in what seemed to be..shame? Was it possible that deep down he also agreed?

Anyway, I keep digressing.

He didn’t seem interested in finding out what may have caused the ulcer and gastritis, and felt that sending me off for an endoscopy to investigate if I definitely had an ulcer or not was more relevant. I played along for the sake of it, but planned on cancelling the appointment as soon as the letter came through the door.

Within 2 weeks of me starting my protocol, my symptoms had greatly subsided, and I slowly started increasing my dietary diversity as well as my portion sizes. I was feeling incredibly tired and malnourished and was grateful that I could at least get in some calories for energy as well as enjoy my meals a bit more.

A month after my protocol, and I’m able to eat all the foods which were a complete no go such as chicken, tomatoes, chillies, rice etc. I only just received my letter from the gastro department yesterday (which I am still cancelling).

While I believe that some gastro specialists may have great intentions, it is clear that they are not sufficiently trained when it comes to MANY gut dysfunction matters. Let’s get rid of this lazy IBS diagnosis which doctors love to use a lynch pin for all sorts of miscellaneous gut ailments. Many people are suffering unnecessarily because UK doctors don’t receive appropriate education on how to navigate through non-functional gut disorders.

It would be great if the primary healthcare systems incorporated functional medicine practitioners who can delve deep into the imbalances causing gut symptoms, so that we may establish the root cause of the complaint. Together, we can surely design effective strategies which can not only tackle the symptoms, but also put the body in a space where it can begin to heal itself, without the excessive use of pharmaceuticals where appropriate.

Phewph! That was a long one. Thanks for staying with me, and I hope my story and information proves useful for someone you know who may be completely lost in their suffering.

If you need further help or guidance, leave me a message here.

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