IBS

This isn’t my usual literary subject – there’s no poetry in what follows.

Friends may have have noticed (but been too polite to mention it) that I sometimes have to leave events and meetings early, saying that I feel unwell.

I’ve never written about this before, but that fact is that I suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome – have done all my life. Back in 1968 I was so badly affected over a long period that I had hospital investigations, by sigmoidoscope and barium enema – both uncomfortable procedures. They confirmed that a section of my colon was subject to constriction. From time to time the muscles around this part of the intestine contract and lock in a spasm. The effect is to try to force the contents of the colon – at that point mostly liquid – out by the usual route. It’s painful, and painfully embarrassing. When it hits me I just have to find a toilet. I can’t predict when these attacks will come on, and I usually don’t get much warning. The frequency of attacks varies, mostly these days it’s around twice a month, but in the past it has sometimes been more frequent, sometimes less. Where it hits me is another variable, and getting an IBS spasm while driving is probably the worst time – excruciating and desperate.

What causes it? Well, some of my family suffer too, so there’s clearly a genetic factor involved. There may also be a psychological component, although it seems to me that I have as many attacks when I’m unstressed as when I’m stressed. There’s definitely a dietary factor, and some current research suggests that a faulty digestive enzyme might be involved. It’s certainly true that some foods will exacerbate the condition. I love bread, preferably freshly baked crusty stuff, but I’ve come to realise relatively recently that if I have more than one slice in a day I’ll have an IBS attack within 24 to 48 hours. The more ‘risen’ the bread, the stronger the effect, so a gluten intolerance may be a factor in my case. Spelt bread’s better (and I love the taste), but even here I can’t overindulge, and besides it’s hard to get hold of in this area. I’ve noticed when I’ve been in the East that I had no attacks, so maybe I should stick to rice.

Another trigger is, sadly, red wine, which I also love. One glass diluted with water is OK. Anything more and I’m off to the nearest loo.

The usual over the counter anti-spasmodic is loperamide, but over-use renders it ineffective. There are other treatments, but in the long term a change of diet may well be better for me. It’s something I’ve learned to live with, so maybe I can learn to live without bread, and wine.

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About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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9 Responses to IBS

  1. Rachel Fox says:

    Sorry to hear about this condition. Hope you do find a way to get it under control.
    x

  2. Jim Murdoch says:

    Everyone has something. That’s just your something. At least with your something you get to the events. It could be worse. There’s always somebody worse off. Not that I’m saying I am but I do have my own list of physical inconveniences that I’d gladly part with; I too have to watch my diet and I pay when I don’t. I’m paying just now actually but that was such a damn good burger last night it was almost worth it.

  3. me too. doing stomach crunches helps a bit, as the improved muscle tone eases things. Also less stress and coffee. Someone recommended aloe vera, mixed results – I prefer ginger, mint or fennel. Hope things improve a bit.

  4. sorlil says:

    Oh, that’s rotten. I used to have a friend who suffered from IBS. Glad you’re not letting it slow you down, well it doesn’t look like you are anyhow.

  5. Barbara S says:

    Ooh, something we have in common… dairy is my trigger, and wine, and bread – why is it always the nice stuff? You have my earnest sympathy.

    There’s an irony in wine and bread, the ‘communion’ thing

  6. Bee says:

    I also suffer from IBS. I’ve been dealing for the last 8 years with this problem and now that I’m about to graduate college it has never been worse. It is truly affecting my life in a negative way. The pain has been causing me to miss classes (I never skip class), not be able to work out (I’ve gained almost 15 pounds in the last 6 months..unusual for me), and my social life is often put on hold because “I have a bad stomach ache…sorry guys.” It’s so frustrating, and I’ve had the hospital visits as well. I stumbled upon your blog and while I feel for you and hope you can battle it, I find comfort in someone else who deals with this pain. Of course there are worse things out there as others have already said, but when it starts to affect your normal day-to-day rhythms in a negative light…you’ve got to do something about it. I have an appointment pending with a Dr. of Naturopathic medicine. I’m praying this is the answer to my problem! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Sometimes I think this HAS to be a condition that’s increasing, like diabetes. Mercifully I’m not afflicted but two good friends are. As a college teacher, I quite often have young female students who have horrendous problems of this nature (which of course they rarely speak openly about).

    One young lady I knew well suffered for years and years with what was diagnosed as IBS. Her life was frequently a misery. She lived on soya preparations for various kinds and yoghourt. In the end, after about her fourth different type of consultant, she was diagnosed with a gluten allergy – not just intolerance. So she’s okay now.

    There’s yeast in red wine, isn’t there, or yeast remnants? And bread . . .

    I’m always suspicious about associating these things with stress. But they are certainly stressful. And I’m pretty sure being stressed about it makes it worse.

    It was good to blog about it. People don’t speak openly usually about this one. Anything associated with toilets and the unspellable still goes under a sort of taboo silence.

  8. sunnydunny says:

    I’ve been thinking about blogging about it for a while, and I’m glad I did. Thanks to those who commented.
    Rachel: I’m always optimistic.
    Jim: You’re right, it doesn’t stop me doing things and going places.
    sorlil: I seem to be speeding up!
    Elizabeth: I’ll try crunches when I’m in the gym tomorrow. I’m definitely cutting back on coffee, and may try herbal teas – don’t suppose Earl Grey counts?.
    Barbara: Yes, the irony of the communion struck me too.
    Bee: You have my sympathy. I wish you well with naturopathy, and I hope it works for you.
    Helena: I think it is increasing, and I love your mention of the unspellable!

  9. swiss says:

    i’ve got a tale to tell you next time i see you. which when you hear it, you’ll understand why it’s not on any blog! gluten, it’s the spawn of the devil. spelt tho, now there’s a grain i’ve fallen for!

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