Oliver*, a 28 year-old teacher, has found out first-hand that there are no easy solutions when it comes to managing IBS through food.
“When I was a kid I used to eat enormous amounts of apples and also onions”
Unfortunately for him, he was later diagnosed with fructose malabsorption.
“I was literally eating seven or eight apples a day, and no one told me not to do it! It is like apples are healthy, I am going to eat them!”
Later on he realised this reaction to fructose may be related to the IBS symptoms he was experiencing.
“Even if I just had something at lunch at work, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to teach’, my guts would be hurting that bad after lunch.
“At night, I was lying awake and would not be able to go to sleep till one or two in the morning. Then I would get up and feel like I needed to go to the toilet, but nothing would happen. I was so tired. It affects your whole day.
“When it’s at its worst, it’s pretty poor. You can’t get up, you can’t go for a run, you can’t exercise. I was having five bowel movements a day.”
A naturopath recommended he cut out gluten and as a social guy in his 20s, Oliver felt like a good part of his life was being taken from him.
“They said to completely cut out gluten and then that made me real mad!
“I was like, ‘I can’t even eat anything anymore!’”
“Being a very social person, it was the worst. I couldn’t have a beer or go out to dinner with my mates.
“I thought I’d rather have a crook gut than have to give up my social life due to intolerances.”
“But then I had a patch where it was really bad, and I literally cut everything out of my diet and I only ate chicken and rice. No milk, no caffeine, for two weeks, and for that two-week period nothing improved.”
“When I was actually reading up on IBS and learned that it is not just the food that can trigger it.”
“That made sense to me, because I would have periods where I would have a bowl of pasta and I would be completely fine, and then I would have a bowl of pasta a week later and it would absolutely cook me.”
“I think stress is definitely a factor. There are times when I think, mentally, I’m not stressed, but then my body is actually under high levels of stress. For example, with lockdown, I felt fine but my guts were like ‘No!’.
“I moved back to Australia from the UK, and settling in to a new environment, brought on stress, I brought my girlfriend with me and there was a level of stress in settling in to a new environment, one of my friends was really sick and that was another level of stress, and then I started a new job, that was a level of stress. So it was just a massive stress storm at the end of the day, and that’s when I really started noticing IBS symptoms.
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Choosing hypnotherapy over diet
Oliver discovered Nerva through Facebook, and as someone who had spent time practicing meditation, felt it could be a good fit for him⸺especially as it wasn’t focused on stress relief, not elimination diets.
“I definitely think it’s helped improve my symptoms.
“I really enjoyed it. The readings were good. If you had no idea about what IBS was then the information would’ve been really really vital. The breathing techniques that are are great to use.
“I wish it had been an option when I went to see the naturopath. They were just like, ‘It’s gluten, it has to be gluten. Gluten is an inflammatory and it has to be that.
“Some people may need to use Nerva in combination with the low FODMAP diet and I don’t expect one answer to fix it, or be right for everyone, but I just wish they had tried this before making major diet changes.”
“Often, when you start eliminating foods, the symptoms get worse, and sometimes you can’t reintroduce them. So I’ve had a couple of mates who haven’t been able to reintroduce things because they’ve gone off it for a period of time but in reality if they had done hypnotherapy first, they may never have had to eliminate those foods.
“If I was 18 again and someone said alright, you can go on a low FODMAP diet that cuts out all alcohol, no caffeine, or, you can try hypnotherapy first, then I would go for that option every day of the week!”
“Also If I want to go traveling again, that’s going to be a massive pain. I’ll be stressing about sitting on a plane 24 hours, worrying about where we’re going to eat? Where are the toilets when we get there? Through hypnotherapy I can manage my symptoms without worrying about the food all the time.”
And as for gluten?
“I had a bowl of pasta last night and didn’t die, and I haven’t done that for about two years. That was really good!”