Me and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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I’ve not really blogged about anything too personal on here before, but I think this is a topic worth talking about. A little warning, the word bowel is used a lot and a lot of talk about a medical condition I have.

Hi, my name is Jack Lusted, and I have Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What is IBS?

Well luckily the NHS have a very good definition on their website:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.

The symptoms vary between individuals and affect some people more severely than others. They tend to come and go in periods lasting a few days to a few months at a time, often during times of stress or after eating certain foods.

This is also followed by what I think is a wonderfully British sentence:

You may find that some of symptoms improve after having a poo.

Hehe!

I was diagnosed with IBS back in 2012. I’d been having problems for a while with pain in my gut/stomach and, well, my bowel movements were pretty damn running. Think shitting out a bowl of cheerios with the milk. You can thank me for that mental image later.

Result was taking quite a few days off work sick to the point where I went to my GP about it. They thought it was likely to be IBS and a series of blood and stool tests ruled out the other candidates. It was really nice to have a diagnosis for what I was suffering from, and it helped me take steps to improve my quality of life.

I don’t have the worst IBS in the world, there are others out there who have to deal with the pain on a daily basis and use pills to combat it. I have luckily been able to minimise it’s impact on me via changes to my diet and reducing the amount of stress in my life. Stress has been far the biggest trigger for my worst IBS episodes.

YO deal with IBS certain foods have been cut out of my diet or reduced a lot. For some people eating more wholegrain helps them but for me its the opposite, and some fruits such as apricots go right through me. I now eat a couple of cereal bars with oats in every day as that kind of fibre helps give me more solid bowel movements. The diet stuff has helped reduce its day to day aspect, though it still has an impact.

A good example of this was on holiday recently. Me and Clare went to Tenerife for a week, spending a lovely week at an all-inclusive hotel. It was lovely, the room we stayed it was bigger than some flats I’ve lived in! But I did have low level gut pain for most of the week. That was caused quite simply by the change in diet. It was a buffet meal service with a wide range of food available, but different enough from what I regularly have to cause me problems. Not ideal by any means but it is something I’ve simply had to learn to live with. My IBS is something I’m probably going to have for the rest of my life.

But what’s really driven me to talk about my IBS is a recent painful bout of it that’s been the worst for years, and which was triggered by high levels of stress. Part of the stress was from work, some from other personal life stuff, and a big part from one of our cats, Flynn, sadly being diagnosed with terminal cancer. We sadly had to put him to sleep last week. He was an amazing cat, and we were very lucky to have him as part of our lives.

The net result of all the stress was missing almost a complete week off work. I do have to say that my work have been incredibly supportive and understanding of my IBS. If i’m having an off day I can work from home so not got the stress of going to the office and they’ve offered a lot of other support as well. Generally I can reduce the stress I’m under as I lead my own team so schedule my own workload which also helps. With that bad week they understood I needed to take it off ill and kept in regular communication with me before and after to see if I could use any extra support. My stress levels have reduced again now and i’m back to normal, or as normal as I ever am with IBS.

It’s never fun to spend a whole week in pain, especially when I know I do so much to manage my diet and my stress to keep my IBS under control and sometimes you just can’t control the stress and it has a big impact.

Apparently around 10-15% of people suffer from IBS, but there are only one or two people I know in real life who’ve talked to me about it. It’s a condition you have to live with and deal with as you can, whether that’s via diet, reducing stress, or medication. What works for each person will be different as each person will have different triggers and severity of IBS.

My recent holiday and stressful painful week of IBS have reminded about how little I’ve seen people talk about it, but I think it is important to bring this up. Too many people suffer from IBS for it not to be a condition we feel comfortable talking about, and I hope someone who reads this takes comfort in me describing my person experience with the condition.

My name is Jack Lusted and I have IBS, and that’s something I have to live with. I hope this has been informative, and maybe if you’re reading this you’ve learnt something new. Not all medical conditions are big and showy, many people you know will have conditions they have to deal with every day that you might not know about. This is mine, and it has a constant impact on my life. But I have to live with it. I don’t have any other choice. So, I deal with it as best I can.

Thank you for reading.