A blogger has told of how she stabilised her chronic gastrointestinal issues, anxiety and depression by getting fit.
Beth Trueman, 22, struggled with gastrointestinal issues so much that her stomach would expand to the point where she looked nine months pregnant.
On top of this, she suffered from anxiety and depression.
“I was almost always in some form of pain or discomfort,” she said.
“This gradually got worse and I slowly found myself isolating myself from some situations because I was worrying about my stomach and how it would be feeling.”
Despite being dealt a bad hand, Trueman, who is from Leeds, kept up the one thing she felt passionate about – fitness. And it’s paid off, as she’s now more in control of her health than she’s ever been.
“My gastrointestinal issues were the start of my decline in health,” said Trueman.
“I began experiencing painful symptoms where my stomach could blow up to the size of a nine month pregnant lady out of nowhere.
“I was getting sharp pains, a constant feeling of nausea and extreme bloating which they put down to IBS.”
The 22-year-old was prescribed various medications to try and reduce the pain and bloating, but none of them helped.
In August 2014 she tried the FODMAP diet, which involved cutting out any foods that were high in particular sugars, and then reintroducing individual foods back in one at a time after a six-week period.
It was at this point in her life that she started training in the gym and developed an interest in healthy eating.
“I had to make a conscious effort to prepare all my food from scratch and know exactly what I was eating. I stopped drinking alcohol and eating out at restaurants,” she explained.
“It was around this time that I started my blog in order to help others out who were experiencing similar things.”
Things were running smoothly for a short period of time, but then in January 2015 Trueman became severely ill.
“I was in a ‘flare up’ for around two to three months,” she recalled. “My symptoms had gotten worse, I was experiencing extreme fatigue and was struggling to work let alone workout.
“I had started to get urgent and unpredictable bowel movements with blood so I went back to see my doctor.”
After undergoing a series of tests, Trueman remained none the wiser as to what was wrong with her.
“My surgeon suspected it to be colitis, but the biopsies from my colonoscopy came back clear,” she explained.
It was during this time that she began to suffer badly with anxiety.
“This gradually got worse, and I slowly found myself isolating myself from some situations because I was worrying about my stomach and how it would be feeling,” she said.
“I stopped eating out and going to places where I felt ‘trapped’ or where there weren’t any accessible toilets.
“It wasn’t until it gradually took over my life and I started feeling anxious in the gym too, that I sought help for it.”
At this point, she had been training for a year and had found such a passion for fitness that she’d turned it into a career.
“When I stopped finding enjoyment in it I knew something was up,” she said. “For a long time I was in denial to myself, despite my doctor always asking me whether I was experiencing any symptoms of depression.
“I guess I just didn’t want to admit that something else was going wrong with my health. It had always been a big frustration for me that I ate so healthily, I exercised regularly and did everything I could to keep myself fit and my blood lipid profile in check – yet my stomach still refused to function properly.”
In October 2015, she finally got medical help.
“I was prescribed medication for my depression, and further medication for my anxiety alongside my medication for my abdominal pain,” said Trueman.
“I began to see improvements and worked hard to get myself back into the gym. I would go for walks every day in the countryside to get some exercise and keep active despite what was going on.”
Trueman, who is a personal trainer and blogger, said she was quite worried about sharing her experiences of mental health with others because of stigma. But knew it was something that needed to be done.
“The stigma around mental health scared me for a long time,” she explained.
“Not enough questions are asked, and too many assumptions are made about what someone with mental illness is experiencing.
“I am still me and I started my fitness journey to help inspire others. I felt I had to be a positive voice to open up the topic about mental health.
“I was scared as to what the response would be from my friends, my followers and the companies I was working with. But as I got stronger, I felt I had a duty to use my following to help raise awareness, share my journey and spread the message about depression and anxiety.”
To help keep her gastrointestinal issues in check, Trueman’s diet consists of chicken, turkey, salmon, haddock, tuna, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and either rice, sweet potato or potato.
“I have a bowl of porridge oats every morning, with flaxseed, chia seeds, goji berries and psyllium husks,” she explained.
“I prepare my food in bulk three days in advance as I lead a very busy lifestyle and need to ensure I have food for wherever I may be.”
She isn’t letting her chronic health problem and mental health struggles get in the way of what she loves either, and when she’s not training in the gym, she’s filming for her YouTube channel.
“I am still experiencing my anxiety and depression, but I am more in control than I was before,” she said.
“My gastrointestinal issues are no better, but I am trying to manage them the best I can and not allow it to get me frustrated.
“I have been dealt these cards. And, as much as I hate to think of it – sometimes illness is a blessing in disguise – if it wasn’t for my condition I would never have gotten into lifting weights and healthy eating.
“I would have neglected my body, and not been able to help or work with the people that I am now. And for that I am grateful.”
Beth Trueman will be at BodyPower – the expo for amateur and professional fitness enthusiasts – in Birmingham, May 13-15.