IBS

“My stomach hates me.”

I imagine this is what most IBS sufferers would say. My IBS started out 9 years ago and since then my tummy has almost become another entity, complete with an irritating personality.

When the episodes started, we weren’t able to pinpoint exactly what was happening and thought it was some sort of food allergy that could be alleviated by simply cutting those foods from my diet. Since then, I’ve learnt the triggers change as quickly as my tummy’s mood and what could cause an episode today may never cause an episode ever again. The episodes started out rare, spaced out between months, then the frequency increased at an alarming rate. Last year, I didn’t have a single episode and 2014 has seen it recur with a vengeance. This is the essence of IBS – unpredictability. You don’t know when it will happen, why it will happen, how long it will last and, unfortunately, how much it will hurt.  So what, you may ask, is the solution? What magic medication can make all this disappear? The answer is none. IBS has no cure because no one can pinpoint its root cause, so the only solution is to manage the problem.

So why, you may ask, am I talking about IBS… It’s because people don’t like to talk about IBS. While upto 20% of the worldwide population suffers from IBS, it is still little known and often misunderstood which makes it embarrassing to talk about. There’s unfortunately no rule book that can tell you how to casually bring up the topic of bowel movement with your friends or colleagues. How do you explain to people that the reason you don’t eat or eat like a bird on every reunion, team meeting or family dinner is because your stomach hates you and you’re scared of causing a scene that no one will understand how to react to? IBS means you have to give up on some things and it means people can get tired of your company because you say no to long drives, train rides, subways, new restaurants, new food, new drinks and new places where you don’t know the layout of the restrooms. There are no easy answers when it comes to dealing with IBS… but there are answers.

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So this is me. I have IBS. I have spent the most part of my life in the restroom or making sure there’s a restroom nearby. My favourite food is “tried and tested”, so please don’t think I have attitude problems when I refuse to eat new food. It’s not the food that’s the problem, it’s the tummy.

I have no cures to offer but my best advice for managing goes something like this:

  1. If you’ve been prescribed any sort of medication by your doctor, keep it with you at all times- in your wallet/in your purse
  2. Keep your phone with you at all times, just in case, and have an emergency number on speed dial
  3. Keep a bottle of water in every bathroom at home and carry a bottle with you to any public restroom
  4. Keep a hand fan in the bathroom at home
  5. Don’t lock the bathroom door!
  6. Invest in a hot water bottle
  7. Loose pants are your best friend. Your waist-line isn’t always in your control
  8. When travelling long distances or unfamiliar routes, carry a change of clothes with you
  9. In the same way as you note the emergency exits in a plane, note the restroom locations in public places
  10. Eat healthy. What’s healthy? Only your tummy can tell you that
  11. List your triggers and keep going back to revisit them. What your tummy hates today may be what it loves tomorrow
  12. Remind yourself that plans aren’t set in stone and your health comes first
  13. De-stress… How? I’m not really sure. I haven’t cracked this one yet
  14. When your tummy’s acting up and you find you can’t eat something, feel free to use my favourite lines:”My tummy’s throwing tantrums.”
    “Unfortunately, my stomach and I have very different opinions when it comes to defining good food.”
  15. Remember… you’re not alone… as long as you let someone know where you are.

To learn more about IBS, visit: http://www.aboutibs.org/

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