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happy tales: women with ibs-c page two

The tale of...Keirsten (October 2005)

I was diagnosed with IBS with constipation about four years ago. Things had just been slowing down gradually until it turned into full-blown, periodic constipation. It came and went, but gradually got worse as I got older. I tried Zelnorm, which worked briefly, I tried adjusting my diet, which worked briefly, I tried Metamucil which worked for a while, but eventually nothing seemed to help.

Lots of gas and bloating too. I started having problems with my stomach too - it just wouldn't empty, I was throwing up after eating sometimes, and I had belching and heartburn all the time. I went to see a naturopath to see what could be done (I had had some previous pharmaceutical misadventures and wanted to avoid prescription drugs if I could - lithium caused terrible, intractable constipation), and in the course of routine blood tests we discovered I was in the low 'normal' range for thyroid. I was aware of that, but was not taking anything for it.

I began thyroid replacement therapy (Levothyroxine) and my stomach and bowel improved immensely, to what it had been four or five years ago. The heartburn, belching and regurgitation subsided, as did the gas and bloating. Later reading on the internet revealed that an underactive thyroid gland can indeed reduce contractions in the stomach and reduced intestinal motility.

E-mail Keirsten: [email protected]

The tale of...Emma (1 March 2006)

I have suffered with IBS my whole life. Having talked at length with my mum she even recalls when I was a flower girl in the local fete at four years old and having to call the doctor the night before because I was writhing in agony with stomach cramps. The doctor could give no explanation for this sudden stomach bug.

My main triggers are excitement or stress - if I ever get excited about anything I always get a bout of IBS. Holidays are the worst as I can always guarantee at least a few days of feeling really ill whilst I am away.

I am 30 years old now and have lived through some really bad times with the illness. Sitting for my GCSE exams was a living nightmare, going on holiday to the Far East for the first time just as bad. I have had more stress counseling than I care to remember. The only good thing is that I have a very supportive doctor who diagnosed me at 16 so I have always been up-to-date with all the current treatments for the disorder.

But I don't let it rule my life. I am sat here today writing this feeling so bloated I feel sick; I have not been to the toilet for six days now. But I am still at work and I will still be going out with my friends tonight.

The reason for this current bout of IBS is that I am in the first stages of moving house, so I have already accepted that I am going to be ill with IBS for the next few months until I have moved into my new house. They do say this is one of the most stressful times of your life!

My boyfriend asked me to marry him two months ago and we have set a date for March next year. I am excited, nervous and most of all stressed about the day. The one day in my life that I would love to be IBS-free is my wedding day. After the shock of him asking me had set in, I was sat on my own in my bedroom and I cried for hours. I don't know what I can do to stop me being bloated, constipated and generally in agony for my big day.

I love organizing but I know I am going to get stressed about things, and of course as soon as I start getting excited about it I know I will be ill. This will make the day hell and the honeymoon not much better. It is a vicious circle, though as a long-time sufferer I am aware of situations that are going to make me more susceptible to being ill, but the more you think about how to prevent it the more you get wound up and you just end up getting it worse for longer.

I have spoken to my doctor and we have agreed I am going to take Valium for the week before the wedding. This is the only way I can think of to chill me out enough to not get ill. But it is sad that sufferers all around the world are faced with these options to get through their lives.

But I will not let this disease rule me. Yes it is embarrassing when I look pregnant because I am that bloated, yes it is hard when I am in the middle of a senior meeting at work and have the urge to go the toilet, and let's face it when you have to go you have to go! But I carry on, I have the support of my friends and family.

If people don't understand and think I am a wimp for my behavior, I smile and move on with my life. It is a real illness and I sympathize with other sufferers around the world. There are times when all your friends have gone out and all you want to do is curl up in bed and weep you feel so bad, but there are good days and you have to make the most of those.

You can live with it. I am looking forward to moving to my new house and even more so to getting married and I am determined it will be the best day of my life!

E-mail Emma: [email protected]

The tale of...Fiona (28 July 2006)

I'm not sure when I started with IBS, but was I diagnosed by my gynecologist doctor last year. To cut a long story short, after an operation I had the contraceptive mirena coil inserted. At the six week check-up I told them that I felt worse than I had before the operation. Among the many symptoms I was feeling I was constantly needing the toilet and had extremely severe tummy cramps and bloating, and switched from diarrhea to constipation.

Each day it was a struggle getting out of bed to go to work. Everything I ate seemed to disagree with me. I took Fybogel twice a day, which ended up making the constipation worse, and I took Buscopan for the tummy pain (which did help a lot). I then went to a food intolerance nurse, and although it did help it did not make the symptoms go away.

I went on the net and did some searching and found loads of information on the side effects of the mirena coil, and some cases where it either started people off with IBS or made IBS symptoms worse. I got the coil taken out a couple of months ago, and almost all the symptoms have gone. I no longer have to rush to the toilet or make sure I'm near somewhere where there is a loo handy, and I haven't had any tummy cramps since. I also feel a lot happier and energetic. So if there is anyone with IBS who is on the mirena coil then it might be worth their while to have a wee look on some of the newsgroups.

The tale of...Jill (18 September 2006)

This is a happy tale, since I have finally licked IBS. Am I cured? No...but I am having normal bowel movements for the first time as an adult, and I am virtually symptom-free in every other way. I'm taking the time to write this because I am so grateful to the many anonymous people whose stories I read on the web - stories which gave me a piece here, a piece there, and contributed to me finding a happy ending to this miserable episode of my life. I only hope my story will help others in the same way.

I have had this condition for my whole adult life, and I am now over 50 years old. My symptoms were classic ones. Diarrhea-prone, I got along for many years with daily minor discomfort, thinking that's just the way it was. I never had a normal bowel movement, but as far as I knew mine were 'normal', and the fact that I had to rush to the bathroom three times in a row every morning, I just accepted. Once every month or so - probably after eating a particularly rich meal - I would have blistering abdominal pain in the middle of the night for several hours. But this would go away, and again I just accepted that this was normal.

Things were basically tolerable - that is until I suddenly went 'C'. It began in the late fall of 2004 and went on for an entire year non-stop. I had always thought diarrhea was terrible, but boy, did I ever start to really wish for it all back after I began to experience a life of constant constipation.

It was not just not being able to go that was so awful, it was all of the other symptoms that came along for the ride, such as that particularly miserable unfinished feeling, frequent intestinal spasms and, of course, the terrific, very anti-social gas that went on, day and night. Occasionally, I gave myself an enema and that was the only thing which gave me some relief.

I had been to doctors many times over the years and knew that, for the most part, Western medicine could not help me. I had tried homeopathy and acupuncture, to no avail. Now in desperation I spent lots of time on the internet reading pages like these and going onto blogs and chat rooms for hours.

After a full seven months of chronic constipation you start to wonder, ghoulishly, what the inside of you must look like. Soon I began to know 'in my gut' that what I needed, desperately, was colon cleansing, but I was unable to find anyone to do this, professionally, whom I felt I could trust. So, one summer's day I went into the bathroom and, with the aid of an old-fashioned water bottle equipped with enema attachment, proceeded to administer colonic irrigation to myself.

Within a 48-hour period I did 15 enemas, using plain warm water or water mixed with a weak mixture of lemon juice, probiotics and alfalfa. I amazed myself that it took 15 times to get myself clean. I did about seven enemas at the first session. Each took about 15 minutes. By rolling onto my back and getting my pelvis up in the air many times (think bicycle exercise) I was able to also clean the small intestine (in my body that is the area that traps the material the most). The next day, I took a deep breath, went right back in there and repeated this process. I kept it up until the liquid coming out of me was running almost clear.

Now, I realize that this all may sound quite horrifying, or at the very best, gross and disgusting. Yes it was disgusting to have to go through this, and I can surely say that it was not a pleasant experience...but it was wonderfully empowering to know that I could do this and get myself truly cleaned out. The light, healthy feeling I had, after getting all that toxic material out of me, was phenomenal...and the emotional relief was fantastic.

After the self-administered colon cleansing , I was able to start from scratch with a new diet and, in a few months time, begin to make myself really well. With the help of a good nutritionist, I learned about eating a diet according to 'the new pyramid'. Yes, 11 servings of grain a day (one serving is five grams).

I eat high fiber, so generally eschew white bread and white rice altogether. Basically, I eat mostly whole wheat flour breads, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley and cornmeal dishes (corn bread and polenta).

I try to stay with seven to nine servings of fat a day. I have mostly given up cheese and never eat ice cream. I try to stay with five meals a day that are smaller, rather than the three big meals a day Americans are so used to. I eat less meat and lots of fruit and vegetables. I eat low dairy. Also, contrary to the standard advice, in my case I have found that I can indeed drink a moderate amount of caffeine and alcohol each day with no problem.

I studied up on soluble versus insoluble fiber, using insoluble fiber for C and soluble fiber for D. Resistant starch is another crucial piece to the diet. Cold pasta, cold rice, cold potatoes and beans (of any temperature) all classify as resistant starch. I include one or more of these food groups in my diet every day.

I take a heaping tablespoon of golden flaxseed meal per day, since it helps the movement of material out of you. Basically I am having fat, healthy stools every day...if I do run into a problem over a three to five-day period, then I help myself along by taking two stool softeners. That usually gets me going right away, and there are no side effects. Taking magnesium daily is also helpful.

Over the last year I have completely changed the way I eat and I have learned to love the food that loves me. Do I have to pay attention to this every day? You're darn right. But it is managed now, and I am running it, it is not running me. It feels so glorious to have a healthy intestinal system.

The tale of...Carol (2 October 2006)

I'm a 61 year-old grandmother, and I have lived with IBS since my early teenage years. I have been misdiagnosed, including with a grumbling appendix which was removed needlessly. Until early 2000 I was diarrhea-predominant, at which time I became constipated and have remained so ever since. At that time I at first blamed a change of diet, having visited relatives in the US (I live in Ireland), but after five weeks of 'no-go', the penny finally dropped - the IBS I had known had decided to mutate!

Like many other sufferers, I had spent many years trying to have my IBS recognised, and since I live in a small town with a limited choice of hospital consultants for referral, I gave up trying for a while. Sometimes the insults were overt, other times more blatant, and as you all know the misery is bad enough without that. One consultant actually said 'If IBS existed, I would be a sufferer...it's supposed to be caused by stress, isn't it, and who could be more stressed than me'.

After many more tests I was eventually diagnosed about 10 years ago, basically told there was no cure, given Imodium, anti-spasmodics and Valium and sent on my way. I'm trying to make this as brief as I can, so I'll skip now to 2005, when I finally took the advice of one of my sons, who works in the health service and had described my condition to a consultant friend of his, who also has an interest in allergies and food intolerance.

Knowing my reluctance to visit yet another doctor, he kindly allowed me to write to him, and via my son asked if I would be willing to try a wheat-free diet. He said he did not think I had an allergy to gluten, more likely an intolerance, which was aggravating my IBS symptoms. Of course I was willing to try anything to alleviate the pain, bloating, cramping, straining etc so I gave it a try.

Within two weeks my pain had decreased by about 50%, the bloating had all but gone, and I had only occasional cramps. However, cutting out wheat did not cure my constipation, but when this consultant heard of the partial relief I had obtained, he also suggested that I try a few remedies which had helped some of his other (less dubious?) patients.

I was to add to my diet: dates (the large, expensive kind, can't remember the name just now), figs, a good probiotic drink, and a daily helping of Manuka honey. The dates and figs must be packed without the addition of sulfur, which is apparently added routinely to most brands, and the honey must be active 10+ to 20+ Manuka.

I followed his advice, and whilst I cannot truthfully say I am no longer constipated, I have gone from not having a bowel movement for anything up to five weeks, to going every few days. Sometimes it is almost natural, others it's still the old strain and push routine, but to me it is such a transformation. The only regression since starting this regime has been whilst on holiday, eating all the wrong foods, which I know will make me suffer!

I still use my trusty heat pad at night, and am by no means cured of IBS - is there a cure? And by the way, this same consultant, on hearing how my diarrhea changed to constipation after two eight-hour flights, put forward the theory that traveling long-haul in a pressurized aeroplane can cause constipation, even in non-IBS sufferers.

Here's hoping this might be of help to someone, and that my condition will remain at its present, much more bearable, level! Now if someone out there could give me a cure for all the problems of old age...

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