Living with IBS
Two in every ten people across the UK are living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Despite its prevalence, IBS is still all too often misunderstood. IBS causes a range of painful symptoms; from cramping and bloating, to diarrhoea and constipation, but in most cases, these symptoms can be managed , allowing suffers to live normal lives. Despite this, people with IBS can face stigmatization, awkwardness and anxiety simply because others do not understand the condition.
As April is IBS Awareness Month, we’ve decided to explore a handful of stories from real IBS sufferers to learn how they cope with the condition in their day-to-day lives.
Harri has suffered with IBS since University and has chosen to be very open about her condition. She jokes about it and openly discusses it with anyone who will listen.
However, she does still rely on the support of her boyfriend to help her navigate certain situations:
"My boyfriend's parents live in a crumbling manor house in the south of France with one loo in the middle of the sitting room (they're doing it up). That was a slight nightmare last time I was there so I made him sing Otis Reading songs loudly outside the door whilst I was in there to distract everyone."
Ty is a keen traveller who does not let his condition slow him down:
"I'm never going to let my IBS stop me from seeing the world. I am not above using tiny, dumpy bathrooms. I'll be damned if I'll let poo slow me down.
Scarlett used to try to keep her condition a secret but has more recently found that she is able to be very open and honest with her friends and loved ones. Their support makes life much easier.
Scarlett also regularly blogs about the topic which sparked a conversation with her partner on one of their first dates:
Simon was diagnosed with IBS after a bout of meningitis. He works as an English teacher and must manage his condition between the rigid structure of lessons and meetings. The public spotlight of students, colleagues and parents can make life difficult at times:
"Before I was diagnosed, I recall one parents' evening where I was booked to see around 40 sets of parents and the evening meal supplied was a large white sandwhich with cheese, onion and salad.
The next hours had me trying to talk seriously to parents about their child's work while sweating profusely. My stomach had balloned to an unbearable degree. I had no time for toilet dashes and was caught needing to break wind, mopping my brow and trying to keep my composure."
Sophie has had symptoms since age 12 but didn’t receive a formal diagnosis until a decade later. Her parents take a keen interest in her condition and are always suggesting new remedies to try. Below, Sophie explains the information overload that many people with IBS have to learn to cope with:
"My Mum often cuts out articles in the newspaper that mention IBS to make sure I know about all the latest treatments and theories.
It can be tricky sometimes - some doctors advise a high-fibre diet, others low, some prefer low FODMAPS or gluten-free some think diet isn't important. It's a bit of a minefield as there are few "correct" ways to treat IBS and you have to do at least some trial and error for yourself."
With diagnosis more common for women, especially in their 20s and 30s, Claire’s diagnosis at 25 isn’t surprising. Learning to live with IBS has not been easy, but Claire has decided deal with the day-to-day anxiety by confronting the issue head on:
I used to get very anxious about going to the loo at work and colleagues joking about other people's toilet habits at work did not help. So recently, I've decided to be very open about my condition. This was hard at first but it has really helped."