In the third of the series, Laura, who was recently diagnosed with IBS, shares her story…
How did you know you had IBS?
I didn’t know I had IBS until the beginning of the year (results of a colonoscopy). But it had been suspected for a few years after many toilet troubles and my mum getting the same diagnosis (now learnt it was misdiagnosis as it turned out to be bowel cancer – that’s why I was given the colonoscopy) and I had very similar symptoms. Even got myself taken into hospital about a year ago when I collapsed at work. I was going to the bathroom more than three times in a day and very soon after eating. Suspiciously soon actually. My relatives once thought I had an eating disorder.
How do you cope with IBS on a daily basis?
Coping on a daily basis is quite difficult in my house. I live with three people who don’t have the issue. My mum does have some restrictions on her diet but I find that I have to spend an arm and leg to get my ‘special’ foods. I tend to do my own food shopping as I won’t let mum pay that much for my food. My meals are always different and cooked separately to the others. I drink green tea daily because it helps with my nausea. I try to not get into my work trousers until just before I leave the house as they aren’t as ‘flexible’ or ‘giving’ as my pyjamas or joggers. I eat about two hours before I start work to ensure any ‘episodes’ are out of the way. But I often find that I need to go to the toilet once I reach work anyway. I do have some bad habits; I don’t eat during my weekday shifts as I only have a fifteen minute break. Eating during the break causes indigestion and sluggishness at work but then not eating means I don’t eat at regular intervals, it’s often eight hours or so between lunch and my evening meal.
Any life-changing tips of how to deal with symptoms?
No life-changing tips as of yet. But I always ensure that I carry deep heat or deep freeze in my backpack! You never know when you’re going to have pain from those pesky spasms.
Foods you swear by and foods you swerve?
Foods I swear by? White gluten-free bread. Wholemeal and brown just make me go more. Too much fibre. I think oats are great as well, they are slow-releasing carbohydrates and a protein source too! Obviously, I get the gluten-free sorts and find that own brand is as good as major brands. Foods to swerve? Anything with lactose or gluten and apples. Those things do not keep a doctor away!
What’s the food you most devastatingly miss?
I miss a simple pie. With pastry. The DS gluten-free pastry contains lard and isn’t suitable for my diet. But I do make a nice vegetable pie with a sweet potato topping. Oh, and cheese sandwiches. Like Nanna used to make. With red Leicester!
What’s a typical weeknight dinner?
Sadly, I miss weeknight dinner due to work. It’s usually some sort of snack when I get home. I think popcorn is actually quite nice. But on Saturdays, I take a gluten-free pasta, broccoli and Lactofree cheese mix to work. I used to put some Quorn in but now I’m reading the packet, I’ll skip the Quorn.
Do you feel your lifestyle has changed?
My lifestyle has changed. I’m learning to cook from raw principal and I find myself asking a lot more questions about food. I don’t eat out as much as I used to due to diet restrictions and the embarrassment of running to the toilets. I know where all the toilets are in my town centre, particularly the ones I don’t have to pay to use (got to avoid the queuing issue!). But there is more change to come! I need to establish a low-impact exercise routine to keep me healthy.
What do your friends and family do to accommodate?
My family has been pretty understanding with the issue. The downstairs toilet is pretty much mine. And mum buys me gluten-free biscuits as treats. You should see what my aunt makes me for Christmas! It’s a gluten and lactose free quiche with tomatoes, cheese, peppers and god knows what in. And she cooks my vegetables separately! I think it’s wonderful.
How would you explain IBS to others?
How would I explain IBS to others? Good question. It’s sometimes like being held hostage by your bowels. ‘Do as I say or you can have a gut-punching sensation!’ But it’s also a great excuse to have a dress-down day. You know, stick on some loose-fit boxers and joggers so I can be comfortable. If I compare myself to my mum, I’m the lucky one. But I still wouldn’t wish the unpredictability and awkwardness on anyone.
Read More in the Living With IBS Series:
Read More About My Struggle with IBS: