Taming Grumpy Gut

Taming Grumpy Gut

You've Got Some Nerves
Many people with MS experience symptoms related to digestion. According to the Pittsburgh Institute for MS Care and Research, “Nearly two-thirds of MS patients have at least one GI symptom that persists for 6 months or more.” Some of the most common problems are dysphagia (trouble swallowing), heartburn, nausea, dyspepsia, diarrhea, constipation, and fecal incontinence. I was shocked to read that “… up to 25-30% of all MS patients suffer from dyspepsia, a rate that is twice that of the general population.” Dyspepsia is pain, bloating, and an uncomfortable feeling of fullness.

As a child I had a touchy stomach, prone to motion sickness and vomiting. In my teens certain things, particularly dairy or starchy foods, would cause my belly to swell uncomfortably. Not bad enough to stop me from eating anything. In fact, my college roommates found it amusing to watch me down a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, and then run to put on sweatpants and moan about my “cheese baby” pregnancy! Add some Mickey’s Big Mouths to the mix and I looked like I was carrying twins.

As the years went on I became smarter about which foods to avoid, or consume in moderation. However, in my early thirties, around the time of my MS diagnosis, I started to have more frequent and painful stomach problems. Sharp and stabbing pains, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting … you name it, I had it! I would start my day in size eight pants, and finish it in size 12. After eating out at restaurants I frequently spent the evening in the bathroom, vomiting and texting friends to inquire if anyone else had “food poisoning.” Nope. Just me.

I was referred to a gastroenterologist and subsequently scoped, north and south. While nothing revealed itself as the source of my pain, we did have a twisted silver lining in the discovery of some precancerous colon polyps. And I must confess that I felt splendid after the conscious sedation, requesting a trip to Taco Bell (where I had never eaten in my life), and JC Penneys (where I lasted 30 minutes before declaring nap time).

Perks aside, I remained desperate for some relief. My grumpy gut was causing me to miss events, take time off work, and spend far too much time in the bathroom, not to mention the physical discomfort.

The standard diagnosis, when they cannot find any other cause for digestive problems like mine, is irritable bowel syndrome. I took the GI doctor’s suggestion and tried to go dairy-free and gluten-free, with minimal relief. My grumpy bowel and I decided to give the naturopathic route a shot. She explained that we needed to find out what was making my innards so angry. To do this we could try a strict elimination diet, or I could pay $225 for a simple blood test that would reveal my body’s inflammatory response to certain food groups. I did not trust myself to follow the elimination protocol, so I opted for the immediate gratification of the blood test, then treated myself to a DQ blizzard for being brave. The results took 10 days.

I know this will sound corny, but they changed my life.

This particular blood test is not looking for true food allergies in the more common sense. Traditional allergen tests look at the body’s IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibody response to foods. The test I took measured my body’s IgG/IgA antibodies to foods. According to the test manufacturer and my excellent naturopath, elevated IgG and IgA antibodies may indicate an inflammatory response. This would show more of a sensitivity or intolerance to foods, rather than an allergy.

I am going to skip over the scientific debate around this type of testing to simply say “This worked for me!” Four food categories revealed themselves as the culprits- yeast, eggs, bananas, and pineapple. The removal of them from my diet eliminated 80% of my digestive symptoms. I also was prescribed something for paresthesia and nerve pain in my arms, which has been very helpful to me. Coincidentally, this medication is used to treat IBS.

Three pant sizes later, I am able to plan events with confidence and rarely have stomach problems. When I do, it is usually because I have eaten out and likely consumed one of my “just say no” foods accidentally. The relief from grumpy gut is great, but the silver linings that came with these changes included less skin inflammation, itching, achiness, and fewer headaches.

Not too long ago something caught my eye related to T-cells and IgG. It caused me to wonder if perhaps my avoidance of foods that may cause an inflammatory reaction in my gut might also be keeping my MS relapses at bay. Add in the latest research on leaky gut and the immune system, MS and gut flora, etc., and my curiosity has been piqued. A quick search revealed that I may be onto something, and led me to an article on Healthline.com titled “Leaky Gut Implicated in MS.”

I’m curious if any of you have done similar IgG/IgA testing or elimination diets and what sort of results you have seen? I’m also curious if any of you have a great yeast-free bread recipe?

***

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

18 comments

  1. Harry Crawford says:

    What was the med that you used for the arm pain? I have a lot of nerve and muscle pain in arms and legs

    • Judy Lynn says:

      Hi Harry- I had luck with a low dose nortriptyline for nerve pain. There are several others, such as amitriptyline and gabapentin. I encourage you to talk to your doctor and if one doesn’t work, try another!

  2. JJ Steiner says:

    Hi fellow MS’r.. I am also d/g with IBS.. I am slow to put two and two together, but think it is most likely caused by what I am eating.. I am losing my want for junk food, which is wonderful.. but I have a bag of unopened pretzels on top of the fridge.. so we will see.. anyways.. it was the exhaustion that stopped me from working.. but doing fine..

    • Judy Lynn says:

      Thanks for sharing, JJ. With careful observation one can sometimes figure out which foods are causing the IBS. The yeast was the tricky one for me because it is disguised under other names in foods. Good luck to you! (MS fatigue is the worst!)

      • Dave says:

        I have had everything related to ms but not diagnosed. My gut swells out badly after a meal and for weeks now I feel uncomfortable. My breathing was effected over a year ago and started getting gut pains and now breathing issues with bloated gut. It seems that if it’s a lesion somewhere it effects lungs and digestive organs as well.

  3. t says:

    Hi,

    I too have MS with accompanying “pregnant belly syndrome!” It seems to have gotten worse when I switched to an immunosuppressant (Gilenya then Ocrevus). Seems EVERYTHING I eat bloats me. I got tested for IgG allergies – but turns out everything was negative because Ocrevus wipes out the IgGs! What drug were you on when you tested? Thanks

  4. GeGe says:

    I too have the “Pregnant with 6 syndrome!” I have done everything to see what is the cause of it. I wasn’t thinking that my M.S could be the cause but looked for every other explanation I could find. But I was not looking at M.S or maybe that I didn’t want to say it was the M.S. Trying to solve every M.S problem is not something one can do over night.

    So I just do my best not to eat to much and always lay down after eating which seems to help me a little in getting the gas out but that’s about it.

  5. netmouse says:

    A great bread without yeast is 100% sourdough spelt bread. I think only spelt, water and salt as ingredients.

    Try the FODMAP diet. Gastro doctors use this to treat patients. It eliminates things that can be irritating. When you stabilize on that and feel better, try then bringing back one thing at a time to see how your gut is affected. You’d be surprised how many things you can eat. It is a mix of gluten free, lactose free dairy, no artificial sweeteners and some other things that can be irritation. There is a great app, websites, cookbooks that list what you can eat and what you can’t based on testing of foods and products.

  6. Malia says:

    I can relate SO hard to all of this. I also had a North and South exploratory procedure done that revealed precancerous polyps. Also have MS. This makes me feel so much better somehow that someone else has had the same experiences! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Kimbalion says:

    This article was very helpful me. I have always had problems with my stomach at early age. Even at a size 3 I looked pregnant. Now I’m 57 size 12 and I go from size 10 size to 14 depending on how much gluten I eaten. To much sugar, which included sodas are my worst enemies. If I would just follow my diet and exercise I would feel better. I lose my will power when I’m in my size 10 jeans and not constipated. Will power, will power, I have to work on. Right now I’m miserable because I’ve been eating like there’s no tomorrow. Thank you again.

  8. Shelly Miller says:

    Hello
    I am waiting for a diagnosis, probably MS. Have been battling constipation for a while, pelvic physiotherapist has been VERY helpful. My GP gave me prescriptions to help with muscle twitching and nerve pain, while saying it might cause constipation last week. This past week I have been bloated and uncomfortable. Now I have to figure out how to manage this. Thank you for ideas.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Yes i too have ms and am experiencing bloating and feel bad wondering if and when to start back my vegen diet that really helps me last yr around this time i started eating vegen and found i lost weight and feeling so good so i must find my way back also think i am having a flar up

  10. Sally says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the humour and honesty in this article ..giggled in appreciation …last 6 months also been mess of angry gut and will ask for blood test thing at GP nxt week as can’t strictly restrict myself for ant FODMAP.

  11. Brandi Jones says:

    From watery diarrhea to stomach blot and I feel like I have something moving/living in my stomach. HELP!!!

    • Ashley Carr says:

      I too have been suffering from EXTREME stomach upset. I’ve never had consistent bowel movements, i.e., it’s my “normal” to only go every 2-4 days. Have had constipation issues my whole life, diagnosed with IBS years ago. I’ve learned to live with the IBS symptoms and constipation until I had my first Ocrevus infusion in November 2018. Since then, i feel like my body suddenly can’t digest food. EVERYTHING I eat causes GAS and bloating. I’m constantly running to the bathroom to relieve the gas but I just sit there; nothing comes out. So I get up just to run back later, confident this is when I’ll finally get it out, but again, NOTHING. I’ll take anti gas pills, laxatives, etc., but none of it. I skip meals and nearly starve myself every day because putting more things in my body when nothing is coming out the other end is obviously just going to make it worse. The pain from the excessive gas and backed up bowels is a 10/10. My weight fluctuates anywhere from 1-5 pounds over the course of a couple days. It’s made me crazy. When I finally have a BM, I never feel like I have fully “relieved” myself. The pain will get worse, and I know it’s because I’m backed up, so I’ll chug a bottle of magnesium citrate and that usually does the trick. Once I’m fully emptied, my body will feel hungry so I’ll eat and the cycle starts all over. I’m in constant pain, it ruins my life. I turn down lunches, dinners, or even non food activities because of the discomfort. I watch others eat with ease, sitting there in jealousy. If the pain wasn’t bad enough, it’s the constant change in my body appearance and wondering whether my clothes will fit me that day. Even my boyfriend says he sees that one day my body is “tiny” and the next, not so much. Thank God for him because he loves me anyway. I just want answers. I’m not sure if my MS has caused my digestive organs to suddenly stop functioning properly, or if it’s a result of the Ocrevus. I’ll be speaking with my neurologist on Tuesday and hopefully get answers.

      • Rose says:

        Hi Ashley,
        Everything you wrote I can relate to!
        Diagnosed with RR MS in 2005. I cut out Gluten and dairy in 2014 and by accident lost the excess 5kg/10pounds I had. A great deal of my bloating decreased but never completely went away. I always had issues with constipation too.
        Then in March 2017 I started Tysabri infusions.
        I have been struggling with massive bloating on a daily basis, it accumulates and at the end of every day it’s there, the severity depends on what I ate.
        Have had north and south scopes & they say all is healthy but sure doesn’t feel like it!!
        I’ve found some relief with regularity by making sure I eat enough fibre and taking a herbal product called Iberoghast, this product is natural and works wonders!!
        Anyway, I’m curious what your neuro said? The Tysabri is working great for me but now concerned it could be causing my gut distension 🙁

  12. Rose says:

    Judy Lynn – what was the blood test called?
    Upon googling igG and igA testing there are a couple different names: York test and Hemocode test.
    If I choose to get tested I want to make sure I’m doing the right one before spending hundreds!
    Thanks

  13. Jackie says:

    I found this so interesting. I was diagnosed with MS 7 months ago and have been having stomach issues for the last 4 months. I just completed a food sensitivity test and my foods with high reactivity mirror yours plus cinnamon. Trying to get my head around eliminating eggs 😳

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