My Battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

I recently read Sophie's Story: My 20 Year Battle With Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Sophie is behind www.ibstales.com, a website she set up in sheer desperation after years of feeling alone and misunderstood. The stories that came in through the website made Sophie feel part of a much bigger problem and she knew she was no longer suffering on her own.

While I was reading the book, my own experience came flooding back. I often felt like I was the only one and my frustration caused by 'unexplainable' symptoms and hopeless GPs made me feel angry and miserable.

It's easy when you've been able to manage your symptoms for a few years to forget all those feelings. It even easier when you belong to a community of bloggers whose jolly posts about cupcakes and flapjacks distract you from what we're all trying to avoid...

* The afternoons on the loo
* The odd and embarrassing noises your body makes as you struggle to digest food
* The smells you leave behind in the bathroom for the queue of people waiting to use it after one of your marathon loo sessions
* Alternating constipation and diarrhea, rendering all medication useless
* The useless medication prescribed by the doctor
* Being told it 'must be stress related'
* Intimate examinations by the doctor
* Agonising weekends away
* Trying to remember your last bowel movement and failing
* Piles
* The 6 months pregnant look
* Bouts of intense, crippling pain
* Holding in wind on dates, ending with you running home and collapsing on the toilet
* Really, really bad farts
* Never knowing for sure what is wrong with you and hoping that the doctor has a different answer for you next time

This is the reality and this is what I'd put to the back of my mind.
I still get many of these problems.
Most of the time it's because I've slipped up and had one of my trigger foods. Other times it's totally random and unexpected.

Sophie's book covers her long journey of discovery from the initial 'food poisoning' experience at 12 to where she is now. Like me, she finds that cutting out wheat and dairy helps her symptoms.

But I often wonder whether IBS exists and whether it isn't just food intolerances. Or, does IBS exist and it causes our bowels to become sensitive to certain foods?

The doctors don't know the answer.
"Food intolerances can produce irritable bowel symptoms, but not every person with IBS will have food intolerances, and not every person with a food intolerance will have irritable bowel syndrome." A sweeping and unresearched statement if ever I heard one.

All I know is that I was diagnosed with IBS when I was in my teens and NONE of the IBS 'cures' worked. But excluding trigger foods from my diet had a dramatic and instant effect. The same goes for Sophie.

Channel 4's The Food Hospital has a web page for IBS and the 2 case stories (called Viewpoints) given are provided by people who have cut out wheat and dairy to help ease their IBS symptoms.

The programme pointed out a worrying trend - children are taking food intolerance tests and are being incorrectly diagnosed with many food intolerances. This is leading parents to restrict the child's diet, which can cause long term health damage. If this continues, more research will have to be done into food intolerances and IBS and we may end up with a definitive answer.

In the meantime, don't let your symptoms get you down, don't give up on trying to find your trigger foods and stock up on Tums.

Visit http://www.ibstales.com/sophies-story.htm for details on how to buy the book for yourself.

Comments

  1. I hear ya girl! I had/have IBS as well.

    I used to just avoid trigger foods, but it really didn't cure the problem. When I went vegan I noticed a dramatic difference, but it didn't cure the problem either. Now I eat two raw meals a day and my IBS has essentially disappeared!

    I know it's hard and annoying but just keep on experimenting with foods to find something (anything!) that will work for you. : )

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  2. Hi Amy!
    I agree with you, you have to keep finding a solution. There's no use suffering in silence. IBS and other bowel conditions aren't discussed as we find it embarrassing yet millions of people are going undiagnosed because the information isn't out there.
    Thanks for the tip about the raw meals. What sort of food do you eat?

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  3. Thanks Debra. What a good read. I agree what what you say above, it's an embarrassing subject to talk about. I'd like nothing better than a natter with my girl friends about how I feel sometimes.

    I agree with raw foods. I became vegan and cut processed foods out of my diet. The results were great but it was hard to keep up with my living situation at the time. Now I find rotating different diets help (a bit like when you use a new shampoo and you notice how different your hair feels afterwards... well, it does for me. maybe I'm just weird).

    I find ignorance about IBS so infuriating. When I talk about it with me family I get the whole "Oh have you tried licorice..? Or exercise?" type of thing. I don't think people who've experienced occasional diarrhoea/constipation really know how painful it is to feel that way all the time!

    & yes, the pregnant question annoys me so much. I have had people ask me when my baby is due, in a few cases I've been so taken aback I have replied with "That depends on how much fibre I have."

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  4. Hey darl, How are you?
    Thanks for the comment.
    I hate that the only solution to the stupid questions is to be brutally honest about your symptoms, but that's just not going to happen! I had someone ask me in a meeting at work last week what happens if I have gluten. I always have to murmur something about bloating.

    LOVE your retort about fibre! "Yes I am pregnant - with a poop baby :)"

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  5. I have breakfast and lunch totally raw. So for breakfast I might have two bananas, blueberries, and an orange. For lunch I have lots of leafy greens with cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.

    I know it seems a bit weird if you're not really into raw food, but it's really the only thing that has worked for me! : )

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  6. Oh and people always ask you what your symptoms are when you're eating at the table! What do they think you're going to say?!..

    I amazed actually by how interested many people are in my condition and I think it's because lots of people suffer from IBS like symptoms at some point. I think for people who have milder symptoms, they just ignore it or are too embarrassed to seek help.

    I was in denial for about 2 yrs and ended up not being able to absorb fat or vitamin B and lost soo much weight even though I was eating loads. The thought of cancer was the only thing that made me go to the docs! And then after many fruitless visits to various GPs and an under-prepped endoscopy I became a self-diagnosed, lactose intolerant coeliac (you're supposed to eat lots of gluten daily for at least 6 weeks to show up any gut damage). Not ideal, but I am absolutely sure I have cracked what's wrong with me. So much so that I braved pregnancy and have lovely healthy boy (although also gluten intolerant) and am expecting again.

    I no longer feel drained and down (from lack of B12) and now I am more experienced with the GF diet I rarely get the cramps, grumps and bowel problems of being glutened. My world of manufactured foods is ever diminishing (can't even have walkers crisps now, boo to them as they've gone ex-coeliacUK-directory) but my world of health and homemade delights and restaurant eats is expanding :0)
    .

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  7. At aforementioned meeting, another person there who couldn't have gluten responded that he instantly blacked out if he ate it - so that was a slightly more extreme answer than we were all expecting! A friend of mine has instant vomiting, diarrhea or both when she has gluten! She doesn't shy away from telling anyone either. I think if people ask, they should really get an honest answer.
    I love how you have found a way around your symptoms. That's what this book, and this post, is really about - don't give up, keep finding a way to manage your diet and your symptoms. Look at it as a chance to make your diet healthier all round and it really is all worth it for a life without pain, discomfort and embarrassment.

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