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The tale of...Christine (February 2004)

My IBS began in my early teens. I was prone to getting throat infections and every time my doctor would prescribe antibiotics (this may just be a coincidence but it's the only thing I can attribute to the onset of my symptoms other than puberty). After taking the courses of antibiotics I began to urgently need the toilet on a regular basis (oddly this usually occurred mostly on Monday mornings - maybe worsened by the stress of going to school?).

This progressed and after a while the school complained that I was missing too much time. I was sent to a specialist who prodded and poked my stomach, asked me questions then declared I had IBS and told me to up my fiber intake.

I've now had irritable bowel syndrome (if that's what it really is) for 20 years. I've tried just about everything I can think of and nothing really seems to help. For years I lived on kaolin and morphine (which I'd take as soon as my stomach gave its first warning symptom) but I've gradually reduced this and now take it rarely.

Over the years my symptoms have changed slightly in format/intensity, but I think this is because I know what to expect and try not to get so stressed when it happens now. I seem to get most (but not all) attacks in the morning. I can get up feeling fine and usually have up to about an hour when I'm OK.

Then, quite often just as I'm about to go out the door to work, I'll need the toilet. So I go, and it's OK, not much pain just urgency but I know it will get worse. I continue to try and get to work but within five minutes I need to go again! This time I get the lower back and front ache, aching upper arms, and progressively looser bowel movements, often with a lot of wind and later on mucus.

I also get what I feel is like an adrenaline rush through my body (which in the past has caused me to get worried so much so that I tremble/shake - I just let things happen now and this has helped lessen it). At this point I know there's no point trying to do anything until it clears up (this normally takes a couple of hours). If I get off the toilet during this time I know that within 10 to 15 minutes I'll be back.

Moving around definitely brings the symptoms on faster than sitting/lying down. This can be useful if you can put up with it, as it enables me to get through an IBS episode quicker and get on with my work and social commitments. Eventually my bowel movements lessen in quantity and the main symptoms subside, but I'm always left feeling washed out and if I can I often sleep for an hour or so.

I know when an attack is coming to the end because my stomach starts to grumble hungrily. I usually stick to sips of water during and just after an attack which seems to help the queasiness a little.

Interestingly, I often get attacks when I'm supermarket shopping (some supermarkets cause it more than others). The only thing I can relate it to is the smell of some of the products (which becomes more intense/annoying just before an attack). I do get migraines as well and a heightened sense of smell is often an indicator that I'm about to get an attack, so this could well be linked.

As for dealing with the pain/aches, I find the best thing is distraction. I use a combination of breathing exercises, rub my outer thighs with my hands and recite (in my head) the lyrics from a song (some work better than others!) This may seem ridiculous but it does seem to work.

The worst thing about IBS for me (apart from the symptoms) is the inconvenience and thought of letting people down. It's very difficult to explain to people at a meeting (work or otherwise) that the reason you're late is because you've been stuck on the toilet for several hours!

I can't say I've come to terms with my IBS even after 20 years, but I'm slowly learning to live with it and live in the constant hope that I will find a cure eventually! Good luck to you all, no matter how bad it gets try not to let it get you down (or it wins).

PS: I've tried fiber, Colpermin and other antispasmodics, antidepressants, sugar-free and fat-free diets etc....none seem to work. I'm convinced that something changed the way my gut reacts to food and until that is reversed or I can retrain my gut I will still get IBS.

I'm currently three weeks into a no added sugar or sweeteners, low fat, no processed food eating regime. I feel healthier but still get regular IBS (it's quite bad at the moment but I'm sticking with the altered diet to see if it gets better over time - after 25 years of sweetened, fatty, chemical-laden processed foods I reckon it will take a while for my gut to realize I've stopped trying to poison it!).

PPS: If you haven't given up sugar yet then do. It provides no nutritional benefit to the body as it so pure and actually robs the body of vitamins and minerals so that it can be processed to be stored as fat. Next time you go to the supermarket look at all the food labels. Manufacturers put sugar in everything! You body doesn't need or want it. There is enough naturally occurring sugar in natural foods.

If you don't believe me check out the internet for the true story about sugar! (Warning - coming off sugar is not easy but well worth it, your body and your dentist will thank you!). It's your choice!


The tale of...Jennifer (February 2004)

I'm a 27 year-old who has been suffering with IBS for about four years now. The last year has been the worst. This is hell! I don't know how I'm going to live with this. My doctor told me I had fibromyalgia, one of the symptoms is IBS. So I guess that is how I got it. I never know what to expect each day. I only know a little about it, and am trying to learn more. I feel for everyone who has this.

I'm trying to exercise, drink lots of water, and the doctor said Metamucil would help. So far it hasn't. If anyone has any tips, please send me an e-mail, I'm always looking for ideas. My life is on hold right now because of this. I need to get my life back. Thanks for listening.

E-mail Jennifer: [email protected]


The tale of...Rebecca (March 2004)

I am a 22-year-old female and I have suffered from constant right-sided bowel pain for about four years. It became more severe about a year and a half ago. I went to a gyno thinking that it was ovary related. I had a laparoscopy which uncovered minimal endometriosis. I thought I was cured. No such luck, the pain continued. I do occasionally suffer from constipation and diarrhea but this I can live with. I do get very bloated, particularly at night. Sometimes I look about four months pregnant!

My doctor recommended taking a fiber supplement. The first day I took the full dose I woke up in the middle of the night in intense pain. I was screaming. My mum took me to the after hours center where the doctor gave me Buscopan, no result, and Pethidine, and still nothing. I have never experienced pain like that ever! It was so intense.

So the doctor called an ambulance which took me to the hospital, where I was dosed on more Pethidine. Eventually they put in a rectal tube and blew my intestines full of air which relieved the pain.

I saw a specialist. Thought I might have Carcinoid Syndrome, a sort of tumour. I was terrified, thinking I was going to die. But tests and a colonoscopy revealed nothing. IBS was what the doctor thought. So I am now on amitriptyline and have been for a year. It does help the daily pain. But I still get pain around my periods and other times for no particular reason. If I forget to take it I am in pain again the next day.

Don't get me wrong, it's great to have something to relieve the pain. With that constant crampy pain all day I couldn't even work. But I do not want to take an antidepressant for the rest of my life! I feel like the doctors don't have many answers.

E-mail Rebecca: [email protected]


The tale of...Jamie (March 2004)

I am 22 and work for a major airline (not a flight attendant). I was recently diagnosed with IBS and an ulcer... along with a few other things (I am falling apart at a young age, I guess). I was at work and started getting the tell-tale cramping and my stomach started to gurgle. Of course on my way to the bathroom I didn't make it.

So here I am on an airplane in the hangar, totally a mess! I cleaned up as best as I could and had to tie a coat around my waist and walk past all the mechanics and everyone on my team and drive to the break room. To make matters worse, our company parking lot is a ten-minute bus ride away from the airport. That has to be the worst.

I am too ashamed to tell anyone what has been happening to me. I have taken almost two weeks off from work (here and there) in the last month to try and cope with this. All night I wonder if it is going to happen again. Every little noise my stomach makes or every little cramp I get I wonder if this is 'IT' again. My parents and my boyfriend think that this is all due to my other medical problems and I don't have the courage to tell them.

At work we all joke about what would happen if... and I take offense to it, even though they don't know that I have been in that situation many times. I don't like to go out because I get nervous and need to know where the bathroom is... but you all know that.

I am planning to go back to college for my second degree pretty soon and I am afraid that that will just be another place for me to embarrass myself. I like to be home because I don't worry so much about it, which I am sure makes it 'better'.

I am determined to find something to fix this because I don't want it to take over my life. I am glad to hear that there are others out there (especially nice to hear about people my age) that have this, though I feel for all of us. I know that I am not alone. Thanks.

E-mail Jamie: [email protected]


The tale of...Jackie (March 2004)

Around eight months ago I had this awful pain in my stomach and chest, I thought I was having a heart attack. I was admitted to the hospital and was poked and prodded for a week and the doctor said you have irritable bowel syndrome. Well I have a twin and she has it and her husband has it. So I say to the doctor is this hereditary, and he says yep it can be.

Well I am still suffering with this and I have this nagging pain in my right side all the time, which worries me. Well the doctor says this is part of the bowel and it's twisted. It has been there forever, once in a while it goes away. I can't eat right half the time, I can't stand the smell of food. I am tired, depressed, cranky, sick to my stomach and mad as heck.

I do a lot of praying and a lot of my friends pray for me. I guess they think I am a nut case, let them walk in my shoes...Sometimes I have to go to the bathroom all day and vomit, bloated till I look like a pregnant old woman. At least if I was it would end in nine months.

I am on hyoscyamine but it doesn't help, also on Reglan, no help. Just keep on praying for relief. Thanks for listening.

E-mail Jackie: [email protected]

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