How can you forget the scene in Along Came Polly when Reuben, played by Ben Stiller, was holding his poop and getting sweaty while out on a date at an Indian restaurant with Polly, played by Jennifer Aniston? Sure, it made you laugh and you felt sorry for him, but the truth is, this is a common occurrence among people with IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome.
Here’s the truth: IBS is no laughing matter, especially to the 25 to 45 million American who have it. In fact, there are issues they have to deal with every day, which you will learn more about as you go along with the article.
Check out these 15 things IBS patients deal with and experience daily:
1. Understanding the World of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Do you always find yourself rushing to the bathroom after eating a certain meal? Does your stomach react violently when eating certain foods? Do you often experience bouts of constipation, diarrhea or both?
Then it must be IBS or irritable bowel syndrome.
IBS is a common, long-term disorder affecting the overall gastrointestinal functioning – and up to 15 percent of adults. This condition involves the large intestine or colon and small intestine with disturbances of gut motility and sensation. These gut-related activities are likewise controlled by the brain, which is why it is often called brain-gut disorder.
Common symptoms are:
1. Abdominal Pain
3. Diarrhea or Constipation, Or Both
4. Mucus in the Stool
5. Bloated Feeling
Aside from these common symptoms, IBS sufferers suffer from other issues, which you will learn more about in the succeeding sections.
2. Someone Will Laugh at You, No Matter How Serious Your Condition Is
Fact: anything involving poop will always be a laughing matter for people, regardless of the reason. Intestines are funny too, and also a part of the joke list. This is why most comedy scenes employ the use of bathroom and holding the urge to poop because admit it, it is funny.
Apparently, this is not a laughing matter if you have IBS.
When you have IBS, pooping will always be a part of your problems. In fact, you won’t last one day without making that rushed trip to the bathroom. While this is a serious issue for you, some people won’t understand your situation and will even make fun of you. You might even be the center of the joke because people find it hilarious when you are sweating and looking for a bathroom. They need to understand that the discomforts of IBS are not funny, so be sure to explain the disorder and why it is no laughing matter.
This leads us to the next one.
3. When Stigma Strikes: Few People Understand IBS
You overheard someone say, “I had IBS last Saturday. I finished a dozen ice cold beers, ate two boxes of pizza, and munched on a big bowl of M&M’s while watching Game of Thrones.”
Whoever said it made it sound like IBS is a headache or stomachache, which they can get over with within a day. For those who understand, IBS is more than just pooping after finishing a dozen beers. It is not just about eating too much and going to the bathroom 10 times in one day. Fortunately, having gastrointestinal problems for just one day does not even fall into the definition.
Here’s the thing: many people are confused on what irritable bowel syndrome is all about. For many, IBS is about making frequent trips in the bathroom after eating a lot of spicy food. There are others who will either make fun of your condition or constantly ask you questions about IBS and the things you do to cope with it.
This creates a stigma among the people around you who can’t understand your condition. This could create a barrier between you and those who do not understand your situation.
If you happen to meet any of these people, then answer their questions and don’t be embarrassed about your situation. If you don’t want to talk about it, then be honest and say it in a nice, respectful manner.
4. The Common Causes of IBS: Why Even Doctors Are Unsure
For someone who suffers from IBS, do you know what the cause is? Let me tell you a secret: the exact cause of IBS is still unknown. As a matter of fact, even the doctors are confused about what IBS is and what you should do about it. There are conflicting claims about what you should eat, what to do, foods to avoid, and even your medications. Doctors are pointing various causes of IBS, too.
The Possible Causes of IBS
Some possible potential triggers for IBS include:
Issues in Your Intestinal Walls – The walls of your intestines have layers of muscles that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm every time you eat. If you have IBS, the contractions either are stronger and last longer, thereby causing bloating, gas, and diarrhea; or weaker, which leads to hard and dry stools.
Abnormalities in Your Gastrointestinal Nervous System – This causes discomfort every time your abdomen stretches from gas or stool.
Poor Coordinated Signals Between Your Brain and Gut – You know that your brain and gut are connected. Therefore, poor coordination between your brain and gut could make your body overreact to the changes that happen in the digestive process. This leads to diarrhea, pain, or constipation.
High Stress – Increased stress due to various factors such as your job, financial issues, or a big presentation with the boss could make IBS symptoms worse or more frequent.
Certain Foods – The truth is the role of food intolerance or allergy in IBS is not yet understood. However, you might find yourself experiencing IBS symptoms when you consume certain things like chocolate, spicy food, carbonated drinks, beans and alcohol, just to name a few.
Hormonal Issues – Experts found out that women are twice likely to have IBS than men do. Hence, they posited that hormonal changes in the body could also be a reason for IBS.
Existing Illnesses – Conditions, such as gastroenteritis or bacterial overgrowth in the intestines could trigger IBS.
The bottom line is IBS may be a combination of any of these factors. Take note of your triggers so you can make adjustments in any given situation.
5. Your Daily Agenda: Knowing Where the Bathroom is Located
You are out with your colleagues for your quarterly office meeting. Before you sit and look at the menu, you ask the servers where the bathroom is.
It’s a common occurrence. You know every public bathroom within a 10-mile radius and you have a “secret sanctuary” where no one can hear and smell what is going on inside the cubicle. This is because toilets are important and being stuck somewhere without a bathroom is one of your worst nightmares.
The truth is toilets are the most important thing in your life. Aside from being your nirvana, the bathroom could be that one area especially in your house where you can get a lot of work done. You need access as soon as you can especially after every meal – and many people won’t understand that.
This leads you to the next one.
6. Physical Challenges: Reported Bowel Symptoms Every IBS Patient Experiences
Here’s the thing: many people don’t understand what you are going through. Most of the time, they will show sympathy and offer words of encouragement even if they don’t know what is happening.
So, what exactly is happening?
IBS expert Douglas Drossman and colleagues conducted studies about what IBS patients are going through. He and his colleagues discovered that IBS patients experienced the following symptoms:
1. At least 80 percent of patients experienced pain.
2. Nausea and muscle pains are common.
3. IBS patients with diarrhea experienced gas, belching, and mucus in the stool.
4. Bloating is also a common occurrence among IBS patients.
5. Fecal incontinence is another issue IBS patients face, whether it is diarrhea-predominant IBS or mixed-type of IBS.
Surprisingly, these physical challenges are not exactly what bothers you and other IBS patients like you. While these symptoms are bothersome, what concerns you more is how IBS affects your daily functions, including your thoughts and feelings, which will be discussed further.
7. IBS: Developing a Love-Hate Relationship with Food
Your body needs sustenance to function properly. You need vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to ensure proper growth and development, as well.
Here’s the thing: what you eat and drink may or may not trigger your symptoms of IBS. At the same time, your gut’s reaction to food is different from others, which is why you need to figure out the food and drinks that upsets your stomach in particular.
However, these trigger foods are a good place to start:
1. Fried Foods
2. Anything Spicy
3. Carbonated Drinks
4. Caffeinated Drinks
5. Dairy Products
6. Gas-Producing Foods
7. Insoluble Fiber
Make sure to keep a food diary and record your body’s reaction to every food and drink you have over the course of a month. Make note of the times you had IBS symptoms, too. This way, you can determine your IBS triggers and then make adjustments in your diet. At the same time, how you eat plays an important role, too.
Eating Habits for IBS Patients
The following tips will help you be more comfortable after eating:
1. Eat five to six smaller, scheduled meals.
2. Slow down and chew your food properly.
3. Avoid foods that could over-stimulate your gut.
4. Always go for a healthy diet.
8. When a Bad Day Strikes: What is Happening Inside Your Gut
One day, you are fine. You had the most sumptuous meal, but your body did not react negatively against it. The next day, it started to act up on you. You had a terrible constipation with sharp pains in your belly. The day after, you had an awful diarrhea and lost count as to how many times you went inside the bathroom.
That’s how IBS occurs. Even if you got it all figured out, there are instances when even your gut doesn’t know what to do, hence the combination of diarrhea and constipation.
9. A Gastroenterologist Is Among Your Best Friends
How many times do you go to the doctor every month? How about in one year?
Let’s face it: for people with no medical issues, they would see a doctor only when they need to consult or feel something unusual, which does not happen very often. In fact, some might even let the entire year pass without making a visit in the hospital.
In your case, doctor appointment is common. Perhaps, you and your gastroenterologist are the closest friends because of the frequency of scheduled visits. You could be exchanging numbers too, so they are within reach when you have questions. It might even be a part of your monthly agenda, especially during the first few months of dealing with IBS.
Surely, there are days when you can’t help but stop bugging your doctor. That’s fine. There are up to 45 million Americans who are suffering from IBS, so it won’t be a big deal.
10. The Brain-Gut Link: Why IBS is Not All in Your Head
Irritable bowel syndrome is also called brain-gut disorder for a reason. The brain and gut connection are so strong that any disruption in sending signals between the two could trigger symptoms of IBS.
This is perhaps the reason why some people say it’s all in your head. If you are able to relax, control your mind, and remind yourself that you are stronger, then you don’t have to worry about making that trip to the bathroom. Consequently, in the not-so-distant past, doctors thought that IBS was a psychological problem, since they could not see anything physically wrong.
Here’s the truth: there may be a connection between your brain and gut, but this doesn’t mean that IBS is all in your head. There are reasons why your gut is acting up on you and it’s not because of your head alone.
11. No Matter How Much You Want It, Travelling Could Be a Nightmare
Who doesn’t want to travel? The joy of going to a new place, trying new cuisine, and experiencing new things is a great way to learn and provides fond memories you can treasure for the rest of your life.
The problem is this: travelling can be a nightmare.
Here’s the truth: even the healthiest ones get diarrhea or constipation when out of the country. The difference in food, weather, sources of water, and environment could take a toll on someone’s health. This could lead to more frequent trips in the bathroom.
What more if you have IBS? Instead of enjoying the place, you end up looking or asking for the nearest bathroom. You are more concerned with whether or not your gut will cooperate instead of actually immersing and having fun.
Don’t even get started with flying. Flying with IBS can be another dilemma, especially when your seats are too far from the bathroom. When travelling, make sure to request for aisle, back row seats so that bathroom is accessible. It makes your flight less stressful too.
12. When Your IBS Makes You Feel Out of Control
You just want to try it. The chocolate milkshake looks so inviting and yummy so you had two or three sips. You think you are safe. Unfortunately, your stomach starts to act up on you and the bathroom became your best friend for the next few hours.
That is when you realized that there is no such thing as certainty in IBS. Most IBS patients feel uncertainty is the major theme of their IBS. You feel you lost your sense of having control over the condition. Slowly, IBS could start to make you feel that it is stronger than you and can eat up your system.
To redeem control, you start to restrict your daily activities. You control the food and drinks that will go inside your body will take over. As a result, you entered into a world called lost sense – loss of spontaneity, loss of freedom, loss of choices, and even loss of social contacts due to withdrawal.
Where does this all lead? Check the next section to find out.
13. IBS: Taking an Emotional Toll on Your System
You already know that aside from the frequent trips to the bathroom, the biggest challenge IBS patients face is the thoughts and feelings they have to face and live with every day.
Some people might think that IBS, although recurrent, is manageable. You just have to look at your triggers list and make sure you’ll avoid them all to stop symptoms from paying a visit. Unfortunately, it is not all that easy.
Above all that, you feel a sense of degradation combined with the stigma you experience from other people who don’t understand what IBS is. You felt different and unusual because you have something that the majority of the people do not have. All of these leads to emotional responses like:
Aside from this, you also refrain from having sex because of fear of incontinence and other IBS symptoms. You refuse any form of intimacy, thereby causing a strain in your relationship with your partner.
The bottom line is you may experience any of these emotional feelings every day and that is fine. In fact, many people have them too, even if they don’t have IBS. What matters most is how you deal with those feelings and whether you allow these feelings to take over you.
14. Your Good Days: Being Thankful It’s Just IBS
There are tons of serious medical conditions you could experience within your lifetime – cancer, strokes, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and reproductive health issues, just to name a few. Despite the advancements in technology and availability of treatment options for this condition, any of these medical conditions could affect your way of life.
This includes irritable bowel syndrome.
Here’s the thing: no matter how many times you pay a visit to the bathroom, you may always feel thankful since “it’s just IBS.” The truth is, IBS won’t kill you and it won’t damage your gut. In fact, the frequent trips to the bathroom, no matter how annoying, won’t hurt.
During the days when you can’t find a bathroom and you are desperate to let it all out, think reassuringly and remind yourself that “it is just IBS.” It won’t hurt you.
15. On Most Days: Feeling Alone in Your IBS Battle
You are sitting in the toilet for the nth time, wondering what went wrong. You are sure you followed your food list and did your best to stay away from your trigger foods. Most of the time, you feel alone, confused and angry for punishing yourself with this condition. You feel that no one understands what you are going through.
When emotions strike, here is something you need to remember: you are not alone. In fact, there are up to 45 million Americans who are going through the same ordeal as yours. There are up to 15 percent of adults in America who have the same symptoms and are probably sitting on the toilet just like wondering what, why, and how.
Don’t worry. You can try the following techniques to help you cope easier:
Learn as Much as You Can About Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Information helps you take more control of your situation.
Identify What Triggers Your Conditions. Keep track of everything you eat and take note of the symptoms you feel after eating a specific food. Once you identified your triggers, stay away from that.
Look for and Reach Out to Other People With IBS. Talking to people who are in the same condition makes you feel more secure and reassured. At the same time, it is a good reminder that you are not alone in this journey.
In other words, you are and will never be alone in this journey.
Here’s the truth: there is no cure for IBS; however, there are ways to help you handle the situation and get your confidence back. Don’t worry. If you happen to find someone giving you a quizzical look with a hint of sympathy, let them read these 15 things every IBS patient just like you go through every day.