To try and get a handle on my irritable bowel syndrome, I’ve been tracking my symptoms, taking notes where my symptom grid doesn’t quite cover every contingency and tracking what (though not how much) I eat for about 6 months now. There are a few gaps where I stopped or was backpacking, but I’ve got a lot of data at this point.

Overall, I feel like I’m doing better with tracking than I felt like I was doing without tracking. Possibly because I can see patterns. I know I’m not imagining that things have been happening more often or less often, because I can see what I recorded. I know how often I’m getting certain kinds of tummy pain. For example, I have burning pain almost every day, sharp pain most days, but rarely severe pain.

I downloaded an app to try and track symptoms before I came up with my homegrown google spreadsheet, but the app was too difficult to use. I had a hard time opening it up and recording every time I had a bowel movement, especially because it would then ask me to classify it as to kind and I had difficulty deciding how to describe it according to the options the app provided. With my spreadsheet, I’m not being as precise, but I’m making the records. I just mark a box if I have the type and note the total number at the bottom.

In the past, I’ve panicked when it seemed like I had a new kind of pain, but now I can just look back and see that I’ve had that pain before. And I can remember better what the result of the pain was. For example, I got a pain that felt like stitches in my side even though I hadn’t been exercising. That turned out to be a sign that I was going to have diarrhea soon – nothing to panic about.

Since stress is often cited as a cause of IBS flare-ups, I’ve also been tracking some stress related symptoms. Just having headaches on the tracker helps me feel less stressed about when I do get those intractable headaches that stay for days. I can see that however bad they feel at the moment, they don’t stay forever and they aren’t clinically frequent. It’s stress and I need to continue trying not to let the stress freak my body out and make things worse.

I might try to get more granular with my tracking, see if I can stand it. If I want to lose weight, tracking food portions along with what I’m eating would be a good step. And I could try to be more specific in my tracking of other symptoms as well, including more about frequency and time of day. But for now, I feel like I’m in a good place. I can recognize when I’m going to have bowel trouble, in a general way. And as long as I keep drinking a good 6 quarts of water/herbal tea per day I feel pretty good.

Of course, it was 4 quarts at the beginning of the year. And I tried cutting back at the end of June and it wasn’t pleasant. Somehow my body is demanding more and more water to continue to function in the same way. Something to bring up with my doctor at my next annual appointment, I suppose. Unless I start ‘needing’ more water than I can drink in a day.

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