Ever since I can remember I’ve been having stomach cramps on and off and feeling nauseous. Not too long ago I had a flashback to when I was younger. I saw myself, in the middle of the night in the hallway, curled up on my knees, trying to make the pain go away. This position was the only one that helped, together with cool air. I felt nauseous, had these horrible pains in my stomach and couldn’t sleep because of it. I felt horrible!
For a few months I tried to hide it, because I didn’t like going to a doctor (I still don’t), but eventually, my mum took me to see a doctor and he diagnosed me with IBS at the age of 8. Back then I didn’t really understand what IBS was. I remember my mum made me eat grated carrot and lots of fibers, but that was about it.
Having IBS is not the same for everyone. The symptoms can vary a lot. Some people have a lot of pain or discomfort, others hardly, which also means there is not a simple solution for it. My main symptoms are: bloating, constipation, extreme stomach cramps (up to the point where I even think I have to go to a hospital) and feeling nauseous.
My life with IBS
During my teenage years up until my late twenties, I really struggled with these symptoms. It didn’t help that some people also asked me if I was pregnant. This was embarrassing! When I was a hairdresser, a customer asked me when I was due. When I asked her what she meant, she said: ‘you’re pregnant right?’. When I told her I wasn’t pregnant, she immediately tried to change the subject.
Another time, a woman that I barely knew touched my stomach in a clothing store and looked at me with a big smile and asked: ‘And? How far along are you?’.I wanted to just be invisible and disappear!
Somehow in my early thirties I didn’t experience a lot of symptoms anymore, which was really nice. But that unfortunately changed around my mid thirties. Since then they have become (a lot) worse. Of course you can do things to calm down the symptoms, but what works for another, doesn’t necessarily work for you, because there are so many different varieties of IBS.
The things I tried were the FODMAP diet (even went to a dietician), eating lots of fibers, drinking 2 liters of water every day, peppermint oil, probiotic tablets, medication from the doctor, metamucil, and a few other things. Nothing really worked to get rid of the symptoms.
People don’t always understand
Unfortunately a lot of people do not understand how IBS can affect your daily life. Because it is not a dangerous or a well known condition, people think you’re exaggerating your discomfort or just want attention. So I learned to suck it up, never mention to people that I had it, and keep going. That changed when a couple of years ago, I was working and was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t stand up straight anymore, and had to loosen my pants to still fit them. I had a 2-hour meeting that I wanted to finish, but my boss sent me home. He didn’t understand that I wanted to stay at work while being in that much pain.
This was so different from my previous job, where my boss didn’t believe me and threatened to fire me if I called in sick. So for a boss to take me seriously, that was a big deal. And it made me realize that I wasn’t overreacting.
Things that worked for me to reduce discomfort:
- Eating at regular times. If I do not eat at certain times, I will be punished with severe stomach pains.
- Drinking enough water. I try and drink at least 2 liters of water every day
- Avoid processed food. Of course you can’t avoid it completely, but I try to cook with fresh ingredients.
- Not eating certain foods. I try not to eat/drink too much bread, pasta, spices, cabbage, alcohol, spicy food, sugary drinks/food.
- Go to the bathroom when you have to. Nothing is worse for my form of IBS than not going when you have to.
Do you have IBS or know someone with IBS? What are your experiences? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.