After years of tests and referrals, Abi finally found the missing jigsaw piece that enables her to control her symptoms…
Since I was a teenager I have suffered with digestive problems and, after dozens of tests, the only diagnosis I have ever been given is IBS.
I’ve had tests for lactose intolerance and coeliac disease, I’ve had endoscopies and colonoscopies, I’ve been treated for gastritis and gut candida, I’ve had countless blood tests, I’ve had a full spectrum of allergy tests done including skin pricks and gut microbiology testing, I’ve gone through the Fodmap elimination protocol and I’ve been medicated for depression, IBS and acid reflux! However, every test I’ve ever had has come back inconclusive.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, an auto-immune thyroid condition which has left me with a severely under-active thyroid. I assumed for years after this diagnosis that my IBS was caused by my thyroid disease and I put up with it – regular stomach cramps, constantly reacting badly to food, rushing to the loo dozens of times a day and being totally exhausted – because I didn’t realise that something else was wrong with me.
I eventually decided that the only way forward was to adopt a strict gluten and dairy-free diet. My symptoms didn’t disappear completely, but they did seem to get a bit better.
A year ago I started a blog (www.gdfree.org) as a way of sharing my new found knowledge and I learnt how to cook everything from lasagne and macaroni cheese, to cakes and biscuits. But I was still feeling frustrated because no matter how strict I was with my diet I was still suffering. So I went back to my GP and begged for yet another referral and last July I was diagnosed with Bile Acid Malabsorption (BAM), a condition in which bile acids are not properly processed within the digestive system, resulting in symptoms of chronic diarrhoea. I have to take a lot of tablets every day and I still sometimes suffer with flare-ups and have good days and bad days, but the medication allows me to control my symptoms.
I still choose to eat mostly gluten-free out of habit, but I also stick to a very low dairy diet and try to avoid foods high in fat. As long as I take my medication every day my symptoms are controlled.
So if you suffer with unexplained IBS, don’t suffer in silence. You may well be one of the 25-30% of people who have Bile Acid Malabsorption like I do. There is a charity-run patient support service at www.bamsupportuk.org and I was invited recently to write some dietary advice information for them to give to the newly diagnosed patients. It is all available on the website along with lots of information and advice on how to get diagnosed, who to talk to, what the tests involve and how to cope with your symptoms.