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The tale of...Jenny (October 2003)

I'm Jenny and I'm 36. I've suffered with IBS for about seven years. I first became ill when I was going out with my previous boyfriend (still haven't worked out if he was the cause!). We eventually split up after six years.

I had various test done through the hospital, but nothing was found, the consultant eventually told me that I had IBS, it was basically all in my mind and I should go away and have a baby as this would take my mind off myself and therefore, my IBS would heal! I didn't take him up on his advice!

I was at the end of my tether and was seriously considering the best way to commit suicide. Then, a woman I vaguely knew in work cornered me one day and asked me why I had so much time off work. I tried to avoid answering, as I had lost so many friends by this time, I didn't really trust anyone, but she persisted and I eventually told her everything.

She gave me a card with the name and address of a nutritional therapist. I decided to try her and put my suicide plans on the back burner. The woman who gave me the card is now one of my best friends. I went to the nutritional therapist and she basically 'saved' my life. She understood completely and after various tests and chats, I found out that I suffer from severe food allergies and intolerances. She put me on a very strict diet with supplements (this was five years ago).

I have to say that this has not cured me as I still get attacks (my symptoms are the severe runs, extreme bloating, severe wind, overwhelming tiredness and occasional nausea), but my attacks now are mostly stress-related and I try to keep calm as much as I can. This can prove to be difficult as I work for social security and I find that my employers are not the most sympathetic to work for...they don't understand! Plus I'm threatened with the sack on regular occasions.

As my IBS improved, so did my life, I found that I was able to go out again, without worrying too much of having an attack. I met new friends, some of which suffer with varying degrees of IBS, this helps as we compare symptoms and sometimes even laugh about them.

The best of all, three years ago I met Nigel, he knew nothing of my condition and on our first date didn't comment that I only drank mineral water. During our second date we ended up at his house at a meal time, I couldn't not eat! He made no comment when I asked him for boiled rice, broccoli and a glass of mineral water, he even had some boiled rice in his soup!

I eventually had to tell him of my illness and he rushed off to get pen and paper, he wrote down everything I could eat. When I next visited him he showed me a cupboard in the kitchen, he'd filled it with all the food that I could eat...I was totally overwhelmed, no-one had ever understood before, especially a man!

Needless to say, we now live together with my IBS and we're getting married in June. None of this has made my IBS improve, I seem to have hit a level and don't feel that it will improve much more, but most of the time it's bearable and I'm very happy with my life.

E-mail Jenny: [email protected]


The tale of...Kim (October 2003)

I have suffered for a number of years from what the doctors have diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. My IBS came on very suddenly, one evening, with severe abdominal pain. The pain was so intense that I began to hyperventilate. My husband rushed me to the hospital where the doctors could find nothing wrong with me. They gave me morphine for the pain and sent me home.

The next day I felt fine and so dismissed this as a one-time incident. Within a month I experienced the pain again, although not as severe, but it stayed with me for about four days. For the next several months I went through this suffering for four days to a week and then feeling good for two to three weeks, and then again four days to a week of pain.

I made several visits to different doctors, each one diagnosing IBS and suggesting eliminating the foods that cause pain, getting more exercise, and eliminating stress. They prescribed painkillers and muscle relaxants and sent me home feeling hopeless. The painkillers caused drowsiness and constipation, and the muscle relaxants caused my heart to race. I knew that I couldn't continue to use them, but really didn't want to anyway.

I wanted to find a natural way to combat this affliction. I took the doctors' advice and began walking to get my exercise. This seemed to help considerably but I was unable to do it when in pain, as it made the pain much worse. I also eliminated the foods that seemed to bother me. Foods such as cabbage, broccoli, corn, soda pop, and ice cream.

I began taking acidophilus, a glass of prune juice every morning, and a calcium supplement, these all seemed to help relieve the pain to some degree but not enough.

The stress elimination was not as easy and I am still working on that. I also tried many fiber supplements which hurt more than helped and I had to quit trying them. In the meantime the episodes were happening more often and lasting longer, although the pain was not as severe as it had been.

It soon became a mental problem of being afraid to eat because almost everything that I consumed would cause pain and bloating. I began to feel nauseated almost every time that I ate and I quickly lost 25 pounds. By this time my episodes were so frequent that once I had recovered from one, because they left me so drained and tired, it took several days to a week to recover after the pain, then I would have another. I was getting scared, extremely tired, and desperate to find relief.

In my search I happened upon a story of a man that was to the point of vomiting nearly everything that he ate and had lost 45 pounds. He had discovered a digestive enzyme with acidophilus and within three days of taking it with every meal he had improved to the point of being able to eat almost anything he wanted without a problem. I tried it and also found significant relief within three days.

I have since gained back the 25 pounds and do not feel nauseated at all. I am not afraid to eat now but find that I still cannot eat very much of either the refined sugar products nor the high fiber vegetables. I have continued the digestive enzyme, acidophilus, the prune juice and the exercising, and I have also added a cup or two per day of peppermint and chamomile tea.

When I do have an episode it occurs late in the day and by the next morning I am feeling back to normal. I can now concentrate more on exercising, eating well and relieving stress.

Unfortunately I cannot tell you that if you have IBS and you do all of the things that I have done that it will relieve your symptoms. I can tell you that when your life is enveloped by this horrible thing called IBS it is definitely worth trying anything that is suggested to you. Finding what will relieve your symptoms is a trial an error process, as one thing can help some people and will hurt others. The secret is to not give up hope and to keep trying.


The tale of...Laura (October 2003)

I was first diagnosed with IBS after drinking coke down the pub. I had been having really bad stomach pains and all the other symptoms of IBS so I decided to stop drinking alcohol as I thought it would be bad for me. So I had a pint of coke and it must have been the worst pain I have ever experienced.

I collapsed on the floor in agony and I was rushed to hospital. It took them a while and then they finally told me it was IBS. I knew what this was as one of my friends was a bad sufferer but I couldn't believe I had it! I blamed it on stress and food intolerances.

After a trial and error period I worked out what affected me and what didn't so I now can't eat normal bread, chocolate and pasta. But I was still getting pains when I worked out it was college - it was so stressful.

I was getting up at 6am to get the bus to get into college for 9am and then having about eight lessons a day with no breaks, and not getting home until 8.00 some evenings! It was a nightmare and I completely failed the first year so I moved to a nearer college and am now very happy! I still suffer from it but it is no way as bad as it used to be.


The tale of...Sue (October 2003)

I have suffered with IBS now for almost four years on and off but looking over my past I have had it since I was around 17 years old and at various times of stress in my life. The last four years have been the worst and most frequent. It started on the way to work one day when I had to stop off at my dad's house to use the loo, at this time it was every couple of hours rushing to the loo.

The doctors kept giving me medications that made me worse so in the end I used tablets to bung me up and Fybogel to make me go, and this went on for almost three years. I used relaxation music/exercises and reflexology which helped me a huge amount.

Last year I had about eight months that I would call remission whereby I was able to live normally again, part of my IBS has given me panic attacks and agoraphobia to fight too! Then suddenly one day after I had a stressful situation it happened all over again, rushing to the loo, the wind and so on, this led me to be scared to go out again and I am slowly working on that again.

For me I found that cutting out alcohol, fried food, reducing my bread intake, drinking peppermint tea and relaxation all helped me enormously, I also take acidophilus and Yakult daily and have noticed that if I miss them for a few days I start to have trouble again, oh and also try cutting out spicy foods too!

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