If you’ve got as far as the title then you’ll probably have noticed this post is going to be a little different to normal. And maybe not as glamourous. You see, in honour of Gut Awareness Week, I’m going to be talking about my gut and its issues. Sexy, I know.
Behind the makeup, pineapple prints and love of a fugly shoe, I suffer from Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS). Now this isn’t something I’d normally discuss with strangers as talking about your bloated stomach (I can sometimes look 6 months pregnant after a meal) and toilet habits is seen as being taboo. I’ve got to the point where controlling it is such a big part of my day-to-day life, that I can’t not talk about it, and writing this for Gut Week felt like the perfect time to get it off my chest and digestive system.
IBS is considered a ‘longstanding illness consisting of frequent abdominal discomfort and bowel symptoms that cannot be explained by any other disease’ and something that I’ve suffered with for over 10 years. I pretty much suffer from all of the symptoms, brace yourself, there are quite a few; stomach cramps, intense bloating, bowel upset, indigestion, rumbling stomach noises, tiredness, nausea and back ache. Fun times.
It’s by no means fun and in all honesty is a pretty crippling and embarrassing illness. There have been times where I can’t get out of bed because my cramps are so intense that being curled up in a ball with a hot water bottle is the only way to ease it. Or times where I’ve had to leave parties early after having a severe upset. It’s painful, irritating and a massive daily struggle. I have especially bad flare ups when I’m stressed or run down or if I eat something I shouldn’t. I’m currently in the process of buying a house which isn’t helping matters.
To stay on top of it I mix medication (Apercap and Audmonal before each meal and Buscopan for cramps) with a healthy diet and lots of peppermint tea. I have an intolerance to dairy so stay away from cheese, milk, cream etc and where possible I also go wheat-free, as I find my body can’t break down heavy foods properly, leaving me bloated. To add to this list I also avoid onions, peppers and anything too acidic as they don’t settle well either. In time I’d like to reintroduce some of these foods but I’ve found it better for my stomach if I replace them with alternatives at the moment. Although, I am partial to a slice of cake or two.
Every sufferer will have different triggers and symptoms as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. I’ve had tests for coeliacs and chrohn’s disease which are always negative but there’s no test for IBS. It’s just been a continual process of elimination. Each time I go to the doctors, usually in tears due to the pain, they just ply me with more medication and little advice which is frustrating and pretty soul destroying. There is no cure but by eating healthily, relaxing as much as possible and gentle exercise, it can be tamed. On good days you don’t even know it’s there.
I guess if this post helps inspire just one other person to speak out about their condition, then it was well worth writing it. Who knows, I might even write more about it. Thanks for sticking with it to the end.