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Living With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Updated on September 12, 2013
IBS | Source

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a chronic (long term) disorder of the bowel. It is not a disease but want is known as a functional disorder. Irritable bowel symptoms can vary from person to person, the main problem for some people can be constipation, others diahrroea and some suffer from a mixture of both. Other symptoms of irritable bowel are abdominal pains, wind and cramps, incomplete evacuation of stools, nausea and vomiting, anxiety and depression.

There is no cure for IBS, it is a condition that is managed with lifestyle changes. Certain drugs can help and a trained professional is probably best consulted before commencing down this route. IBS is usually diagnosed by ruling out other possible causes of the symptoms.
Having IBS can be very stressful and stress plays a big part in suffering with having an irritable bowel. My husband has suffered from the condition since he was a child and has learnt simple habits to live with it. There are things that you can do which will help you to continue a normal life and limit the impact IBS has on your life, like he has. Here are some tips that work for him that hopefully will benefit you as well.

IBS, if left unchecked, can at times feel like it’s taken over your life, controlling all aspects of daily living and making simple things difficult or seemingly impossible. It doesn’t have to be like this though. There are ways to take control, and learn how to live with IBS without it ruling your life.

IBS can be a subject of embarrassment to many people, but it shouldn’t. It’s a very common condition; you’d be surprised how many people actually suffer from it to one level or another. Many people find it’s beneficial to talk to others with IBS. Ask your GP if there are any groups in your area or go online and join one of the many forums that exist for people affected. Feeling you're not on your own and there is a support network will give you encouragement and a supportive environment. You will learn from others ways to live with it with minimal disturbance to your life.

Identify Your Trigger Foods
Identify Your Trigger Foods | Source

Trigger foods and stress

Recognize your own trigger foods. There is not one group or groups of foods that affect every IBS sufferer. Different foods affect different individuals, as do different food combinations. Sometimes a particular food can be OK when you are relaxed but can cause a problem at stressful times. Keeping a diary of everything you eat and how you felt afterwards will help to identify potential problem foods.Try and establish if there are any foods that can trigger the symptoms.

Sometimes it can be a combination of different foods that can make the problems worse. For instance, having a small amount of a food, that is known to trigger symptoms, as part of a meal with other ingredients that don't aggravated your symptoms may be OK but having a combination of trigger foods may be too much. It is a process of finding an IBS diet that works for you. It will take a while to get a clear idea of what works but over time you will get a beter idea of what you can eat, in what amounts and with what other foods.

Listen to your body. It will often tell you when it’s not happy with the food you are eating. Create a balanced diet using foods that agree with you. Consult your doctor or a dietician if you have any concerns regarding keeping to a diet that you can tolerate but which also provides you with all your nutrients.

Even by eating foods that you know suit you, there will be days when you still suffer. This can be the case if stress has a part to play in what you are doing. Stress is a major factor in causing IBS symptoms. As well as which foods will cause you problems, you need to recognize your stress triggers. These again can differ from person to person. For some it’s being stuck for long periods travelling on public transport without access to a toilet, for others certain times of the day are better or worse than others, and for others work or social situations are the problem.

The trick is to plan and prepare, finding ways that work for you to avoid and manage these triggers. We can't always avoid stress but there are simple things you can do to which will help on a day to day basis. As mentioned, needing access to a toilet can be a major cause of stress to IBS sufferers. The concern of not being able to get to a toilet in time or being able to go when needed can cause a lot of stress. The irony of this is that the stress in turn causes the need to go to the toilet even greater. If a toilet is within easy access, the stress levels can be reduced and in turn the alleviation of stress on the body can reduce the desire to go.

Travelling on public transport
Travelling on public transport | Source

Management strategies

If you are out and about, learn where public toilets are. Remember where they are so that if you need them in future you won't be in a panic trying to find one. Remember, hotels, pubs and departments stores will normally have accessable toilets. Always carry some change on you in case the public toilet you need to use has an entrance charge and also some emergency tissues in case the toilets have no paper. The last thing you want is to be trying to find somewhere to get some small change or paper when you need to go.

If you are going somewhere you haven't been to before, do your research. Check maps, look online or phone ahead to find out where the toilets are. Some places, such as old churches, may not have one easily accessible. If you are attending a wedding the last thing you want is to be worrying that you may need to go in the middle of the service and have no idea where the nearest toilet is. More often than not, by knowing where the nearest toilet is, this knowledge will be enough to prevent worrying, thus reducing the need to actually go. Plan long journeys in the same way. Knowing when and where the breaks are will keep the worrying at bay. Carry snacks, that you know you can tolerate, with you so you are never caught out being hungry but unable to purchase suitable foods.

Tell your friends and family you’ve IBS. You won’t have to make excuses for your frequent visits to the toilets or why you’d prefer a particular route for a journey shared together that goes via public toilets. If they are cooking for you, they'll understand your requirements or will be aware and can ask.

Let your work colleagues know you have IBS. it may feel a bit embarrassing to tell them but there is reallly no need to worry. Ibs is a very common condition and you may be surprised how many people have it or already know someone who does. The reason for telling your colleagues is to stop you having to worry if they may questioning why, or think you are not pulling your wait at work, by regularly slipping off to the toilet. This again will reduce the worry of how they are interpreting your frequent or long trips out of the office or workplace, and getting rid of that worry will again help to reduce stress levels and its effects on your bowels.

Some IBS suffers find certain times of the day are better than others with regard to their symptoms. If possible, plan your day avoiding stressful times when your IBS is potentially at its worst. if you find it's more of a problem in the morning, plan if possible to do stressful stuff that you have to do in the latter part of the day.

Yoga and meditation have been shown to help many IBS sufferers and may be worth considering.

Taking control

Living with IBS can be difficult, upsetting and frustrating at times. Taking steps to better understand how it affects you can help you manage it better, reducing or alleviating many of the symptoms and allowing you to take better control of your life. Taking control of your circumstanceas as much as posible will help to make you feel you have ibs under your control and reduce feeling that ibs is controlling your life.


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    • jasmith1 profile image

      Adrian Smith 6 years ago from UK

      The examples given are ways that I have found to take control of potentially stressful situations so that IBS doesn't rule and control my life.

      As I shared in the article, I also watch what I eat but have found that I can have more peace of mind using the other suggestions I shared too. It isn't a big deal, I just have some paper in my bag, for example.

    • Cammiebar profile image

      Cammiebar 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      There is a lot of information in this hub, but you make it sound like IBS can rule your life even after you plan for it. An example of this was planning your walking routs near public toilets and carrying toilet paper with you. These are good suggestions, but they are suggestions that control your life.

      I have IBS, so I know how bad it can be. But a lot of the issues is really watching what you eat. If you watch it, then you won't have to make a fast run to the bathroom.

      Keep writing! I hope that a lot of people read all your suggestions!

      All the best!