Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Originally published on: June 8th, 2021. Last modified on September 1st, 2021
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common bowel condition that affects approximately one in eight people in the UK. It can cause symptoms such as painful stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. The symptoms tend to occur as ‘flares’, which can last for days, weeks or months.
At present, there is no cure for IBS and for some the symptoms can be debilitating and can cause physical and emotional distress. There are ways you can help to manage the condition such as with certain medications that can help to alleviate the cramps, or learning what your ‘trigger’ foods are (e.g. some people find that fatty, spicy or processed foods or sugary/alcoholic drinks can increase symptoms) and finding ways to help control any stress or anxiety in your life.
Saffronne Epaminondas has lived with IBS for over 32 years and was diagnosed at the age of 18.
“In my teens I started suffering from stomach cramps, needing to rush to the loo quickly a few times, tiredness, sweating and chills. After visiting my GP to find out what was causing this, I was diagnosed with IBS. Having IBS does affect my daily life as I always have to plan where the nearest toilets are if I go out. The pain can also be debilitating and sometimes this can cause me to not be able to leave the house and this can make me feel bad for my family and friends, especially if I have to cancel plans at the last minute.
“I take medication to try and keep my IBS under control such as Colpermin, buscopan and amitriptyline, which is an old antidepressant but also helps to relax the bowel. As well as taking medication, I also make sure to avoid eating my ‘trigger’ foods, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly, particularly pilates and walking.
“Even though IBS is a chronic illness, I manage to stay positive by remembering that there are a lot of people who I feel are in a worse position than myself. Living with a hidden illness can be hard though as on the outside, we look okay but on the inside we are not. I do receive a lot of support from family and friends though, which makes it easier as an IBS sufferer.
“Do not be afraid to get help and do not suffer in silence.”
“My advice for someone who is going through the same challenges as me is to remember you are not alone. This is a hidden illness, which I think now is more understood by medical professionals. Do not be afraid to get help and do not suffer in silence. Do see a Doctor and seek medical advice if your symptoms get worse and speak to your family and friends. It really does make matters seem easier.”
Registered dietitian Sarah Monk explains how you can help manage IBS symptoms through your diet and lifestyle here. You can find further information on irritable bowel syndrome on the Bladder and Bowel Community website with some key articles listed below.