April is IBS Awareness Month – But What Is IBS Really Like?

Amongst other things, April marks IBS Awareness Month. So we thought it would be a good idea to put something together on what this oft-misunderstood condition is really like, and what’s involved in the day-to-day management of it.

It’s estimated that 1 in 5 of the UK population suffers from IBS, so odds on that you’ll know more than a couple – you might even have IBS yourself. But how many of your friends and family are willing to open up about IBS?

There’s a real stigma around this condition, largely owing to the idea that problems of the gut are something to be ashamed of. This should not be the case, which is why we want to blast through the taboo and generate real understanding on what it’s like to deal with IBS on a daily basis.

What is IBS?

IBS is an extremely common condition thought to affect 7-10% of the global population. The symptoms can fluctuate from agonising to mild stomach pains, constipation, urgency, diarrhoea, bloating, and flatulence, to name but a few.

Despite it being such a common condition, IBS is not understood as well as other bowel conditions – and no specific treatment or cure has yet been found. Given the difficulty in medically treating the condition, and because it’s not life-threatening, IBS can often be seen as ‘non-serious’, even by medical professionals. Those who live with the condition would tell you a different story.

Daily Considerations with IBS

Despite having the same routines as everyone else, people with IBS have to go about their day in a strictly planned, and sometimes fearful manner. You can’t schedule when you have a sudden need to go to the toilet, which makes leaving the house a stressful experience for many of those who have IBS, particularly when travelling along new routes where you don’t know the lay of the land quite so well.

Trips often have to be meticulously planned around the location of toilets, the ease of access to those toilets, and the eventuality that you are unable to find a toilet in time.

Even in ‘comfortable’ locations, such as work, people with IBS may suffer from embarrassment around how discrete they can be when using the bathroom – noise and odour are highly serious considerations when choosing a toilet. People are conscious of how their peers might react, and fear potential humiliation.

Living in Limbo

There are a number of reasons why those suffering from IBS may be left in complete exasperation. The consistent cycle of recovery and relapse that is symptomatic of IBS, the nature of the common symptoms, the stress of constant planning to leave the house, the difficulty in diagnosis of the condition, the current impossibility of curing IBS can leave those suffering in a state of limbo.

Imagine, you know something isn’t right with your gut, so you go to a doctor who rules out bowel cancer, and other conditions, which eventually leaves you with a diagnosis of IBS. So, now you’re diagnosed you can get the treatment you need. Except you can’t be treated because there’s no medical cure. All you can do is adjust some of your lifestyle habits, and do your best to minimise the symptoms all on your own.

But you needn’t be left feeling like you can’t talk to someone.

This is why IBS Awareness Month is so important – so that those with the condition feel that they can turn to their friends and family for support. We also want to encourage scientific and medical communities to continue their work in finding a treatment or cure to relieve the symptoms of IBS.

If you’d like to find out more on IBS, click here.

The Bladder & Bowel Community app is perfect for those suffering from IBS, or other bowel conditions. For £1.99, you get the app which comes with a digital version of the Just Can’t Wait card, instant access to our community forum, and an interactive map that pinpoints your nearest publicly available toilets.

Download the app here!