The ABCs of IBS

As the Jackson 5 once sang, A-B-C….it’s as easy as 1-2-3. But you know what isn’t as easy as ‘A-B-C, 1-2-3, baby you and me girl?’ Dealing with IBS!

IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome: I was diagnosed with this functional disorder at age 20, during my third-and-final year of college. Having IBS means I suffer from inconsistent bowel movements related to my dietary choices, as well as systemic symptoms like bloating, cramping, fatigue and pain.

If you have IBS or are a caretaker for someone with IBS, then you understand that this disorder makes daily life a struggle. For example, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day – but as someone in recovery from orthorexia, oftentimes I dread it, knowing my belly will never be as flat as it was first thing in the morning….thanks to a little thing called FODMAPs. (More on those later!)

Whether you have IBS yourself or are seeking to understand more about the condition to help someone you love, this simple dictionary will teach you – from A to Z – what it means to have IBS, and little ways to support recovery and remission from this disorder.

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A is for Alternating. Most commonly, you hear about IBS-C or IBS-D. But a less common type, which I have, is IBS-A, meaning the patient’s symptoms fluctuate between varying degrees of constipation and diarrhea.

Some doctors say this is actually IBS-C in disguise, thanks to something called “overflow diarrhea” (Google it next time you feel like being scarred for life). However, many medical practitioners believe – as I do – that it is a distinct subtype of IBS!

B is for Bloating. This symptom overlaps with many digestive disorders, but when all other causes are ruled out, can be a hallmark of IBS. It is both one of the most uncomfortable and one of the most embarrassing symptoms of IBS, since it is difficult to hide from others. In my opinion, bloating also contributes to the mental health challenges of having IBS, since it can affect a patient’s body image and self-esteem.

C is for Constipation. Constipation isn’t cute – but it’s something many of us with IBS have to live with on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Doctors define it as hard, dry stool that is difficult to pass, and/or fewer than three bowel movements per week.

Some sources say IBS-C is the most common subtype of IBS. Luckily, there are both OTC remedies and prescription medications to help with this distressing symptom. Drinking more water, and eating more dietary fiber, is a start!

D is for Diarrhea. Diarrhea is constipation’s looser, more liquidy twin. Formally, it is defined as passing loose or watery stools three or more times per day. This type of IBS occurs less often than IBS-C, but more often than IBS-A.

E is for Eating. It’s common to experience symptoms of IBS after eating. Many times, you may suspect the symptoms are linked to the foods you eat, but find it challenging to identify a clear culprit. Keeping a food diary detailing every food and drink you imbibe, as well as every symptom you experience, may help you pinpoint the source of your struggles.

F is for FODMAPs. FODMAPs are several categories of foods identified by researchers at Monash University to cause symptoms in many IBS patients. Some of these problem foods include lactose, gluten, fructans and polyols.

The low-FODMAP diet is the most well-proven diet for controlling IBS flares. Because it is not intended as a long-term lifestyle choice, the first phase of the low-FODMAP diet is an elimination phase, followed by a gradual reintroduction phase to determine which foods are your most powerful triggers – and which you can safely consume or consume in limited amounts.

G is for Gluten. Gluten is a common IBS trigger, and is one of the major food categories eliminated in the first phase of the low-FODMAP diet. In fact, many IBS patients also suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

NCGS differs from a gluten allergy in that the body does not attack itself when it comes into contact with gluten. It also differs from celiac disease, in that patients with NCGS who consume gluten do not suffer long-term intestinal damage as a consequence of their dietary choices. All three, however, are valid reasons why someone may avoid gluten – and all three result in digestive discomfort when gluten is ingested.

H is for H. Pylori. Because IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, many doctors perform a number of tests before concluding a patient suffers from IBS. One test you may receive is a breath test for H. pylori, an organism responsible for stomach ulcers that can cause symptoms similar to those of IBS – such as bloating and abdominal pain.

I is for Intestinal Contractions. Unfortunately, we don’t have conclusive research to tell us what IBS is or how we can cure it. But one theory doctors currently have is that patients with IBS suffer from a hypersensitive gut. Some say patients’ nerve endings are hypersensitive to normal intestinal contractions, while others say patients with IBS have stronger or more irregular contractions than usual. Either way, it’s suspected that contractions of the large intestine are responsible for some of the unpleasant symptoms of IBS.

J is for Job Limitations. The U.S. government identifies IBS as one of many disabling conditions that can make you eligible for protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for your disability to help you complete your job – for example, seating you at a desk that is close to a restroom, or allowing you to work from home in the event of an IBS flare-up.

The ADA not only addresses job limitations, but also addresses limitations at home. Your landlord must also make reasonable accommodations for your disability if necessary – for example, permitting you to keep an Emotional Support Dog on the premises, even if dogs aren’t normally allowed. (I took advantage of these protections with my dog, Chandler – and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!)

K is for Killer Cramps. One of the hallmarks of IBS is intense pain and cramping associated with eating certain foods and/or having (or not having) bowel movements. These can present as pain and pressure, feeling almost as if you have to “go” (even if you really don’t). Other times, they may present as a sharp or stabbing pain.

As with any chronic illness, some ignorant people will always suggest that the pain is all in your head or that IBS is not a “real” disorder. At one point in my IBS journey, however, I visited an emergency room for IBS cramps that were so bad, I could hardly breathe, stand or move when they hit. So, here I am to tell you, with 110% certainty: IBS pain is very, very real – at least for those of us who have it!

L is for Lactose. Lactose, like gluten, is another food group that triggers many people’s IBS symptoms. It is also eliminated in the first phase of the low-FODMAP diet.

Many patients may also suffer from lactose intolerance, meaning their body does not produce enough lactase – the enzyme which digests the sugar found in milk (a.k.a. lactose). While some patients may avoid dairy products or dairy products high in lactose, others may choose to take a lactase supplement with dairy-containing foods, or choose lactose-free dairy products with lactase added to them to aid digestion.

M is for Motility. Motility refers to how fast food and fecal matter pass through the digestive tract. When you suffer from constipation-predominant IBS, you present with slower motility than would be expected for a patient with similar characteristics. Alternatively, when you have diarrhea-predominant IBS, you may have faster motility than average. Regardless, no matter what type you have, IBS always causes a change in your digestive motility.

N is for New Research. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know why people get IBS or what forces are at work behind it. But new research comes out every week addressing the causes of and treatments for IBS. Everything from Vitamin D to cognitive-behavioral therapy has been studied to determine if they relieve IBS symptoms. Yet we still have so much more uncharted territory to cover!

The future of IBS treatment, according to some doctors, may lie in drugs that have not yet been developed. However, many of the studies supporting the use of these drugs come with weak evidence. Further research will be necessary in the future to find a definitive treatment for IBS.

O is for Osmotic, Stimulant and Bulk-Forming Laxatives. Under the advisement of your doctor, you may decide to try taking laxatives for your IBS. There are three major types of laxatives: osmotic, stimulant and bulk-forming types.

Osmotic laxatives work by drawing water into the stool from the bowel. They should be taken with plenty of water to avoid inadvertently exacerbating constipation!

Stimulant laxatives force the bowel to contract, emptying its contents. Often, these cause diarrhea and discomfort. They are rarely recommended for IBS, since painful stomach cramps are usually what we’re trying to avoid!

Bulk-forming laxatives comprise fiber that adds bulk to the stool. Psyllium husk and methylcellulose are both safe options for someone with IBS. Again, make sure to drink plenty of water when taking these laxatives!

P is for Pills. Usually, medication is not the first line of treatment for IBS – but many patients still take pills for the disorder! Some medications prescribed for IBS include antispasmodics (which decrease painful contractions of the digestive tract) and antidepressants (which relax the digestive tract, just as they relax the mind).

It’s also not uncommon for patients with IBS to rely on over-the-counter medications to control their symptoms. Many patients use acetaminophen or NSAIDs to relieve the pain associated with their IBS. Others may take dietary supplements or OTC medications like Lactaid (lactase enzyme), Bean-O, antacids or probiotics, each targeting specific symptoms of IBS.

Q is for Quality of Life. Unsurprisingly, one of the reasons why IBS symptoms can debilitate patients is because they affect quality of life. Many patients may feel embarrassed by their symptoms, worry that others will notice or judge them or suffer pain that limits their daily activities.

For example, some patients feel constrained in their daily activities because they feel a need to remain close to a bathroom at all times. Others may avoid social gatherings where food may be present for fear they may experience a flare-up. Whatever the case may be, you can see how having IBS presents a challenge for those who suffer from it – and for the loved ones who support them!

R is for Rome Criteria. These snappy criteria are used by doctors to diagnose IBS. The criteria must be present, in most cases, for 3-6 months. Some of the diagnostic symptoms listed in the Rome Criteria are:

  • Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Pain associated with a bowel movement
  • Pain relieved by having a bowel movement
  • Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool
  • Onset associated with a change in form of stool

S is for Stool. As a patient with IBS, one gets more familiar with their own stool than they might like to admit! But it’s important to be able to describe your bowel habits in a way your doctor can understand.

Some characteristics of your stool your doctor may be interested in include color, texture, size, frequency and shape. You can use an app or printed diary to keep track of your stool for a period of time, in order to more accurately report your bowel habits to your doctor.

T is for Therapy. Be skeptical if you want, but some patients swear that psychotherapy helps improve their symptoms of IBS. Patients with a comorbid anxiety disorder may find that controlling their anxiety also improves their IBS symptoms. Or, patients may seek therapy to help themselves cope with the unique, challenging feelings and interpersonal conflicts associated with having a chronic illness.

U is for Ulcerative Colitis (and Crohn’s Disease). As I mentioned previously, IBS is – ideally – diagnosed through a process of exclusion, meaning all the more serious illnesses whose symptoms resemble IBS are ruled out. One important condition to ensure your doctor tests for is IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Though often confused, IBD is distinct from IBS in that it is an autoimmune condition associated with inflammation of the digestive tract. In one subtype of IBD, ulcerative colitis, this inflammation is limited to the colon, while in the other subtype, Crohn’s disease, the inflammation can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, all the way from the mouth to the anus.

Many symptoms overlap, but so-called ‘alarm symptoms’ – such as weight loss, fever or blood in the stool – differentiate IBD from IBS. Tests for ruling out IBD include imaging techniques like CT scan, MRI and endoscopy, as well as less invasive procedures such as blood tests, fecal occult blood testing and fecal calprotectin measures. Be sure to mention these tests to your doctor if they are considering a diagnosis of IBS – especially if you happen to have a family history of IBD!

V is for Visceral Hypersensitivity. One problematic theory some doctors use to explain IBS is that patients with IBS simply have a lower threshold for pain than those who do not have the disorder, a condition known as visceral hypersensitivity. In these physicians’ point of view, patients with IBS are hyper-aware of the normal, everyday contractions of the digestive tract.

So, what’s the problem? Unfortunately, some doctors already see IBS as a problem of lesser concern. They may suggest that the pain is ‘all in your head’ – especially because IBS tends to occur more frequently in people of the female sex (more on that later!). This is just one reason why it is crucial to find a doctor you trust when dealing with a chronic illness like IBS!

W is for Women. For whatever reason, IBS affects more people of the female sex than people of the male sex. (I specify sex, rather than gender, because the genetically female body possesses different physical and genetic characteristics than the male body, which may contribute to the likelihood of developing IBS.)

Some doctors speculate differences in women’s brain and nerve cells may be responsible. Others have discovered genes linked to IBS that are only carried by female. Interestingly enough, however, others still believe people of the male sex simply may not seek medical care as often for their digestive discomfort, instead choosing to tough it out. Toxic masculinity is real, folks!

X is for anXiety. (Okay, I cheated a little there – so sue me! Not really, though; I’m broke.) IBS and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Granted, not all patients with IBS have an anxiety disorder, just as not all patients with an anxiety disorder will develop IBS – but on average, IBS patients tend to report more anxiety than those without IBS.

Additionally, high levels of stress and anxiety may exacerbate IBS symptoms, regardless of whether the patient has a formal anxiety disorder. Because of the disorder’s links to stress and anxiety, mindfulness and even hypnosis have been found to improve symptoms of IBS in some patients!

Y is for Young. Constipation and diarrhea: they tend to be problems we associate most often with children or the elderly. But did you know most patients with IBS are actually under the age of 50? You are far more likely to develop the disorder as a teenager or young adult than as a very young child or a senior citizen!

Z is for Zinc, Iron and Other Vitamins & Minerals. One unexpected way IBS affects your health is by potentially interfering with your absorption of vitamins and minerals. Especially if you are lactose or gluten intolerant, you may experience malabsorption with your IBS: fatty, greasy, smelly stools characterized by high fat contents. These stools may float or stick to the toilet bowl, even after flushing.

Because so many important vitamins and minerals – such as vitamins A, D, E and K – are fat-soluble, malabsorption can lead to deficiencies of certain nutrients. Your doctor may recommend testing your blood to determine your levels of these vitamins and minerals, then supplementing with any vitamins or minerals you may be deficient in.

Things Women Don’t Talk About

Women talk about plenty of things. For example, where to go to dinner tonight, or who our celebrity crushes are. And other genders have plenty to say about women, too. That we’re from Venus, for one thing. Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum: that we’re nasty.

But there are plenty of things we don’t talk about, too – and many of them are things that I, as a woman, wish we wouldn’t stay silent about. To me, they’re too important NOT to talk about! (Hence why I’m writing this post.)

Before I continue, I’d like to acknowledge that there are, of course, more than two genders. For many of us, our identities are more complex than that of “man” and “woman.” There’s no one way to identify, just like there’s no one way to be a woman. And, as a cis-gender female, my post inherently comes from a perspective of privilege.

That being said, I’m writing this post for anyone who identifies as a woman and feels constrained by the standards society holds them to. I recently finished reading Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, where she talks in great detail about the demands of being a modern woman. Well, on her blog, The Chic Site, Rachel also wrote a post called ‘What Women Never Talk About’ – which semi-inspired what I’m about to say to you today.

These are things that most women just don’t talk about. And when I say ‘talk about,’ I mean really talking: not just whispering about them with your closest girlfriends, texting your mom to ask or typing into Google for answers. They’re topics we tend to think of as ‘taboo’ – even though I happen to think that we’d be better off, both as women and as a society, if we chatted about them out in the open.

Orgasms

I don’t know about you, but I’ve only talked about orgasms with another group of women one time: during a wine night in college, one of my friends said every woman should own a vibrator, and offered to go to a sex shop with us to help us find one (true story!). While that friend is still much braver than I am, I think the world would be a better place if more of us talked about orgasms – not only the orgasms we’ve already had (or haven’t had), but also how to have them if we aren’t experiencing them currently.

What I want every woman to know: If I ever have a daughter, I hope I will have the courage, when she’s old enough, to talk to her about sex – not just the mechanics, but also how to enjoy herself. Namely, I want her to know that her pleasure is also a priority. Despite what she may see in porn or movies, or what a partner may say or do to contradict it, sex should be a positive experience for everyone involved – regardless of their gender or sexuality.

Also, to get a vibrator. The Satisfier Pro is a good start.

Periods

Thankfully, this has changed tremendously since my grandmother was a teenager – and even since my mom was, too. Fewer commercials are substituting blue goo instead of period blood to demonstrate the absorbency of pads. And more options are available for healthy period products that are good for the planet and our bodies. But many of us women still aren’t open about our periods, even around other women who ‘get’ it.

What I want every woman to know: Society’s perception of what’s ‘normal’ and what isn’t when it comes to periods is skewed. For one thing, a menstrual cycle rarely lasts a perfect 28 days, even if that’s what we’re taught by doctors (and the media) to expect. For another, I wish we’d stop depicting women doubled over in pain with hot water bottles and painkillers galore during their periods. Cramps may be a natural part of menstruation for many women, but they also shouldn’t be debilitating. If they are, this could signify a more serious condition, such as endometriosis.

Salaries

How much money does your best friend make at her job? Or your mom? Even if you know the answer, it’s probably not something she casually mentions to the gals at Book Club. But maybe, just maybe, it should be. In the modern era, there ought to be a way to discuss other women’s salaries without sounding impolite. After all, if you never ask, you’ll never know – and if you don’t know, you won’t know if you’re making less than you should expect to earn at this point in your career.

What I want every woman to know: The general rules of society state that it’s probably not a good idea to discuss salaries with people you don’t know well. But around your closest girlfriends, you should be able to talk money comfortably, without feeling awkward or rude. It doesn’t mean you’re bragging, if you make more than all your friends, or that you’re lesser-than, if you’re on the lower end of the pay spectrum. Rather, it fosters an openness that’s essential if women ever hope to narrow the wage gap and become equal earners with men in their fields.

Guilt

Every woman I know experiences some degree of guilt. Whether you feel like a bad parent (even if your only ‘child’ is your dog) or like you should be working longer hours to impress your boss, all of us – because we’re human! – know what it feels like to fall short of our own high expectations. Yet although, deep down, most of us know we’re not the only members of our gender who feel this way, many women also feel beholden to curate an image of perfection. We hide our struggles to save face in front of that one Facebook friend who appears to have her sh*t together – without realizing that our own self-censorship is perpetuating the problem for our own tribe!

What I want every woman to know: You don’t need me to tell you this, but I’ll say it for good measure: you’re not the only mom who can’t make it to school pickup. You’re not the only employee who gets nervous during a big presentation. And you’re definitely not the only woman who experiences this kind of guilt. However, by refusing to subscribe to self-shaming, you give other women permission to free themselves from the chains of perfectionism.

Because when you’re overly hard on yourself around your closest friends and family, they listen – and they learn from your example. Which is why I like to think before I judge myself: would I say the same thing about a friend who was in this situation? Chances are, the answer is no – and chances are, you deserve the same amount of grace you would give to your sister or your BFF.

In short: it’s time to forgive yourself, girlfriend!

What’s On My Bookshelf?

I like big books and I cannot lie….just kidding. I’ll take a 150-page novella over a brick of a book any day. (Trust me: I’ve read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables cover to cover, and you’re not missing out on anything but endless descriptions of the Parisian sewer system. And I do mean endless.)

But in all seriousness, there’s nothing like curling up on the couch with a good book – even in the heat of summer, it’s chicken soup for the soul. Or, in this case, maybe a freezer pop.

These books made my summer reading list this year for a myriad of reasons; some I’ve already gotten to, some I haven’t and a few I’m smack dab in the middle of. Regardless, however, each of them has something unique to offer.

Whether the topic du jour is mental health, body positivity or simply thriving in the face of adversity, all of these books are must-reads in the self-help genre – and here’s exactly why.

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Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Admittedly, I knew nothing about Rachel Hollis or her brand, The Chic Site, before I read this book. However, once I picked this up – upon the recommendation of literally every blogger ever – I swiftly became a fan. Rachel’s no B.S., tell-it-like-it-is tone suits my personal style. If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading this book, it’s that life’s too short to be any other way.

Highlight: When Rachel opens a chapter by admitting how bad she and her husband used to be at sex, only to go on and explain (hilariously) exactly how they became good at it. Yas, queen!

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Fully Functioning Human (Almost) by Melanie Murphy

I’ve made no secret of how much I love Melanie Murphy in the past – and today’s post is no exception. What reading list of mine would be complete without mentioning this book? Melanie reeled me into her book the same way she reeled me into her YouTube fandom: by being funny, honest and vulnerable about some of the most difficult challenges a human being can face, such as depression, binge eating, orthorexia and recovery.

Highlight: When Melanie writes candidly about how her recovery from binge eating led her down the shameful spiral of orthorexia – and how, exactly, she came to see the light again after this dark moment in her life.

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Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe

This book belongs on everyone’s reading list from now until the end of time, period. I’ve literally only read the introduction thus far, and I can confidently recommend this book to all of you. If you don’t follow Megan Jayne Crabbe (@bodyposipanda), then you’re seriously missing out. Megan’s signature style serves fierce, sexy sass with a side of cheekiness, all while rocking her fabulously fat bod without shame. And yes, I just used the word fat – because “plus-size” is far worse, don’t you think? Megan sure does.

Highlight: When Megan opens the book by immediately calling out society’s obsession with the size zeros of the world, and the desperate lengths some companies will go to Photoshop the bejeezus out of models’ already-thin frames. (Kelly Clarkson, I don’t even listen to your music, but I’m still sorry that happened to you!)

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The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan

Sure, I learned how to calculate compound interest in middle school math class – but that doesn’t mean I understood what that meant for me, or my future student loans, as a 13-year-old quivering behind my desk. (For the record, yes: Ms. Murphy, my middle school math teacher, does still terrify me to this day.) I was already a fan of Chelsea Fagan’s YouTube channel of the same name when I decided to order this book, but The Financial Diet in paperback truly sealed the deal. This book taught me practical, concrete ways to save money and manage my finances like a grown-ass woman – without overwhelming readers with technical jargon.

Highlight: When Chelsea seeks advice from a plethora of experts – but most importantly, from her own mother on how to save money in the kitchen (and which foodie-worthy investments are most worth making).

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Doing It by Hannah Witton

Sex: let’s talk about it. We all do it, or most of us do anyways – and I think we can all agree that the world would probably be a better place if we shed the stigma and instead started sexing up a storm. Hannah Witton has been one of my favorite YouTubers for years now, both for her candid advice about sex and her public journey through the gut health rabbit hole. And as a true fan, I can guarantee you that her book is just as good, if not better, than any Hormone Diaries video I’ve ever watched.

Highlight: When Hannah wrote a book featuring the word “MASTURBATION” on the cover in big, bold letters. (Admittedly, I haven’t finished the book yet, so stay tuned for my fully-formed opinion!)

Upper Endoscopy: What to Expect

I never thought I would need an endoscopy before the recommended age of 50 – but then again, I never predicted any of my struggles with chronic illness.

When my mom found out she might have celiac disease, I needed to know if I was at risk. My gastroenterologist first recommended a blood test to check for IgA and IgG antibodies – which is pretty standard for celiac screening.

However, my gastro also recommended an upper endoscopy, a scope that would go down my throat and into my small intestine. There, my doctor would take a biopsy to confirm or deny the findings of my blood tests.

“How does that sound?” my doctor asked.

“Fine,” I squeaked, completely lying.

Nothing about this felt fine! How could it? My doctor was about to slide a narrow, lighted tube DOWN MY THROAT AND INTO MY INTESTINES.

The panic continued through the morning of the procedure. I literally shook as the nurse inserted the IV line into my arm for my anaesthesia.

“You won’t remember a thing,” one nurse told me. (I didn’t believe her.)

“You’ll want to come back next week!” said another. (Still wasn’t buying it.)

I remained skeptical until the moment I was sitting in the recovery room, my anaesthesia slowly wearing off as I giggled woozily through the results of my procedure.

While I won’t spoil the ending just yet, I will say that seeing pictures of my small intestine….was, I admit, actually pretty rad.

The Upper Endoscopy

The type of procedure I had was called an upper endoscopy. A colonoscopy is, technically, also a type of endoscopy, though it differs in that a colonoscopy – quite literally – enters through the opposite end. The doctor inserts the tube up your anus (yes, your butthole) and uses the camera to view your large intestine, or colon.

In the type of procedure I had, the doctor inserts a thin, lighted tube through your mouth, down your throat and into your small intestine. This allows your doctor to view, image and take biopsies (if necessary) of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, the upper portion of your small intestine.

During this procedure, I was in a “deep sleep,” meaning I have virtually no memory of the procedure beyond the moment the anesthesiologist injected the sedative. However, my research tells me that some endoscopies are performed with partial sedation, which relaxes you for the procedure without putting you to sleep.

My advice? If you need an upper endoscopy, talk to your doctor about which option is best for you!

The Experience

As a patient, my experience with the upper endoscopy procedure began the night before. I could not eat for eight hours before the procedure, meaning I went to bed hungry and skipped breakfast the next day. I also could not drink – not even a small sip of water – and had to wait to take my daily medications after the procedure.

In the morning, I checked into the office with my boyfriend, David, who served as my designated driver for the day of the procedure. (Because of the sedation, my doctor would not release me from the office’s care without a driver present.) We waited for approximately an hour longer than my scheduled procedure time, since the office was running behind.

Two nurses escorted me into the procedure room, which was basically a small hospital wing (or large doctor’s office, depending on your perspective!). I had my own semi-private recovery room with a curtain, in which I was told to undress from the waist up and remove my shoes. In place of my shirt and bra, I put on a hospital gown to prepare for the procedure.

My nurses worked quickly to insert IV fluids, despite the fact that I was shaking. They also placed a pulse monitor on my pointer finger and took my heart rate and blood pressure, as well as my weight.

Then, the anesthesiologist – a nurse practitioner in my case, though yours may be a doctor – entered the room to introduce herself. She determined the best sedative to use and inserted another IV line through which the medication would be injected.

Before I had time to panic any further, the nurses immediately wheeled me into the procedure room. Inside, I waved hello to my doctor before being asked to roll onto my left side. The nurse asked me to bite down on a small mouthpiece, which is used to help the doctor insert the camera.

That’s the last thing I remember before waking up in my recovery room to discover that yes, I do NOT have celiac disease! The anesthesia acted immediately, so as soon as it was injected, I fell straight into a deep sleep and did not awake until my boyfriend came to hear my results from my doctor.

So, it turns out I don’t have celiac disease. To some, this may have meant the procedure was a waste – but to me? I’m just relieved to know the truth about my symptoms once-and-for-all – especially after learning of my high genetic risk for celiac on my blood test results.

That, and I was pretty darn excited to see some pictures of my small intestine. And yes, they’re just as gross – and lovely – as you’re probably expecting!