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The tale of...Steve (October 2003)

When I was about 17, I visited a gastroenterologist because I was having a lot of gut problems, mostly constipation. Everyone told me it was all in my head, and since the doctor couldn't find anything wrong with me through a series of rather uncomfortable tests, I was diagnosed with IBS. He told me to take fiber supplements and probiotics.

While these helped, when I was 19 I had a sudden swing to diarrhea, and it was terrible. My insurance wouldn't cover me to see the gastroenterologist again unless I went through another series of tests from my primary care physician. The diarrhea was getting worse, and I was getting to the point where I couldn't concentrate because I was so afraid I'd have to run out to the bathroom while I was taking a final in college. I was taking Imodium from time to time, but I was afraid of taking too much of a drug.

I decided to do a little searching, and found this website. When I saw a lot of diarrhea sufferers were taking Caltrate calcium, I decided to try it. Boy, that was a lifesaver! I can't be more thankful for finding this website and listening to that advice. The Caltrate makes me feel a little constipated, but I feel much better than I have in the past six months! Now, I'm applying for MD/PhD programs (keeping my fingers crossed) in hopes that I will be able to help bring IBS the attention it deserves. I hope everyone can have success in dealing with their symptoms. As I've discovered, there's no harm in trying things every once in a while!

The tale of...Lee (October 2003)

I started suffering from IBS when I was about 18 years old, although I did not know what it was. All I got was a bad pain in my gut. Most times I would wake up at about 2am, sometimes a bit later, and just sit there in deep pain, holding my gut and just praying to God to help.

I used to only get pain in my gut in the morning, but then it got worse - a lot worse. I started being sick and never going to the toilet. My doctor was puzzled by my symptoms and he told me to take painkillers as it was only growing pains. But I knew it was more than that.

So I started researching on different things on the NHS and on the internet. And suddenly I saw a little add in the bottom of my screen explaining symptoms that I had. I had my answer, it was IBS. So fuelled with this information I went back to my doctor and told him about it.

He was very understanding and wanted to start treatment instantly. He give me some tablets called mebeverine hydrochloride. After about three days of taking one tablet with every meal, I felt better, no more pain or being sick. Three years on l still suffer from IBS but I can take my tablet and forget about it.

E-mail Lee: [email protected]

The tale of...Simon (October 2003)

I'm 45, and I have suffered from IBS since I was seven. Not as severe it seems as many, certainly reading the postings on this website, but nonetheless for years I had a sixth sense for every toilet, planned my routes to familiar places in the context of these, and yet managed to hold down a job lecturing.

The biggest blight on my life I guess was a fear of traveling; although I'd go away, I knew I'd spend half the vacation in my hotel room suffering with upset stomachs and cramps. Hot places were the very worst, on one occasion I must have spent ten of the 14 days in my room. Doctors made various diagnoses - I've had all forms of tests, cameras and so forth.

My last GP said that it was IBS and that I could live with it or change my diet. Well, I tried dairy-free and gluten-free diets, I'm vegetarian anyway, yet these only gave a brief respite.

Then, following a dose of campylobacter food poisoning in November 2001, I was given alverine citrate - a miracle happened. I now know what 'normal' people feel like. I don't need to be near to a toilet all the time, and I just returned from Australia where I was able to spend every day out and about. I'm still trying to break the habits of going to the toilet before doing anything, but realize that this is the psychological battle we all have to face.

I resent the years I was reluctant to really venture out too far, and am determined to make the most of this change (even if it proves to be temporary). I know alverine citrate doesn't suit everyone, but I guess I'd advise anyone to persist with their GP.

The tale of...Daniel (October 2003)

Just before you read on, I'll warn you now that I got a bit carried away whilst typing this and so excuse me if I go off on tangents here there and everywhere.

I've had IBS for several years now. I'm male and in my late twenties. The last few days have been really bad (although I have had it just as bad in the past) so I decided to look on the web for any help I could find. Wow, and I thought I had it worse than anybody else...I never realized how many other sufferers there were and how widespread IBS is.

I thought that when I was stuck on the toilet, experiencing the most severe cramps, cold sweating buckets, going light headed, thinking I was about to pass out from the pain, feeling like I was about to throw up, I was the only one.

There is some comfort in knowing that I'm not the only one and, whilst my cramps are severe, I do get relief from them. I can go several months without experiencing any problems, but can then go several months with them. You would think that I could look at my lifestyle and work it out...well, I'm still trying to work it out but I believe it has a lot to do with my psychological state.

I say this because although I don't get too stressed out at any one moment (ie: getting angry or fed-up) I do have general worries about money and life. I tend to find when I'm not worrying about these things I don't get the pain as much if at all. It's easier said than done of course, I can't just stop worrying about money or my future, but being aware of these things seems to help - being optimistic and knowing that everything is only temporary (I know - easier said than done).

When I do have severe cramps thinking to myself that either in a few minutes or a few hours I will feel relief can be of comfort sometimes. I have been taking Colpermin (peppermint) as a preventative which often helps and for a while I took painkillers which I thought helped. I have just had a non-serious operation and been given some very strong painkillers and I have the IBS pain right now, I know different painkillers do different things so it's hard to tell.

Anyway, coming back to the psychological aspect. I spent Christmas just gone in America and ate all the worst foods you can imagine, steaks, burgers (with pink middles!), pizzas, more burgers, spicy foods, burritos etc.

Did I have any pain? Not one bit, but as soon as I got back home...pain. I'm self-employed and for the time I was in the States put everything to do with home and work out of mind and I believe this helped a lot.

I also spent the second year of my degree in the states (three years ago) and suffered from the pain far less than I do here in England. My main assumption is that my state of mind in general has a big effect on my IBS. I studied psychology at university and was very into hypnosis and all kinds of alternative psych.

Trying to control stress levels is easier said than done, but I think it helps to be optimistic about your IBS. I know it's hard, and I'm sure worrying about the state of the world doesn't help.

However, I think that just being aware about any 'life worries' you may have and thinking positively about trying to sort them out can help (rather than worrying). I believe strongly in hypnosis and the power of the mind, and you know what...just typing out this story the pain has been alleviated somewhat! It's hard to know whether the pain was going to go now or not but I don't really care...just a little while ago I was in agony.

Worrying about IBS doesn't help either...reading some of these stories is comforting some of the time (knowing I'm not alone) but not others. I think if you are able to, exercise can help not only because it is healthy which in turn can make your 'insides healthy', it also takes your mind off the pain. And this seems to be a key for me.

There is one thing that seems to always take the pain away but it only lasts for the duration of the activity, it's too embarrassing to mention what it is and it's also very impractical. It is, however, something that supports my theory of 'taking the mind off the pain' (although I'm sure the physical part plays its own effect).

I'm not saying that when I have the pain I can think of something else just like that, but trying to think positively in general about life if I can may help. I hear UEL are doing some research into the psychological effects of IBS and I am really interested in finding out what they discover.

I steer well clear of curries and Chinese foods as these always trigger it off, don't really drink caffeine any more as tea in the mornings gave me mild cramps. I know that I will get on top of this thing - I have done before. Knowing that for me, it has a lot to do with my state of mind keeps me positive about one day sorting it out for good.

I think it's worth the effort trying to find if there is anything to do with your state of mind in general. I don't mean the guy at the supermarket checkout pissing you off on a Sunday afternoon, but things like worrying about money, what your future will be like, problems with a spouse, or not being able to find one even. Those sort of things.

It was useful for me to look at things like yoga and tai chi which help calm you in general. Going out for walks and trying to use that time to forget about any problems. I did tai chi for two terms and don't remember having the pain during that time.

It also sorted out other pains - it's a physical meditation and I recommend it - mental relaxation, exercise, and physical relaxation all in one! (I had to stop because I couldn't afford the lessons but plan to take it up again and I want to start yoga soon as well.)

I have no real 'quick fix' but when things are 'OK in general' I get no problems and can eat pretty much what I want. Sorry if this story comes across as all well and good but not as easy in practice, it's just my theory and it can't hurt to try and keep a psychological diary as well as a food diary can it?

The tale of...Stu (October 2003)

Found this website one late old night and thought I may be allowed to tell my story. As you all know it is difficult to get anybody to really listen and it is not exactly a nice topic to drop onto somebody at work or college (that's IBS and not this website ha ha).

Well last year I popped to the toilet and the next minute I thought I was going to die (heart racing, felt faint and sick and had some weird constipation and mixed-up stuff). At first I thought I was having some flashbacks to my heyday in the 90s (no such luck) I screamed to my fiance to call an ambulance.

Having paramedics burst in on you and you're covered in sweat and can hardly breath due to the pain was different for a Wednesday night. Went to hospital and they found nothing. After trying all kinds of drugs and healthy eating, my pains were still there. I found by accident that it wasn't so much what I ate but whether I ate it on a full stomach or not. My fail safe is pasta on an empty stomach, I get no reaction, it is soluble fiber that settles the colon apparently.

I quickly searched on the net for recipes high in soluble fiber and pretty much I have improved. I relapse and eat some stuff I shouldn't have like fatty or sweet stuff and I know about it at 9am the next day. Most significantly though I am on no medication and controlling it myself and this puts me in control of the IBS not the other way around. I think this is important as stress certainly can trigger the symptoms off.

I don't avoid insoluble fiber as it is essential for the body but I you eat it on a full stomach. Even though I have improved 100 per cent I know I can reduce this even more, it's willpower and the need to spend less time wondering whether I have finished or not. The only other way is to get a bag fitted to my ass and that isn't going to happen because the toilet is my thinking time. Remember people you are not alone and if it is any consolation I have the lowest pain threshold I have ever seen.

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