Tips for Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS
IBS, also known as Irritable Bowel syndrome is a digestive system disorder that is incurable and lacks any concrete causes. IBS is unique to each person who suffers from it, and can be painful, causing bloating, stomach pain and diarrhea among other symptoms. Living in fear of sudden attacks can be difficult and seeking information on how to cope or live your life newly diagnosed can be embarrassing.
Here are my top ten embarrassment-free tips for living with IBS:
1. Be Open: Recognize that everyone has some sort of skeleton in the closet, or something embarrassing that they aren’t proud of. IBS is nothing to be ashamed of- you cannot help that the connection between your brain and digestive system isn’t wired just right. If the situation warrants an explanation, or someone asks, be open about explaining the condition without getting too graphic.
2. Seek a Doctor’s Help: For some reason, people seem to be afraid of going to see a doctor. The aid and relief they can provide are tremendous as some particularly bad IBS cases do require medication. You may also not have been formally diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and may have diagnosed yourself from internet sources. However, digestive issues can be serious and can point to other diseases like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis. It is important that you have a doctor rule out these serious diseases.
3. Take Control: If you can’t afford to go to a doctor, or have already been, taking control of your own IBS is imperative. Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be triggered by many things, and it’s up to you to discover what sets your condition off. Try a lactose-free diet for two weeks and see if it helps. Eliminate fatty foods for two weeks. Try drinking three more 8 oz. glasses of water than usual with a Fiber One bar or with Metamucil. You could even try probiotics. IBS can be very unique to each individual it effects. Learn what makes yours unique.
4. Excuse Yourself: Don’t be afraid of what other people think. It’s none of your business anyway. If you feel an attack coming on, usually characterized by bloating, gas, stomach pain, cramps and later diarrhea, feel free to excuse yourself. If you’re with close friends or family who understand, tell them your stomach is upset and calmly leave the room. If you’re in the company of strangers or in a school or work environment, quietly slip out of the room. The only excuse necessary is that you simply aren’t feeling well at the moment- most people should understand that medical conditions are private information and that it is no one’s business but your own. If it becomes necessary, quietly explain to your supervisor or teacher that your stomach is easily upset and that occasionally you may need some time on your own.
5. Control Your Pain: IBS can manifest itself in severe abdominal discomfort-I passed out one early morning in the shower after a particularly rough night, although that is unusual. Oftentimes an oral painkiller may be too slow for more rapid episodes and may not help. Instead, try hot water bottles placed on the lower abdomen. The heat can help immensely with pain and relief can be quickly administered. Placing gentle pressure on the abdomen or area of pain can also help.
6. Eat a Healthier Diet: You may be struggling to pinpoint the trigger to your IBS or may come to realize that your IBS is not related to any particular food group. Eating an overall healthy diet can be crucial to living comfortably with IBS. Cut out greasy fast food, as much it may hurt. Not only will you feel better and reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but your intestines will thank you. Eat a bowl of dark greens at least once a day. Spinach is full of iron and nutrients your body needs and helps keep your body and digestive system running smoothly. Try smoothies with flax seed or granola bars. Making healthy dietary changes can drastically improve your Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
7. Relax: IBS can be stress triggered and for obvious reasons, severe stomach cramping and mad bathroom dashes don’t help anxiety. Try meditation, warm baths (not too hot and not too long-heating your internal organs is not healthy), yoga or calming music to help keep yourself relaxed. Don’t clench your abdominal muscles too hard or keep them clenched all the time; I find myself sitting rigidly with my abdominal muscles held tightly as my internal discomfort slowly grows.
8. Find a Support Group: The internet abounds with all sorts of people, and that includes those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Living and coping with IBS can be made much easier when you have others to talk to and compare symptoms with. Oftentimes they can provide new ideas or tips to dealing with this sometimes embarrassing disease, and you don’t have to reveal yourself to others. Talking about diarrhea is much easier when it’s done in text.
9. Keep a Record: This was one of the first things my mother told me to do when my IBS attacks started picking up in frequency. Keep a record of your attacks, including the amount of time you felt discomfort, date and what you ate in the past three days. Such records can be helpful in pinpointing causes and can also be helpful to medical professionals who can notice trends that you might not.
10. Don’t let it Define You: IBS in some severe cases can be debilitating, painful and cause extreme social discomfort. Don’t let your Irritable Bowel Syndrome control where you go, what you do and when. If you feel your friends or new acquaintances won’t understand, they aren’t worth your time. If love isn’t freely given, it isn’t worth having, especially if it’s withheld over uneducated disgust for a condition that is incurable and can’t be helped. Be proud of who you are and don’t let IBS define you or make you feel ashamed or disgusting.