Food and IBD: friend or foe?

After I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, my whole perception of food changed. Food went from being something I rarely thought twice about, to having to micro manage everything I put in my body. It was a change that I never saw coming and something that I still struggle with today and will have to continue to manage for the rest of my life.

In the beginning, this whole diet change was very difficult because I was so used to not worrying about it. I always tried to eat healthy but aside from that, food was never really on my mind. I can hardly say that now. This is something difficult for me to talk about but I feel as though I need to get it out and show others who are struggling with this that they are not alone. Remember how I talked about confessions in another post? Well, here is another one of mine- food is always on my mind. Literally, there is very rarely a time when I am not weighing the pros and cons of eating something or planning out what exactly I eat and when depending on my schedule for that day. It is exhausting, frustrating, and extremely stressful to say the absolute minimum.

This concept of food and its relationship to IBD has been widely talked about but really only in the context of trying to control and manage IBD symptoms through various types of diets. However, what I am referring to is different. I am trying to manage the output into the ileostomy bag and prevent blockages, but I am not concerned with flare ups. Because I feel such a need to basically pretend like I don’t have a bag, I don’t eat during the day. I know this sounds weird and some people will wonder how in the world I manage to do that. Shockingly though, I have been doing it for so many years that I can’t remember what life was like when I would eat like a “normal” person. By that, I mean, real meals that are spread out throughout the day with couple snacks/desserts. I seriously have no idea when the last time I ate like that was.

Ulcerative colitis changed so many things for me in my life; Food and my perception of food being one of the main struggles I have had to face and continue to daily. This need I have to micromanage everything for fear that I will end up in the hospital with a blockage, or the output will be so much that I will be running to the bathroom constantly, has caused other issues for me as well. I have a very love/hate relationship with food. I am either barely eating or only eating at night, or if I know I am going to be home all day and have a lot of anxiety, I binge. Food is comforting. We all know that. And while I have tried everything under the sun to work through some of my eating issues, I haven’t been able to tackle them. In a lot of ways, since I know my body so well, I am content with how things are. I have started to accept that food is and always will be a source of stress for me and the goal is to minimize that stress as much as possible.

I have heard absurd statements from people saying that anyone with IBD cannot have an eating disorder or have food related issues. My question to those people is “how could it NOT when the focus is all about food?” Bottom line is a diagnosis of IBD will unfortunately cause your outlook on food to change. I am not even remotely saying this diagnosis will lead you to where I am, because the severity of my disease has dictated a lot of my actions and thoughts about food. But, what I can say is that my outlook is very different.

This is my “new normal” and something I have come to accept.

  • Jodi

    Thank you for yet another very personal “confession” and observation. You really make me think.
    And once again, give me much more insight into you and all you have been through. I am amazed at your strength and resiliency.
    love you.

  • Stephanie Hughes

    Funny, I was actually just thinking and writing about food and IBD today, too. You hit the nail on the head with the sort of love/hate relationship many of us have with food.

    • rissy26

      Great minds think alike Stephanie! : ) The impact food has on someone with IBD cannot even really be explained with just words. If you haven’t experienced it, you really just don’t know. writing other people will “get the gist.” xoxo

  • Lindsay

    I have actually been feeling really stressed out this week about how my relationship with food has been skewed by my colitis. I have a hard time managing my weight and eating habits when my IBD is flaring, because no matter what I eat, I feel sick. If I eat too much or too little, I feel sick. If I eat something healthy or something unhealthy, I feel sick. In fact, I often force myself to eat and drink something – even if I am not hungry – before I leave the house for work in order to make myself sick enough to avoid having that first round of abdominal pain and symptoms right when I get to the office. I’ve found that often experience guilt when I eat. And confusion because – at the end of the day – food is food, and it all gets my colitis flaring even if I am eating those safer foods.

    • rissy26

      It is a never ending battle Lindsay : (

  • allthatiwantisaworkingtummy

    I’ve always been a fussy eater and have had a complex about it. Just adapted to IBD diet then suddenly am not colon-less and starting all over. It is a daily battle wondering what output in the stoma is going to be like and if you’ve eaten the right thing. Food shopping is so stressful.