Speaking out helps me deal with IBS

Patient Story - Mhairi shares her story of IBS, Twisted Bowel and Urgency

Originally published on: December 8th, 2022. Last modified on January 5th, 2023

Over 1 in 10 people in the UK are thought to have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in the UK. It’s not really known what causes IBS but there are certain triggers such as emotional stress, sensitivities to certain food, a gut infection such as food poisoning or gastroenteritis. Certain medications can trigger IBS too.

The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain/cramping, bloating, nausea, diarrhoea or constipation and sometimes a mix of the both. Symptoms can be worse after eating.

Mhairi Jarvie, 49 from Inverness was first diagnosed with IBS in 2001 after going through a very difficult time emotionally.

“I was told I had IBS back in 2001 after going through a particularly horrible divorce. I was told it was all stress related and it certainly was the case then. However, I worked out what was ‘normal’ for me when it came to bowel movements, and got on with life.

I was very much on my own

“Fast forward to March 2021, when I woke up one morning screaming in agony. My bowel had become twisted. I had an emergency life saving operation, and had two feet of small intestine removed. Thankfully the operation to join the two ends of my bowel together had been successful.

I was in hospital for a week, and discharged with no follow up, and no information on what I could or couldn’t have to eat after such a major operation. I was very much on my own.

I’m the kind of person that needs to know why it happened

“Nobody could give me a reason for what happened. It’s very rare for a bowel twist to be that severe and that sudden. I’m the kind of person that needs to know why it happened.

I went to a lady who did food intolerance testing, and although this was not backed by science, I thought I’d give it a go. I phased out the foodstuffs I was apparently intolerant to, I went without certain foods for six weeks, then I phased them back in again. Weirdly, I felt better when I phased them back in – I’m not a believer in this testing now!

I now don’t follow any specific diet, as nothing I’ve done makes any difference. I don’t smoke, or drink much alcohol at all (think recommended weekly units over the space of a year!) and if I want chocolate I’ll have it! I drink lots of fluid, play golf now, and go for shorter walks, or plan a route accordingly. 

I now experience urgency

“I panic when I experience stomach cramps. My GP believes my surgery has caused PTSD and this exacerbates my IBS. My biggest change is that I now experience urgency, I need to go without any warning and this has impacted on my life.

“I now have a ‘Just Can’t Wait’ card on my phone, which has helped me out in a couple of situations. In one supermarket, all of the customer toilets were shut and I showed my card to one lady, who took me straight to the staff toilets.

“I’ve got a long way to go until I feel confident again. IBS sadly rules my life but I have found that by speaking openly about my bowel issues, it’s been a surprise to learn how many others have issues too.”

We’d like to thank Mhairi for sharing her story, and wish her all the best with her ongoing healthcare journey. There is no known cure for IBS but certain dietary changes, medication and avoiding stress can help to alleviate symptoms.You should check with your GP before making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

You can learn more about IBS in the related articles below.

You can also download a Just Can’t Wait card directly from our website.

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