Sunday, May 12, 2013

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

I have IBS. This is what I keep being told, and I hate that diagnosis because it feels like an umbrella or catch-all. I feel like, because the doctors cannot figure out what it is that is wrong with me, they call it IBS. It is often hard to know when I'll get sick, and more often than not it just sneaks up on me. My body has been very good lately, up to that sudden bout of gas a few days ago (IBS at Wikipedia)

Infographic used with permission from Wilma Kirsten

About 12 years ago is my first major IBS event. I was about to go into my last year of university for my biology degree. I had my thesis and research paper to take care of. Then I would have to apply for jobs in the real world. I was stressed about all that, and I never voiced it, but it was there deep inside me.

I started to get diarrhea shortly after finishing a meal. I was usually fine after breakfast, but lunch and dinner were the major concern. I worked out in farm fields as a research assistant that summer, so toilets were often not very close... that made things more stressful.

I called the doctor to make an appointment. I had been having diarrhea for a week. I don't remember what we went through in his office, but he sent me on to have an ultrasound and then see an internalist.

The ultrasound was an interesting experience, and I believe it didn't show anything of concern. When I saw the internist, he suggested that we do a biopsy. So I came back the next week, they gave me general anesthesia (knocked me out with gas) and they sent a tube and camera down my throat and cut a piece of tissue where it joins the stomach. He was looking to see if I had Crohn's disease (Crohn's at Wikipedia). The biopsy came back inconclusive as well, so he told me that I probably have IBS.

I continued to have diarrhea after many, but not all meals, particularly after eating out. I always carried a bottle of Pepto Bismol tablets with me (anti-diarrhea and other symptoms pill), and always knew where the nearest washrooms were. Now that I'm thinking back about it, I also knew all the stops I could make on my 45 minute drive into school in case I needed to use the rest room. This continued for the better part of a year. It was quite stressful, but luckily my family and boyfriend were very understanding and sympathetic for me.

One trigger food I discovered during this time is eggs. I am not allergic to them, but I have a food intolerance towards them. If I eat an egg on its own, I get diarrhea that day. My parents have a hobby chicken farm, so they changed the feed to a higher quality and that helped. I am currently able to eat one egg every few days. Not the store brand, but the omega-3 eggs or other designer (more expensive) eggs. I haven't had a problem with eggs in baked goods, etc, only on their own.

Prior to that I had to give up coffee for a few years because that was another trigger. I would enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, and then have to rush to the washroom during my first class. It made me sad to give it up, but luckily several years later I have discovered I am now ok drinking black coffee, and have been doing so for the past year or two now.

I know now that stress is a big factor when it comes to flare-ups of IBS for me, but sometimes it can be random. Something that I ate the day before may hit me in the morning and I have to rush off to the bathroom. For years now, I have always carried some pills in my purse for when it hits. I have also used digestive enzymes periodically, especially when eating out or away from home. I don't know if this helps, but it my also have a psychological benefit.

This is getting long, so stay tuned for part two of my life with IBS.