‘IBS is ruining my life’ – This has been Amber Vesey’s litany as a student who was a victim of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Just when she should've been enjoying life the most, Amber Vesey reached her lowest point.
By the time she was in college, the irritable bowel syndrome she'd been diagnosed with at 15 sent her to the hospital repeatedly. It morphed into the type of disease that comes with diarrhea (IBS-D) and then settled into IBS-mixed, which also includes constipation.
She couldn't go out because she often had to use the bathroom. She even had to have private conversations with professors so they'd know why she kept running out of class.
"I was only in my early 20s. I thought, 'I'm not supposed to be miserable. I'm not supposed to be in on a Friday night because I can't leave the apartment – IBS is ruining my life," Vesey says.
But guess what! Things are different for her today. She's learned ways to keep her condition from running her life. "I embrace it as opposed to seeing it as a negative," she says. "I've found out what works for me."
You can take control of your life, too, when you have IBS. You'll be off to a great start with a few lifestyle tweaks and a little planning.
Do you or someone you know currently experiencing IBS that has got you or that person in a deep state of despair because the migraines are interfering seriously with your day-to-day activities and ruining your life?
If yes, don’t worry because we have got you covered and we will clarify your doubt and answer all the questions you might have concerning this topic – “IBS is ruining my life”.
This article shows some reviews from past and present IBS sufferers, how the IBS affected them, and how they coped with it to become hale and hearty again.
My article covers how IBS can ruin your life, and what to do to recover from any damages IBS caused.
IBS – What is This Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable bowel syndrome isn’t dangerous but can disrupt your life. Symptoms include stomach pain, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. Experts think IBS is caused by miscommunication between the brain and gut.
IBS is Ruining My Life! – How Can Irritable Bowel Syndrome Do This?
To answer this, I will drop verified experiences of this condition from those who have gone through it so that you can see or read for yourself how legit the statement; “IBS is ruining my life” is.
Coined from McKenna Princing Article on IBS:
I spend part of each day thinking about my bowels. I know that sounds strange, but for me, it has become a normal part of living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Let me take you through an ordinary day when my IBS symptoms are flaring up. Upon waking up, I immediately have to rush to the bathroom, then again as I’m on my way out the door. At the office, I feel mildly nauseated throughout the day and don’t eat much, so my energy levels are low.
During a meeting, my stomach feels like it’s full of angry hornets, and I’m faced with a decision: hold the gas in and suffer the cramps or stink up the conference room. I make bathroom runs throughout the day, interrupting my workflow and making me self-conscious of looking like a bad employee for not being at my desk.
At home, I can finally indulge in real food without caring how it will affect my stomach. I can sit on the toilet for as long as I want until my rectal cramps pass (yes, that’s a thing) without fretting about not getting work done.
But then I have to do it all again the next day, and the next, not just at work but when I’m spending time with friends, on dates, or attending events in crowded spaces where I can’t always escape to the bathroom on a moment’s notice.
I typically forgo alcohol while out with friends and have to be selective about what food I eat. Everything I consume comes with a risk-versus-benefit analysis. Though IBS can be irritating, plus embarrassing, and exhausting, the good news is that, while there is no cure for it, it is treatable.
From Patient.info forum:
I'm a 22-year-old female and I've had IBS for about 6 years. I've had MRI scans, blood tests, etc and nothing sinister has shown. I have tried EVERYTHING and I'm not having much luck. I went through a stage of it not being so bad and having an attack of sweating, cramps, nausea, and diarrhea very occasionally and just everyday bloating (which I am now very used to) the last month or so I don't recall ever have a fully formed BM- they are always loose without fail and it's driving me crazy. I woke up this morning with the most agonizing stomach pain, I felt sick and had diarrhea. It passed after about 2 hours but it leaves me feeling weak and horrible.
I know that anxiety plays a huge part and that's something that I want to get rid of. any big occasion and it's so bad- my graduation was spent on the toilet and crying in pain, trips to the cinema, my birthday, when I went on holiday I had diarrhea the whole journey there. It's ruining my life and making me nervous to do anything too far away from home- can I see a therapist on the NHS? To help deal with the anxiety? I'm basically just wondering if anyone has any ideas of things I can try- I rely on bucopan, peppermint tea, and a hot water bottle when my attacks are bad. But I've tried- Colpermin, charcoal tablets, probiotics, the Fodmap diet, etc and I just want to feel normal ???
Why bowels Get Irritated
Though Amber Vesey spent years trying to hide the symptoms and felt like she was the only person who had IBS, she now knows better: There are an estimated 40 million people in the United States — more than 1 in 10 — who have IBS, and many of us are young women. IBS is the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal problem.
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal syndrome, which means there is no visible damage to the bowels. This makes IBS different from inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, where the bowels are visibly inflamed.
“In IBS, we think there’s a brain-gut dysregulation so that the brain is misinterpreting the signals it gets from the bowel. There’s an alarm bell going on in the brain even without any injury or irritation. Even the normal digestive process creates sensations of bloating, pain, and discomfort,” says Shoba Krishnamurthy, M.D., a gastroenterologist at UW Medicine’s Eastside Specialty Center who treats people with IBS.
In times of actual crisis, this process is helpful. If you’re trying to run away from a threat, for example, you don’t want your brain to send blood to your bowels so they can digest food; that energy is best diverted elsewhere. But for people with IBS, our brains and guts somehow think that danger is a constant.
Defining and Diagnosing IBS
What exactly causes IBS and causes the gut-brain interaction to malfunction is unclear — and there could be multiple causes, Krishnamurthy says.
Some research shows that IBS begins after an infection in the bowel, usually from a case of food poisoning. IBS could also be caused by a condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which can be diagnosed by a breath test and treated with a specific antibiotic.
IBS has also been associated with abnormalities in the microbiome, the colony of bacteria living in our guts.
Some experts wonder whether chemicals and additives that are in highly processed foods play a role, too. Though there is not yet much research to confirm or deny this, one preliminary study did find that certain food additives have the potential to impact gut bacteria.
“The SAD diet (standard American diet) is really sad. People are exposed to so many things, like pesticides, preservatives, and industrial and chemical toxins, that we think have a direct effect on the microbiome,” Krishnamurthy says.
But here we have a classic chicken-and-egg scenario that doctors are still puzzling over. Traditionally, experts figured anxiety caused IBS — but is that always the case?
“Now we’re questioning whether it’s really the other way around, at least in some people. That whatever condition led to IBS has altered bacteria in the colon, and that microbiome alteration also causes anxiety and depression,” Krishnamurthy says.
Most often, diagnosing IBS is a process of elimination (no pun intended). Your doctor will consult with you and perhaps run tests to rule out other conditions.
If you have symptoms like bloody stools or new stomach problems you’ve never had before, you should go to the doctor, as these aren’t common IBS symptoms and could point to some other issue.
Tips for Managing IBS
IBS can be treated, but there is currently no cure. You may have heard claims that things like peppermint oil or probiotic-enriched yogurt will banish your IBS symptoms for good, but there’s little scientific evidence to prove that.
Still, there are things you can do to learn more about how IBS affects you, and there are simple steps you can take to stop it from interfering with your life.
- Try an elimination diet
Food is a major player in IBS — and what foods prove bothersome vary from person to person.
If you’re not sure what foods trigger you, or you have an inkling but want confirmation, try eliminating common offenders — things like dairy, gluten, acidic foods, coffee, or carbonated beverages — from your diet for a couple of weeks and see if you start feeling better. Then, slowly add each food back into your diet, one at a time, and see if you start experiencing symptoms again. For more accurate results, you can also do this with the guidance of your doctor or a dietitian.
Another eating pattern that works well for many people with IBS is the low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, which are all different types of carbohydrates (sugars) in various types of food. Many doctors think FODMAPs can exacerbate IBS symptoms.
- Learn your other triggers
Along with certain foods, IBS symptoms can be triggered and exacerbated by other things, primarily stress and hormonal changes. It’s common for women to experience worse symptoms shortly before or during their period, for example. If you get a better idea of what triggers you, you can take extra steps to decrease the effect. If you’re having a stressful week, choose foods that are less likely to bother your stomach. This approach probably won’t entirely rid you of your symptoms, but it may lessen them.
- Talk with your doctor about medication
While you can always take over-the-counter medications like laxatives, antacids, or medications that help relieve an upset stomach, there are also prescription medications that might be helpful. Antidepressants may work for some people, especially those who experience anxiety, too.
You can also talk with your doctor about non-medication aids like probiotics. While more research needs to be done to determine if probiotics truly ease IBS symptoms, there are specific strains of bacteria in certain probiotics that might be helpful for some people. Your doctor may be able to recommend a probiotic supplement that may work for you.
- Try therapy
Krishnamurthy says psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy is another solution for some people. If you have anxiety that interacts with your IBS, therapy to treat your anxiety could help relieve some of your IBS symptoms. And if you only have IBS, there are even therapy practices that focus on how IBS affects you that could be helpful.
Krishnamurthy specializes in hypnotherapy with a gut-directed emphasis, which initial studies show can be effective in reducing anxiety caused by IBS symptoms.
“I get someone into a hypnotic trance and give them suggestions for their bowel working normally and a decrease in symptoms,” she says.
If you’re not ready to jump into attending regular therapy sessions, there are relaxation techniques you can try on your own, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
- Banish shame
If you’re embarrassed by your IBS symptoms, take some time to try to work through that. Remind yourself that, while IBS can be gross and uncomfortable, it’s not strange. Your experience is valid and you shouldn’t feel like you have to hide it from others. Instead, try talking about it with people you’re close to.
“It is common that you think you're the only one who has it, that other people are eating whatever they want, but that’s not true,” Krishnamurthy says.
Sure, timing is important: You probably don’t want to launch into a conversation about your bowels while you and your friends are eating dinner. But by confiding in people you trust, you’re removing the stigma around the subject.
You might even discover that someone you’ve known for a while also experiences IBS but, likewise, has been keeping mum about it. Or you might discover new strategies to try that could improve your symptoms.
Either way, it’s important that you recognize that you can get help: You don’t have to suffer in crampy, smelly silence.
“In the past, that’s what people used to be told: You just have to live with it. But that’s not true anymore. It’s definitely possible to lessen your symptoms,” Krishnamurthy says.
Watch the video below to see how Anna Cheney cured her IBS symptoms:
8 Social-Life Tips for IBS
- Know where the bathrooms are.
Whenever she goes to a party these days, Vesey first considers whether there'll be a bathroom. Not only is this common sense, but it also helps relieve the anxiety which often makes IBS symptoms worse.1https://rightasrain.uwmedicine.org/well/health/how-to-manage-irritable-bowel-syndrome
Download one of the many apps that pinpoint nearby bathrooms. You should also check to see if your state is one of more than a dozen that has passed "Ally's Law." This "restroom access" legislation requires retail businesses to let people with bowel disorders use their bathrooms. If your state is not on the list, just say you have a "chronic medical condition."
- Plan your route.
In case you need a bathroom before you get to where you're going, find out where rest stops are along the way. There are apps out there that can show you. Take into account highway driving ("How long before the next exit or rest area?") as well as tolls. And leaving early lets you take a detour without fretting too much.
- Bring your own food.
About two-thirds of people with IBS say their symptoms start or get worse when they eat, says William Chey, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Behavioral and Nutrition Wellness Program at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.
That means eating out, especially at restaurants, can be a minefield. One solution is to take your own food. If you have to order off a menu, keep it simple. Steamed vegetables, sautéed chicken breasts in olive oil -- most restaurants will have options like that," Chey says.
- Eat before you go out.
Even if you're taking your own food, it's a good idea to have several small meals before you leave. Some people with IBS-D avoid food before an outing. But that means when you do eat, your body may overreact. Having a regular eating schedule helps some people with their symptoms.
- Carry extra supplies.
Accidents can happen even with the best planning. The right move is to be prepared. Vesey always carries wet wipes and potpourri spray in her bag. Tissue or toilet paper is also a good idea. Some people even have a change of clothing, especially underwear, with them at all times. "Being prepared is huge," Chey says.
- Spend time with supportive people.
A lot of folks have faulty or unfair notions about IBS partly because no one is sure what causes it. That's why it's important to hang out with people who do understand what you're going through. You may need to spend a little energy educating others.2https://www.webmd.com/ibs/features/social-life-ibd
Jeffrey Lackner, PsyD, a professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo, describes IBS as "faulty wiring between your brain and your gut." That may help people accept your condition.
Not only will this help on specific occasions, but it can ease symptoms all the time. "Not having support is a little like driving a car without a bumper," Lackner says.
- Don't avoid social situations.
As tempting as it might be to stay in your comfort zone, that could backfire by making you more afraid over time. Your comfort zone could shrink, leaving you feeling isolated.
Relaxation exercises and meditation can ease anxiety, and they have an added benefit with irritable bowel syndrome: Studies have shown that both activities reduce symptoms. This can also end the cycle of symptoms leading to anxiety and vice-versa.
- Pay attention to your body.
Start by tracking your triggers, your symptoms, and your reactions to your symptoms. This will make an unpredictable condition a little more manageable and let you control where you go and when.
Use worry to solve problems rather than just dwell on them.
"There's no simple fix or cure, and the responsibility for being able to manage [IBS-D] is really not going to come through in a bottle," Lackner says. "The decisions you make on a day-to-day basis are incredibly empowering."
Living with IBS
Though IBS isn’t dangerous, it can significantly interfere with someone’s life. Research shows that people with IBS often feel embarrassed by it, avoid activities where dealing with IBS would be difficult and feel that the condition limits them.
IBS is commonly defined by the stomach pain it causes, plus constipation and diarrhea. And all of those things definitely occur. But, for me at least, the worst things are the ones that aren’t talked about, like how embarrassing it is to constantly have to fart while out with friends and how distracting it is to be highly tuned in to every little pain or gurgle in my gut.3https://patient.info/forums/discuss/ibs-is-ruining-my-life-worried-it-could-be-something-else-620870
A lot of people with IBS are extra sensitive to the goings-on of their bowels. That’s probably due to brain-gut dysregulation, Krishnamurthy says. This heightened awareness of bodily functions is often called visceral hypersensitivity.
“People with IBS feel discomfort more like the volume is really turned up in the bowel,” she says. My symptoms aren’t always so extreme, though. Some days I can almost forget I have bad days. Overall, there’s a lot of variation among people with IBS. For some, it’s a minor inconvenience. For others, it’s debilitating.
“There’s a wide spectrum, from mild to severe symptoms. But for many people, it does cause quite disabling symptoms that limit them from doing their usual activities. Some people are afraid to go on a vacation or afraid to eat out at a restaurant,” Krishnamurthy says.
There is no cure, but you can manage symptoms by learning your triggers. The low-FODMAP diet, medication, and therapy can help.
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