I have decided to write this piece as a way of increasing awareness of irritable bowel syndrome as I just don’t think it is taken seriously enough. I have clients often telling me how their GP said ‘oh it is probably just IBS’ or how their friends do not take their symptoms seriously. This condition is very overwhelming for the sufferer and the symptoms affect their everyday life.
IBS is a very common and often life-long, digestive health condition for which there is no cure. Whilst the individual’s general health is not at risk, symptoms include stomach pain, diarrhoea, constipation and bloating. This can affect everyday life and in some cases lead to depression or social anxiety.
The exact causes of this condition are unknown but we do that people with the condition tend to have a more sensitive gut and it is more common in those aged between 20 and 30. Whilst psychological factors also play a part (e.g. stress and anxiety).
I have clients who spend their lunch break running home from work to use the toilet, have been sacked from work because they were rarely able to go in due to diarrhoea, have no social life as they are fatigued with bloating all the time or have developed other nutritional deficiencies from trying to avoid potential trigger foods.
And, when we mention the symptoms – I don’t mean the odd bit of diarrhoea, I mean sometimes not making the toilet/ ending up in hospital with stomach cramps/ not being able to eat as they haven’t been to the toilet in a week/ constantly taking laxatives to even go to the loo at all/ or never being able to go somewhere without knowing where the nearest toilet is.
Yes, diet can help manage the symptoms, but it is not the cause or the cure. I have clients who have horrendous symptoms but have no issues whilst on holiday due to lack of stress. What are they supposed to do? Just not go to work? With specialist dietitian help pin-point diet triggers which helps alleviate the symptoms and offers some control to the individual, but this in itself can be difficult to manage – imagine having to avoid onion, garlic and lactose – restrictive in itself. Especially when you then have to convince everyone that you do actually need to follow this diet and no you aren’t just following a fad!
So – sorry for this rant. But please can we now start to realise that IBS IS a real thing! The symptoms are awful and it is quite an emotionally draining condition to deal with. So be supportive, don’t ask the person too much information (they will tell you if they want to) and do not be judgemental.
If you would like non-judgemental support with helping to manage your IBS please contact me.
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