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sad tales: women with ibs-c page nineteen

The tale of...Rebecca (August 2009)

I have been affected by irritable bowel syndrome since I was about 12 years old. We thought I was lactose intolerant because anything with dairy gave me diarrhea and I got it quite frequently. After a few years of that I became constipated almost all the time. I could go to the bathroom, but only in small amounts, my stomach always hurt, and I always had gas. If I ate anything my stomach instantly bloated.

I feel like I wake up in the morning with a flat stomach and go to bed at night with a huge belly. I had diarrhea and constipation until I was about 18, which was when I had my first child. Then it just became constipation all the time. I am 22 now and it is still the same. I hate to eat because putting anything in me besides water upsets my stomach and makes it fill with gas. I take laxatives now for some relief because I just can't stand feeling like I have to go to the bathroom all the time and having constant gas pains and cramping.

I have noticed that fried foods bother me more so than anything else, but like I said, if I eat my stomach is a mess. I feel like my digestive system just doesn't function properly at all. Because of the constipation and stomach pain I have had problems with eating also. Sometimes I just cry because I am so sick of living like this, and there seems to be no end to it. I envy those who have normal bowel habits, who don't have to take laxatives every couple of days to go. I would almost rather have diarrhea than the constipation because the pain with my constipation is way worse than it ever was with diarrhea. And because I just want my body to be able to have a bowel movement without needing something to force it to.

Sometimes it gets so bad the pain makes me vomit. If I don't take laxatives to make myself have a bowel movement I will end up in the bathroom for hours one day in pain because my body will finally get rid of it all. But it is so extremely painful, I would rather deal with a little cramping from the laxatives every couple of days. I am so sick of living like this. I gave up on my doctor, who just tells me to eat more fiber. She just doesn't understand. Nothing helps. I've tried different diets, I've tried to figure out triggers. Nothing helps.

E-mail Rebecca: [email protected]

The tale of...Ghadeer (August 2009)

Where do I start my tale? I think I'll begin with describing my medical history (yes, at 23 I have a considerably long history with doctors, clinics, hospitals, specialists and medication). I've always had digestive problems ever since I was 14, but what I was suffering from was chronic pain, and then finally last year the doctors discovered I had gallbladder stones and opted to remove them surgically which I agreed to happily. I thought that would be the end of my problems, and so it was for a whole year. I ate whatever I wanted and was happy, except for certain times when I had diarrhea but I didn't mind so much.

And then about two months ago my car died on me. You'll be wondering how this is relevant, please wait and read. I live away from my family and drive to work every day, and taxis and public transportation are not common where I live (more of that later). And when my car died I had to rely on my friends to come and pick me up, which put me at the mercy of their whims. I am grateful to them, don't get me wrong, but my whole life depended on who would come pick me up or drop me off, which is even worse because some of them like to stay till 7 or 8pm!

My car took forever to get fixed and that caused me to get stressed and angry. I have a horrible temper, but since it was no-one's fault (except my idiotic car) I kept it inside. Until, funnily enough, I got my car back. The next day I suffered from nausea attacks. I went to the ER and was prescribed some medication. Two days after that I got the worst gut-wrenching pain in my lower abdomen which was complemented with a fever. The ER doctor who saw me told me it was an inflammation in the Pouch of Douglas. If you're curious about what that is then please google it and marvel at the doctor's stupidity.

My drugs were changed and replaced with antibiotics and I had to beg the doctor to give me a sick leave sheet for the office (I went into the ER at 1am and left at 5:30am, lucky for me I wasn't dying or I'd already be dead!). The drugs weren't helpful, the pain was too bad to allow me to sleep and a friend took me to a doctor who performed a number of tests on me but couldn't find anything wrong and told me it could be that my colon (I hate this word now) was agitated. He told me to cut back on certain foods (fried and spicy and fatty food mainly) but he was more sympathetic than the ER doctor and gave me three days off.

The next three weeks were hell for me. I would get bloated for no apparent reason, I ate all the healthy food I could think of but that still didn't help. It would get so bad that I would want to pass gas but couldn't even do that and I wouldn't go to the bathroom for five days. The funny thing was when I did my stool was normal! I was perplexed and finally went to a specialist where an argument ensued.

I had read a bit about IBS (a close friend of mine has been suffering for almost a year now, and I wanted to know how I could help), so I knew it was a lifelong condition. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would get the condition too. So when the doctor told me I was suffering from IBS-C I refused to accept the diagnosis. I wanted something curable! You can't say that my whole life will have to be controlled by my intestines, and expect me to sit down and nod my head wisely.

Here comes the part about where I live: I'm an Arab, a Jordanian precisely, and I live in Dubai. IBS I think is quite common here but no-one likes to talk about it. And the way doctors treat it here is abominable. My doctor told me that my temper was the cause of my IBS, all that anger and stress had to go somewhere she said, and this is the result. Do you know how it feels to be told that your IBS was caused by you? That you have done this to yourself? It was a terrible couple of days after that, I just wanted to stay home and do nothing, but even that was not easy.

My family was not sympathetic, my grandmother made fun of me, saying that she'd never heard of constipation causing a person to visit a doctor and that I just wanted attention. And my parents were always mad at me for refusing to eat certain foods (such as bananas and fried food for example), and kept telling me to try and eat and forget that I was sick. Right, I'm supposed to ignore the fact that I only go to the bathroom once or twice a week, and look like I'm six months pregnant, and my IBS will just fly out the window!

What also added to my misery was that I'd been going to the gym regularly after my gallbladder was removed, and that I had finally almost gotten the flat stomach with a four-pack that I always wanted. Now it just takes the wrong kind of food or a stressful situation and the gym goes out the window in three seconds.

I am now in Japan on vacation. The first two weeks were fantastic! I had somewhat regular bowel movements, can't say they were normal but nothing to complain about (damn I miss those days when I didn't have to think about how long I hadn't gone to the bathroom, or how much gas there is in my bowels!). I ate everything, fried food, coffee, cakes and sweets. I thought that maybe my doctor was wrong, maybe I didn't have IBS!

And today, just so my bowels can tell me not to forget about them, I got a lovely case of bloating and gas. I had to sit for one hour in the bus trying not to pass the noxious gas that I know would kill half the passengers and cause the other half to faint. And when I reached my hotel room, all I could do was wallow in my misery and google IBS again...Thank God I found this site, I know I'm not alone.

But still...I wonder, why did this have to happen? What on earth did we do to deserve this? And why don't people try and understand that I'm not playing around, I don't want attention, I'm even fine living all on my own without any human contact for the next year if that meant my IBS would disappear! I'm just hoping my remaining week here passes in peace, I don't want a perfect bowel, just one that can handle the rest of the vacation, and the 19-hour flight back to Dubai. Wish me luck!

E-mail Ghadeer: [email protected]

The tale of...Sabrina (August 2009)

On April 16 2009 I made an executive decision to start playing tennis again. Everything was smooth sailing until I felt a sharp pain on the lower right side of my abdomen. I thought it was my ovary since I had surgery in July of 2008 to have a huge dermoid cyst removed.

I panicked after my game of tennis. I thought that I may have ruptured my ovary. I immediately left a message for my surgeon explaining the horrible pain. My surgeon scheduled a sonogram for me the following week. Needless to say, on Monday, April 17 I felt horrible. On April 18 I was immobilized by the pain. I thought I was going to die. The pain was nothing like when I had ovarian surgery, so I went to the emergency room that night and was diagnosed with multiple fibroids. I was released with 800 mg of ibuprofen.

I felt bloated, irritated, and lethargic. I had a follow-up appointment with my gynecologist and she explained that my fibroids were too small to cause the amount of pain that I was experiencing. I explained my symptoms like the pressure in my lower abdomen and not being able to sit for a long period of time, frequently having to urinate, but having trouble removing the urine, a weird fluttering feeling moving through that area, nausea, and heartburn at times. My gynecologist thought it was a urinary tract infection and gave me medication that caused a world of problems.

I waited five days to see if the medication would work. The medication did not work of course. I had a horrible reaction to the meds and had to miss three days of work. I was miserable and worried about my problems...and to top it all off, I had a case of the sniffles with a whole lot of sneezing. It was one of the worst colds that I had for the season.

I was under an extreme amount of stress at home and work. I was using up my accrued sick/annual leave time from work. While I was at home suffering I did a ton of research. I thought I had an obstructed bowel and began to take suppositories, but they did not work. I went back to the doctors again, but my physician was busy working rounds at the hospital and as usual I had to see the nurse practitioner. She told me that it could very well be an obstructed bowel and scheduled a catscan for the following week. I never made it to the catscan because I went back to the emergency room.

While at the ER I was given morphine for my sharp spasms and a pill for the nausea. I was given a catscan, internal vaginal check, and a belly x-ray. I spent a total of 7.5 hours for them to tell me that I was constipated. The nurse gave me magnesium citrate and told me I should/would move with-in 45 minutes. Well...I didn't! I was still constipated!

I took off that following day to take a series of laxatives. They did not work. I went to the store to buy some more magnesium citrate. I did move my bowels that weekend, but I still felt horrible after I ate and drank. I would also still have issues of not being able to move without that horrible tasting laxative.

I went back to the doctors for a follow-up and I was told that I may have IBS. I didn't get a diagnosis because I saw a nurse practitioner again. She advised me to buy some Miralax and take a capful daily. Miralax is $12 a small bottle. I questioned the nurse and asked if I should get a referral to see my gastrointestinal specialist. She advised that it would not be necessary because the specialist would perform a colonoscopy and they too would come up with the same conclusion.

So it's now week four and I have IBS. I am struggling and trying to figure out my food triggers. All I can say is that I am truly going through a lot of pain. I am literally finding out on a daily basis what causes my bloating and pains. I am still taking magnesium citrate because I am not going to spend $10 to $20 on Miralax. I am going to schedule an appointment with my specialist for a prescription for Glycolax. I am wondering why the doctors that I saw never thought IBS was the issue. I guess I will never know.

E-mail Sabrina: [email protected]

The tale of...Alexis (15 September 2009)

I've had IBS for five years. When I started with the diarrhea I thought I had food poisoning. I even called the restaurant I'd had lunch at the day before to complain about their 'under-cooked chicken'. After two weeks I realized there was something...just not right.

I was on a pattern of constipation for four or five days, and then random, 'all hell is breaking loose' diarrhea. I would get little to no warning before I had to go. The cramp pain was so bad that I began to get panic attacks while I was sitting on the toilet. All I could do was sit and go, then curl in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. Repeat. I would push and strain even after I knew there was nothing left inside me. Not that I wanted to, but I had to. The day after an episode I would have tremendous gas pain up under my ribs.

After several months I developed this feeling that I had to be completely naked when I had an attack. Jewelry, glasses, everything had to come off. Sometimes this happened at work! It was very time-consuming and embarrassing, because when I had to go, I had to go. And I moaned because of the pain, which was also mortifying in a public restroom.

After two years I decided to go to the doctor. He diagnosed me with IBS with constipation and gave me Bentyl. Ah, sweet Bentyl! It was a true lifesaver. The doctor explained that my constipation was holding all the new poo behind it. He said that after the pressure gets too much it blows open and that's where the diarrhea comes from.

After another year my IBS swung to the other extreme, and it's been there ever since - constipation. I only go every five to 10 days, and it isn't much. I have tried most everything I can think of, even Amitiza, a prescription from my doc. I've tried enemas, teas and herbal remedies. I've tried bulk, fiber, fiber capsules, fiber chewables, fiber drinks, fiber, fiber fiber! Right now I have three different bottles of colon cleanser on my desk at work and not one of them works for me. Water - I drink two bottles every day at work, and all evening long. I drink coffee and tea. I pee like a fiend but have a bloated, uncomfortable feeling all the time.

When I do go it is so condensed and hard (fiber, anyone?) and literally feels like I'm giving birth through my rectum. I tear and bleed but thankfully, I am able to remain fully dressed, don't have panic attacks and don't need to lay on the floor. No gas pain afterwards, either. I will say that honestly, it isn't any better for me to be constipated or loose.

The only time I really feel good is when I take a laxative, which I only do if I haven't gone for that magical number of 10 days. I figure after 10 days it's time to shake things up down there. I had to laugh when I read the product info in the Amitiza package, 'Most people have a bowel movement within 24 hours'. Yeah, right!

E-mail Alexis: [email protected]

The tale of...Michelle (5 November 2009)

I was diagnosed with IBS about six years ago and I also have suffered with reflux/hiatal hernia for 13 years, so I am suffering with constipation, bloating and cramps a lot. I have never been advised to try gluten-free food, but after reading the comments here about people trying and having success with gluten-free diets I am keen to try it.

Due to my reflux I don't eat a lot of meat, I like chicken and mince but that's all I can eat and digest without issues. Due to the cramping of my esophagus I often find food gets stuck halfway down my gullet and I experience a choking sensation so having salad, meat or vegetables without having a drink while I eat is a no-no for me.

Also eating these foods alone doesn't work so I tend to have either mashed potato or fries or gravy with them, something mushy to help the food go down, but from reading the posts it looks as if I should be avoiding potatoes, rice and gravy. I would appreciate some advice on which foods are best to avoid altogether and which foods in the gluten-free range taste good.

E-mail Michelle: [email protected]

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