Almost three years ago, when I was crying by the microwave as I heated up my lunch, I never would have guessed that I would someday find reasons to be grateful for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
At that time, I was experiencing daily pain and discomfort. I couldn’t imagine a future when I would feel better.
But three years into this health journey, I can say that I am grateful for IBS. If I could live without it, yes, I absolutely would. But it’s a part of my life, and it has helped me become the healthiest I have been since adolescence.
Here are 3 reasons I’m grateful for IBS.
3 Reasons I’m Grateful for IBS
1. It has led me to learn about nutrition.
Before I learned I had IBS, I thought little about what I put into my body beyond how it tasted. I’ve never been a picky eater, and I love trying new foods.
While I enjoyed meals, I never considered how they were fueling my body or how they might impact it.
But once I figured out that I could stop feeling sick all the time by changing my diet, I wanted to know more about nutrition. I started learning about the effects that gluten, dairy, and soy were having on my body, which was a lot to take in at first.
Since then, I’ve started avoiding packaged foods, paying attention to my sugar intake, and taking vitamins, supplements, and adaptogens.
I have also become more attuned to my body’s needs. Maybe I haven’t eaten enough protein or need to hydrate. These are things that I wouldn’t have noticed before. But now, nutrition is part of an ongoing learning process for me, and I love it!
2. I now highly value movement.
I used to exercise pretty sporadically. I have loved to run since middle school, but a tricky knee means that I can only run a few times a week.
In between my runs, I rarely exercised much. And sometimes during the winter, I wouldn’t run at all.
But movement and exercise have become invaluable to me since I started working through IBS. Exercise is amazing for so many reasons, one being that it helps regulate digestive processes.
It’s also a great stress reliever. Pent up energy can lead to anxiety for me, which can, in turn, mess up my digestive system.
So now I make sure to move every day. I mix running with long walks, day hikes, yoga, cardio HIIT, and LISS.
Having so many options means that if I’m not feeling well or if my energy is depleted because of the phase in my menstrual cycle, I always have something I can do.
Without it being necessary for helping with IBS, I may never have realized how important movement is for me!
3. I’ve created a routine for self-care.
It’s hard to describe just how unhealthy I was during the beginning of my teaching career, but I’ll try.
During my first year of teaching, I slept about 4 hours a night.
I was overwhelmed by working 10 to 12 hour days and taking licensure classes in the evenings and on weekends. Figuring out instruction, along with special education case management, was the most difficult thing I had ever done. I often took paperwork home to stay caught up.
When I was finally able to get into bed each night, it was impossible to sleep because I was so stressed out by how horrible a job I was sure I was doing.
I had little time to exercise, and I ate random meals, sometimes grazing at home and sometimes grabbing food on the way home from work.
It wasn’t healthy, and my weight was all over the place. I started to notice the symptoms of IBS during my second year of teaching. By my third year, I couldn’t ignore that something was wrong, and I started to see doctors to figure out what was happening.
My Routine Now
It developed slowly, but I eventually came up with a routine that helps me naturally incorporate self-care into my life.
Getting better at my job as a middle school special educator helped immensely. Figuring out how to leave work at work is what makes this all possible.
Each morning, I wake up at 5. I usually don’t leave for work until 7, but I know that I like to move slowly in the mornings and work through my whole routine. It helps me feel like my own person so that I feel more grounded when I’m interacting with 30 sixth graders at 7:45.
After I wake up, I drink a glass of water or morning tonic and work out, usually yoga or HIIT. I take a shower and then meditate while my hair dries. I’m working up to 20 minutes of zazen but started at 5.
Next, I get dressed, go through my skin care routine, and put on make-up. While I make this smoothie for my first breakfast, I pack my lunch and make sure my work bag has everything I need. Then, I’m off to school.
Teaching middle school can be stressful, so I keep my evenings pretty simple. They usually involve a walk or run, and there’s an outdoor yoga class I like to go to once a week.
I mix up social and solo nights. Social nights usually involve just one or a few other people. Solo nights often include a detox or bubble bath. I’m also working on reading more consistently in the evenings. I get sucked into Netflix pretty easily 🙂
And that’s it. There’s nothing magical or prescriptive about this routine; it’s just what works for me. I am constantly moving and multi-tasking at work, so I like to go slowly in the mornings and evenings.
I may have figured this out eventually without IBS. However, I’m grateful for IBS because it helped me realize that I had an unhealthy amount of stress in my life and made it obvious that I needed to fix it.
This just goes to show that you can be grateful for any experience, no matter how difficult.
What is a difficult circumstance in your life that you’ve found gratitude for? If you have IBS, what have you learned from it?