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happy tales: women with ibs-d page sixteen

The tale of...Louise (4 March 2008)

I'm 27 and from the UK. I've been suffering from IBS for the last three and a half years, coincidently just after I had my second child. During my pregnancy I had severe morning sickness day and night and found it a real struggle to get through most days. Shortly after my daughter was born I started experiencing severe cramping and explosive diarrhea.

This went on on an almost daily basis for around three or four weeks before I saw my doctor, who gave me mebeverine, which seems to calm the cramping but I continued to get the diarrhea. The doctor did a blood test to check for allergies which came back negative for the obvious - dairy, wheat, eggs etc. Through my own elimination process I have found that milk and dairy products are the main problem, and after cutting these out my diarrhea episodes at least halved.

My doctor also mentioned another food sensitivity test I could have done but I could not get it done on the NHS. I researched this online and found it to be very expensive, but later that week I was walking past a health shop in our high street with a poster in the window for food sensitivity testing and thought I'd give it a go for £39.

It involved a lady who placed what I can only describe as a pen-like metal object onto my finger, and the object was attached to a machine which she then placed small test tubes labeled with different foods on. As she touched my finger with the pen-like thing the machine made a beeping noise and by the sound it made she could tell what foods aggravated me. I was amazed by how accurate it was. The trigger foods I suspected all came up on this test plus a few other surprises.

After going to my doctor on an emergency appointment as I kept getting dizzy and faint, he referred me to a gastro doctor. The dizziness was later found to be the result of dehydration because of the diarrhea, although I do drink plenty. During my consultation I mentioned the food test and he told me it wasn't worth the paper it's written on and I was conned, but I believe it worked.

The GI doctor also sent me for a lactose intolerance test which came back negative (the most boring three hours of my life). He's now told me that I have intolerances and to avoid what upsets me, and diagnosed me with IBS. His exact words were 'I don't like French films so I avoid them. You should do the same'. Some help he was.

I know when I am going to get an attack as during the night I get cramping, and I feel as if my intestines are expanding like a balloon blowing up and then going down, and if I press down on the right-hand side of my tummy I can feel it. It feels like when a baby kicks in your tummy. I wake up the next morning and have to go and can't stop until I take two Imodium. Eating late at night causes problems too.

After three and a half years, after finding most of my trigger foods and avoiding stress as much as possible, although I do still get an attack on average once a week, and more during my period, I can cope with my symptoms better. Imodium is my best friend and I take it as often as I need to.

I feel for anyone who suffers like me, only other sufferers seem to have any sympathy. I am going to try taking calcium next as I completely avoid dairy. If anyone else has any other ideas on a cure feel free to message me. Thanks for reading.

E-mail Louise: [email protected]

The tale of...Deirdre (4 May 2008)

First I would like to thank Sophie for starting this website, and secondly thanks to all you very brave folks out there for sharing! When you have a problem like this, it is true, you never share it with anyone. But I had no idea this many people suffered from IBS.

My Dad's side of the family suffers from stomach problems and anxiety. When I started going through my family history (getting answers was a little hard - like I didn't know my Dad had problems with anxiety until a couple years ago) I started feeling some emotional relief! I thought I was going nuts or having a breakdown of some kind.

I have come to realize my IBS comes in conjunction with stress. I have talked to my GI doctor, and because colon cancer runs in the family I have a colonoscopy every 5 years. I have found that daily exercise, meditation (I read the Bible), and being open with my family about my anxiety and IBS has actually made me feel better. For years I never told anyone I was having panic attacks or IBS symptoms. I was highly embarrassed. But now that my family and friends know, I feel like a weight has been lifted.

Right now I am going through a terrible time with the IBS. I have been under an amazing amount of stress. I talked with my GI doctor today about making an appointment to get on some drugs. I may still take the drugs, but from the past (I go through cycles of IBS) I know that it does eventually pass. I am working on eating better, avoiding foods that trigger symptoms, doing the Lactinex everyday, sticking to a more BRAT diet (banana, rice, apple sauce, toast) and working out.

The other day my husband and I were walking around the neighborhood. I started to feel crampy and actually had to stop a couple times. I kept repeating to myself 'It's OK, if something happens I will be OK'. One of my greatest fear triggers is going on a long walk because I too lost my bowels. I was so mortified! But I try to decide every day that I can go on, I'll make it, everything is going to be OK. But some days are harder than others.

For all the people who don't support you or understand you, God help them! I have been fortunate that my husband is very supportive, if not, I would probably want to kill myself. You all keep your chins up! Everybody has some poop that hits their fans too.

E-mail Deirdre: [email protected]

The tale of...Nina (26 May 2008)

I have been lactose intolerant since 1988 and I had the condition under control, meaning I could tolerate cheeses and ice creams. I had very little problems, if any, until February 2008. I'm a Nordic female of 42 years of age. Suddenly I got very ill and had episodes of diarrhea on and off. There was almost a pattern, I was fine for about six days and then I had a really bad case of D which lasted two or three days. My stool was never normal, it was either very soft or just runny (with some explosions mixed in).

I went to see my GP and after stool and blood tests etc, I was diagnosed with IBS. I then went on the familiar route, by trying the Multibillion acidophilus, probiotic drinks, DiarSafe and the calcium carbonate treatment, which all seemed to work for about a week and then I would have another severe episode of the horrible D. It got so bad that I could not hold anything in, and all drinks and foods consumed would flush straight through me.

After the last episode, having suffered diarrhea and bed-bound for two and a half days I have finally understood to leave ALL dairy out from my diet. This has completely changed my physical condition as after just 48 hours all symptoms of IBS had gone. Just like that.

I can't believe how for so many years I could tolerate some dairy and then suddenly, out of the blue, this all changed?! Since February I had suffered with sinus and ear problems, nausea, terrible gas, grumbling intestines, tiredness, some dizziness, and insomnia to mention but a few. What can I say, I'm cured - life without any dairy starts from here.

So to all of you fellow sufferers: please don't give up on trying to find a solution - there must be a reason for your condition and hopefully it is fixable.

E-mail Nina: [email protected]

The tale of...Rachel (February 2008)

My problems with IBS started when I was a teenager. I had the typical symptoms but they were generally fairly low-grade, for the most part they didn't interfere with my life to a great extent. I'm currently 26 years old, and a couple of years ago things started getting worse. I was getting light-headed and nauseous, and the worst part for me was the chills and diarrhea. This started to rear up when I was going to see friends, which was triggered by some anxiety, which after it happened once made me anxious about my stomach, which would upset it, and so a vicious circle was formed.

From this it became to be a constant cycle of bloating, discomfort and diarrhea. I turned into a social recluse, spent nine months seeing a psychologist for anxiety with no great relief. I felt the only thing I could do that would help was to avoid social situations and try not to eat. I'd make myself sick if I felt I'd eaten too much to try and prevent the digestive consequences.

Then I found this site. I read all of the stories in the Happy Tales section (for women with diarrhea) and it gave me the first positive feelings of hope I'd had in a long, long time. Armed with my new-found hope, I went back to the doctors and asked them how I could deal with my IBS (and related anxiety). What I got was 'Well if you think about it logically you have nothing to worry about', 'Just tell your friends you have stomach problems, they won't mind if you need to cut a night out short, they'll probably be tired anyway', 'You don't need to try an exclusion diet, you just need to work out what's setting you off' and finally 'Here have a leaflet'.

So I walked out and spent 20 minutes crying in the doctors' car park. I seriously felt like going home and ending it all, there was no way I could contemplate living my life so restricted and just feeling awful all the time. After crying myself out and blubbing down the phone to my thankfully very supportive partner I thought 'You know what, it's obvious that the doctor isn't going to help me. So that just leaves me to help myself'.

So I went to the shops and bought 600mg calcium carbonate tablets and some acidophilus. I also decided to try excluding things to find out where the problem lies, starting with the biggest - gluten. For me, it's been nothing short of a miracle. It's been about three weeks now of gluten-free plus the supplements. It's been pretty hard resisting the cravings for wheat/bread etc but after the first week they calmed down. My appetite in general has decreased and I feel much more satisfied by what I'm eating. I've not been bloated or gassy. I've not had crippling stomach pains, I've not felt sick and dizzy. And I've not had diarrhea!

I am honestly so happy I could cry, and I have. I've been to see friends (admittedly a little tentatively at first) and it's been a resounding success. I've even signed up to take yoga classes, something I wouldn't have even considered before. I'm not saying the approach I'm taking will suit everyone, sadly as most people with IBS knows what suits one person doesn't always suit another. But for me it's amazing.

And I just wanted to say thank you so much for a) coming up with this site and b) for everyone who has told their story. Without you I never would have started down this path. I am eternally grateful.

E-mail Rachel: [email protected]

The tale of...Jennifer (2 June 2008)

I have a happy story I would like to share. This website is wonderful and has helped me learn a lot about IBS and other people's experiences, whilst keeping me smiling or at least trying to smile in the dark days.

I was diagnosed with IBS in 2001, but I can remember suffering as far back as 1997. I've tried everything and saw an incredible amount of ignorant and unhelpful doctors, nothing worked. I once had a partner get exasperated at me because I wanted to go home yet again, after experiencing a severe bout of diarrhea due to my IBS.

There is one thing that helps me more than anything else does: yoga. I never thought it possible really, I thought it was new age rubbish. But there are many positive effects, and a lot of friends who I know that have IBS also agree. If your IBS is triggered by stress, then yoga is wonderful, because it helps you learn conscious relaxation, such as breathing techniques and muscles stretches which will help ease stress, and can help control an attack and the associated feeling of panic which can increase the severity of an attack.

If you suffer from spasms, the basic twists and bends in yoga can help you relax muscles and bring your bowels out of spasm. For those that suffer from constipation, the twists and bends in yoga are very good at stimulating your bowel and easing the uncomfortable feeling of fullness. For those that have diarrhea, easing spasms helps calm down the diarrhea and can cause bowel movements to pass through more normally.

You don't have to be great at exercise. You don't need to be very fit or flexible or young or bendy. Anyone can do it, at any age or fitness level. A few basic poses will make you feel the difference. I won't say yoga is the only thing that has helped, but I feel it is the main thing.

I also kept a food diary for several weeks and identified several foods that seem to trigger my IBS. These days I avoid wheat and gluten, and keep my intake of dairy and refined sugar to an absolute minimum. I also make sure I eat only fiber-rich complex carbohydrates and have five portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

These basic steps have helped me to 85% 'recover' from my IBS. I still get attacks, usually when I'm otherwise under the weather or stressed. But I am no longer reliant on stool softeners, narcotics or laxatives to ease my constipation, and no meds or other disgusting supplements to ease my diarrhea. I can leave my house without fear of having an accident. I still carry Imodium with me in case of an attack, but I take two a month, if that.

For me, this much of a recovery is an absolute miracle. For six months in 2002 my IBS was so severe that I was virtually housebound and I had to pad my underwear in case of not getting to the toilet on time. I suffer from ME also, and IBS is an unfortunately common symptom, so I don't expect to ever recover fully. I really recommend that people look into holistic therapies and herbal supplements for treating their IBS. Achieving whole body health can make IBS so much less of a problem.

I still suffer some days, and I have so much empathy for those who suffer more severely and frequently than I do. But please take comfort from this and know not to give up hope: it can take a long time, but IBS can be defeated or eased and you can live again!

E-mail Jennifer: [email protected]

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