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The tale of...Mimes (February 2006)

I am 31, living in the UK, and I have suffered from IBS for about nine years or so. Like a lot of sufferers out there I have tried loads of things in a vain attempt to relieve some of the symptoms. I wanted to share with you my discovery and hope it will help others - a low fiber diet. It is really worthwhile exploring a wide range of diets and food intolerances.

My symptoms are diarrhea with bloating, wind (sometimes I think something has died up there!), stomach pain and a very sore bottom. In one respect I do feel very lucky that my symptoms are not half as bad as some of you out there, but I still wanted to do something about it.

I have suffered from anxiety since I was very small and had all sorts of other anxiety-related symptoms like a nervous cough. The IBS started when I went self-employed and the worry of how to pay the next month's rent and food was too much for my system to take. As a hypnotherapist explained, all that nervous energy had to escape somehow - and the route it took was my arse!

About five years ago it was quite bad and I decided that it was about time I explored my options. I went to the doctors who fobbed my off saying there wasn't much that could be done. Not satisfied with that I went back with my assertive head on and demanded to see a dietician in order to explore food intolerances properly and with guidance.

The woman I saw was great and started me off with a high fiber diet (based on my symptoms) - not a good start as it got worse. Next I tried a wheat-free diet and there was a mild improvement in that the wind and bloating disappeared. Based on that, she put me on a low fiber diet and bingo!

In all my reading up on IBS I have never come across any suggestion of a low fiber diet as I guess it seems a bit upside-down for diarrhea symptoms. I truly would recommend it - but I expect one should consult with a doctor or dietician first.

Basically I avoid brown bread, brown anything, high fiber cereals, and keep high fiber fruit and vegetables like broccoli and bananas to a minimum. It doesn't sound very healthy I know, and it is a kid's dream diet! However, after being very strict with it for a few years I have incorporated more fruit and veg in. I avoid onions, mushrooms (though I think that intolerance dates back to my mother giving me pureed mushrooms as my first ever meal as a baby!) and too many tomatoes are a killer.

All I now need to do is find a way of getting control over the anxiety - any tips that don't involve going to things like yoga classes? The worry of going to a class, not knowing anyone and thus setting off the old IBS is not worth the trouble! I'm sure you know what I mean!

I hope this might be of some help to some of you and feel free to contact me and I can give you more of an idea of what I eat and avoid. Good luck to you all!

E-mail Mimes: [email protected]

The tale of...Gabrielle (August 2006)

I've had stomach problems for about a year and a half now. At first it was just pain and discomfort, but then I got the lovely big D to accompany it. Thankfully, I'm still pretty lucky - I have never had an accident in public, and only drastic urgency twice - but both times I was able to make it the 10 minutes home.

The problem is, I'm a traveler. In fact, I'm spending three months traveling around Europe this summer - a bit of a daunting prospect. However, I lived in the US for six months this year and I heard about Digestive Advantage. I started it about three weeks ago. I was a bit discouraged, because I didn't really notice a real improvement after the first week.

Thus, like the package suggested, I began taking two pills. Although I had one of the senses of urgency in the past three weeks, I'd say my condition has improved greatly. I have more frequent bowel movements than I remember before IBS, but they are usually much more normal. I have still gotten the Big D, although it's never extremely serious for me, once or twice a week. Hopefully, however, as Digestive Advantage takes a month for full effectiveness (maybe more for me, as it seems my bowels are a bit more picky about this pill), this will improve. And this past week was better than week two, so I feel pretty good.

I used to also take Imodium several times a week, and this is why I wanted to try something different - I didn't like the idea of having that in my system all the time (although it worked great!). I still use maybe half a pill a week, just if I'm a bit nervous. I find if I wait it out and don't take Imodium, that the uncomfortable feeling that used to suggest diarrhea is actually just gas. Not entirely pleasant either, mind you, but better than the alternative in my opinion. I'm having some Digestive Advantage Gas Prevention pills shipped to me too - to see if they might help that out. But gas also seems to be getting better as I'm getting used to the pill.

After starting Digestive Advantage, I get a little sick feeling every time I eat, and can't seem to eat as much. I've also noticed that greasy, sugary, or carbonated foods/beverages cause more gas, more pain (and this is on the Digestive Advantage pill, mind you), thus likely they would cause more diarrhea (and the one urgent occasion, I had just had McDonald's). Thus, I'm trying to eat healthier - drink juices or water instead of pop, eat less of those foods (a bit of a bummer, as I like them, but I like comfortable bowels more!) It's strange that this became noticeable after I started the Digestive Advantage pills. But, in any case, it's probably good - I'll be eating healthier!

I read about Caltrate Plus on this website, so I got some to try. I've just been on it for a day, so we'll see how that helps! I just take one pill. I also take a fiber supplement.

Finally, I take a B-Complex vitamin. It replenishes the vitamins that your body uses up in stress - physical (as well as emotional). I know that IBS is very physically hard, as well as emotionally difficult, so this helps your body!

That's pretty much all, and I hope it works as I'm preparing to go! Although I don't like having fragile bowels, I've realized I'm not too serious compared to some of you. The only good thing I can take away from it is that I've learned to listen to my body, and take better care of it (I also am going to try to get more sleep, and exercise more). I will be praying for you all. Best of luck!

E-mail Gabrielle: [email protected]

The tale of...Elizabeth (August 2006)

When I first visited this site a year ago, I was depressed, miserable, and searching for answers. I had been suffering from chronic nausea, bloating, stomach pain, and irregular bowel movements for over six years, and every doctor I saw told me it was IBS. But as the years went on, my symptoms grew worse and it became increasingly difficult to function. None of the drugs or supplements I tried provided me with any relief from the constant pain.

Then six months ago I saw a naturopath who first told me about celiac disease, or gluten intolerance. The symptoms appeared to be similar to what I was feeling so I researched it and made an appointment with my GI. I found I couldn't wait two months until the appointment to find out if this was my problem so I immediately cut gluten from my diet. At first, I wasn't sure if it was helping or not, but by the end of the second week I could tell a profound difference. Within a month, most of my symptoms had completely disappeared.

It has been seven months now without gluten and I am a new person. I no longer take any medication, down from six pills a day to help me cope with the pain. Celiac disease is commonly referred to as the great pretender, and is most often misdiagnosed as IBS. A simple blood test can rule out celiac as a possible cause of symptoms.

I hope this helps someone - when I was sick I was feeling there would never be another day when I felt like a normal human being. At the darkest moments, I was suicidal because of the misery that I felt no-one else could understand. It is so frustrating that so many people thought it was all in my head! Keep searching for answers, there is always hope that things will get better someday.

E-mail Elizabeth: [email protected]Eyahoo.com

The tale of...Tiffany (August 2006)

I am writing because I have been living with IBS since I was about 16 years old. I will be 24 in a week. I hated life. I hated to go away with my friends. I hated to go to work (especially the driving part), I hated to be in a vehicle unless it was a bus with a bathroom on it! I was miserable.

It was the same thing every day. Eat, get terrible unbearable abdominal pain and then run for the bathroom and hope I make it. Actually going was the only thing that would make the abdominal pain go away. Not Imodium or any other type of diarrhea pill or liquid.

Finally, I had had enough. I couldn't live this way. I went to a different doctor this time, pleaded my case and cried to her. She was my savior, only I didn't know it yet...She prescribed Paxil 10mg tablet once daily. Being a pharmacy technician, I thought this was strange because it was a depression medication. Yes, I was slightly depressed from the diarrhea, but I wanted the diarrhea to go away!

She told me that this pill is used also as a bowel calmer. I couldn't believe it. I thought, great, another 20-dollar co-pay down the drain. I was wrong. I started taking one tablet daily of the Paxil and a calcium tablet every night before bed. A few days went by and I realized that I wasn't going to the bathroom. Not diarrhea, and not regularly either...but you know what, that was fine with me. I eventually would have to go.

Well, I did...a few days later. And guess what? It was normal. No pain, No diarrhea. I was astonished. But I didn't want to get my hopes up too soon. I decided to start marking the days I had diarrhea on the calendar. Guess what? I marked two days in one month. Unbelievable! Two days? It used to be like 20 days!

It has been two full months now that I have been on Paxil and calcium and I will never go off it as long as I live. In two months, I have been able to eat normally, and live normally. My life is back.

E-mail Tiffany: [email protected]

The tale of...Kate (August 2006)

I've had IBS for the last eight years. I am now 25. I am in control of it most of the time now which is good, however I do have the constant 'discomfort' in my tummy that ranges from not quite right to being bent over in pain and looking nine months pregnant. My IBS started after I had a stomach bug in 1998. I felt like death - one of my main problems is I have a phobia of being sick so whenever my tummy felt bad I wouldn't eat. I managed to lose three stone in as many months.

My first two years at university were affected by it, and like many of you I wanted a new stomach, hated it and would get very frustrated that I wasn't normal. I know my family got sick of me saying 'I just want to feel normal again'. As we all know it is not a socially acceptable condition. I also had all the same vague answers from the doctors - all I wanted was a diagnosis with something that was curable.

I went to see a doctor in 2000 who put me on antidepressants, and I believe they have helped me to an extent - although I still have good and bad days the good are outnumbering the bad. I still don't know what my bowels are going to surprise me with but I find that a supply of Imodium always on hand controls it to the extent that I feel I have a normal life again. Although I do sometimes fart with fear - don't know if it is going to be dry or not. You know what I am saying.

My main issues now are wind and unexpected diarrhea - both of which I can control. I work in a small company and my chair is closest to the toilet. And I take numerous fag breaks where I fart a lot (I always make sure I go out on my own). As for the diarrhea it does sometimes take me by surprise but I am learning to listen to my body and if I think it is coming on I take a couple of preventive Imodium.

I know it is a frustrating disease and it breaks my heart to hear so much despair, especially from teenagers. I remember feeling that way myself but don't give up and celebrate when you do something normal, don't forget to spoil yourself and do things you enjoy. Do not let IBS take over your life. Don't let it win.

I graduated from university in 2003 with a 2:1. I have two beautiful children and a wonderful husband and a job I enjoy. IBS threatened to take these opportunities away from me. I didn't let it. I could go on but I know how most of you feel. Don't give up. Please e-mail me if you found my story interesting.

E-mail Kate: [email protected]

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