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IBS: The Facts

Did you know that 1 out of 5 Australians suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

No? IBS is the most common chronic medical condition out there, but that doesn’t mean that it gets all the research and acknowledgement as it deserves.

This is because IBS is not fatal so it is difficult to fund research and most people are embarrassed about it they don’t speak up to a health professional so they continue to suffer in silence.

This is why we need to talk about it and get it off our chest and be heard.

My (shortened) Story

For those of you who don’t know, I have struggled with digestive issues for over 4 years. It all started seemingly out of the blue when I was working a stressful full-time job, experiencing intermittent abdominal pain. At first, I thought it was just something I ate or maybe I was a bit stressed, but within a matter of months, these intermittent abdominal pains progressed into near-daily occurrences. Often, the pain was so debilitating that I wound up curled up in bed in a ball-like position for hours at a time with a heating pad on my stomach, just waiting for it to pass. I spent hours on the toilet was painful constipation.

As the frequency and severity of the pain increased, so did the scope of my symptoms. Before long, the abdominal pain had become accompanied by bloating, distention, constipation, chronic fatigue and weight loss. Over the next six months, I lost so much weight.

Test after test (colonoscopies, endoscopies, upper GI studies, breath tests, the list goes on…) to rule out several different diseases and disorders. Since a vast majority of conditions share similar symptoms (all of which I was experiencing), getting to the root of the problem did not prove to be as easy of a task as I had hoped. But I was determined to get to the bottom of things, so I willingly obliged to all of the doctor’s orders and recommendations. All I wanted was a conclusive diagnosis… something that I could grab onto – and hopefully treat. But time after time, I was left with yet another giant question mark on a growing stack of medical records.

And with each test that came back inconclusive, I felt more and more alone. I could feel my doctors losing interest, as each appointment got progressively shorter and increasingly one-sided. I often felt like I was talking to a wall, rather than a medical professional. I knew that there was something physiologically wrong with my body, but I did not have the test results to prove it. And without cold, hard evidence, it’s hard to get anyone to take you seriously.

The following year was very difficult for me. The severity of my symptoms eventually caused me to take a leave my fulltime job and focus on my health My symptoms increasingly began to interfere with my social life and I found myself distancing myself from others. Several friends were lost in the process, leaving me feeling even more isolated and alone. In a matter of months, my world had been turned upside down and I still had no real answers as to why.

The somewhat diagnosis

After months of suffering and rounds of inconclusive tests, a gut specialist and then a pain specialist broke the news:

“ you have signs of IBS – you’re just going to have to learn to live with the pain.”

I just wanted to scream at them and tell them, you try and learn to live with this!

It didn’t take me long to realise that, for many in the medical field, lack of pathology = lack of illness. I started to get the feeling that my doctors saw me as a “nuisance”, rather than a true patient. I began receiving more and more and more recommendations for psychologically-based treatments, as opposed to physiological ones. I was pressured to be placed on several medications (including anti-depressants to “help with the abdominal pain”) in which I refused and was shuffled out the door,

Finding Answers by expanding knowledge and resources

Fast-forward 7 years later and a whole lot has changed. I am no longer living with IBS! I am fit happy and healthy. Sounds too good to be true right but it is 100% the truth! I AM IBS FREE!

So how did I do it?

I remember laying in bed one day with tears running down my face. One of those mornings where I woke up so unwell I was in so much pain I spent most of my time between the toilet and rolled up into a ball. I spoke to my husband and my boss at my work whom both were upset that I couldn’t make my shift to work. I remember crying thinking, What can I do to turn this all around! How can I take my life back and be in control!

So I googled life coaching! I knew If I could get through this hard ass journey I can help others along too. A world where we don’t feel heard I wanted to be that person for someone to say I GET IT! You are not crazy! I studied full time learning the ins and outs of goals and self-development. I surrounded myself into books about reclaiming life, learnt the ins and outs of anxiety and how to calm my thoughts and think more positively.

I researched IBS and more Importantly started listening to my body. It craved fresh food, nutrition and nothing processed or manufactured. I always knew if I was sick to go to a doctor that was how I was raised. But feeling like I was a waste of space when I was feeling unwell made me challenge this belief. I dipped my feet into the world of natural medicine and practises. It was there I found a local naturopath/nutritionist who taught me, relationships between IBS, the gut microbiome, and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. By taking daily supplements, drinking more water, giving my body the right foods to restore and thrive and regular appointments my body started to thrive.

This beautiful lady was my angel, to support what I had believed all along to be true – IBS is a REAL condition, and she knew exactly how to treat it. For once-through this whole journey, I felt believed and listened to

After years of being ignored and dismissed, I started to reclaim my life back.

The Future of IBS

Lack of pathology is one of the driving reasons behind the IBS stigma – and one of the primary barriers.

Bottom line: IBS something that you learn to live with. Expand your Knowledge yourself, try all resources, if traditional medicine is not helping try other avenues, find a professional support team to help you manage and overcome IBS. And lastly, Believe in your story.

If you are one of the millions of people suffering from IBS, then I encourage you to let your voice be heard. Instead of hiding behind your symptoms, share your story with others and help to bring awareness to this condition. IBS is not something that anyone should have to “learn to live with” Advocate for your own body and your health. Do your research talk to others, and let yourself be heard. Because like many of us I can say I BELIEVE YOU!

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