My Story: Living and Coping with IBS
Imagine having to constantly run to the bathroom because you are anxious about something, or you ate something you weren’t supposed to. Then feeling like you must explain to people why you have used the bathroom multiple times over the span of an hour. This is what I deal with each day with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
According to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS is a disorder that affects about 10-15% of the entire world population. It upsets the large intestine and presents as abdominal pain, cramping and one of three bowel movements. The three bowel movements include chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation, or a mixture of both.
I wanted to share my story in the hopes that this will help those who are struggling with IBS and give comfort to those who feel alone in their situation.
This is my story:
I have had stomach issues since I was a kid, but I was officially diagnosed with IBS in 2015. The day I realized I needed to go see a doctor about my stomach was when I thought it was a good idea to drink two large glasses of chocolate milk within a couple hours. My stomach was a mess. I was in pain and I was held up in the bathroom on and off for the rest of the night. Drinking chocolate milk is only one of many situations that have thrown my IBS for a loop.
A few situations that have made my IBS flare up:
- Long road trips – I go to Michigan Tech and have 10-hour drives there and back for every break. Not knowing where the closest bathroom is and having to ask the driver to pull over constantly to use the restroom makes me anxious, which therefore causes my stomach to freak out.
- Exams – No matter how prepared I am for an exam, I always get a bad stomach ache and have to sit in the bathroom for half an hour beforehand to relax.
- Performing for an audience – I have been dancing since the age of three, and to this day, I still get so anxious that I get a stomach ache and end up running to the bathroom multiple times before I perform on stage.
- Eating dairy and gluten – Since being diagnosed, I have realized that dairy and gluten are very hard on my stomach, causing my IBS to flare up.
How do I cope with IBS?
- Stick to a Low FODMAP Diet – Since being diagnosed, I try to follow the Low FODMAP Diet, which has helped about 76 percent of IBS patients. Low FODMAP means eating less foods that contains lactose, fructose (some fruits), fructans (wheat and some vegetables) and a few others.
- Be prepared – I always put my stomach medication in my bag or purse when I leave the house. Even if I don’t need it, just having it with me calms my anxiety.
- Knowing where bathrooms are – Knowing where the bathrooms are located makes me less anxious, especially on road trips.
- Allowing myself to mentally relax – I try to preoccupy my mind and not think about what is making me nervous or anxious. It helps me feel better and keep my stomach in check.
I know that I’m probably always going to be known as the girl that runs to the bathroom a lot, but I’ve accepted that. Over the years, I have learned how to cope with IBS and I hope my story will help others who struggle with IBS too.
If you liked this post, you may also enjoy:
- I Tried Hypnosis for My IBS and It Worked
- The Road To A Healthier Gut: Digestive Disorders 101
- Good for Your Gut: Benefits of Fermented Food
Photo credit: Shelly Galindo