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happy tales: men with ibs-d page two

The take of...Mark (December 2003)

When I think back, the earliest indications of this came from cigarette smoking in my late teens and early 20s. I carried mail when first out of high school. Have a cigarette early in the morning, go to the toilet, carry my route for the day. It seemed an easy way to control my bowels. Later, the bowel effects went away; but I began a gradually increasing problem with indigestion. Cigarettes, alcohol, and diet all contributed. By my late 30s I had had a particularly bad bought with gastritis and a gallbladder attack where I passed the stones.

Then, one morning in my early 40s, I lit a cigarette at work and immediately trotted off to the bathroom. Came out, somewhat stricken by the intensity of the experience, had another cigarette and another run to the toilet. After the third cigarette and the third case of D, I began to see a correlation.

Thus began my daily struggle with bowels and digestion. Cut back on smoking and finally quit in my late 40s. By that time I had dietary triggers all over the place. Began to experience acid reflux to top it all off.

In 1998, stricken by x-rays that showed evidence of cholesterol blockages, I began to take a grapeseed-based supplement called Provex CV, to improve my cardiovascular system. Within the first couple of weeks I began to notice a change in my bowels. A little more control, a little longer time to get to the toilet.

After about a month I knew it was having a positive effect. At some point I also realized that my indigestion had calmed down. I have never had another case of reflux since then.

Over the next year consistency, motility and frequency all improved until I had reached a point that it was no longer an issue. Still my system has continued to improve. Three times a day. Twice a day. This January I began to add a little fiber to my diet and reduced it to once a day. This fall I began to add omega three oil (fish oil) to my diet and the consistency of my movements truly looks normal.

Oh, yes. My cholesterol, which always got me a lecture from my doctors since the first reading over 20 years ago, has not been a problem since the fall of 1998. I don't know what percentage of us will have the same level of relief with this, but I have helped others control their diarrhea with the same supplement.

E-mail Mark: [email protected]

The tale of...Paul (4 January 2005)

I have been suffering from IBS for the past six years. I had problems with all the trigger foods like alcohol, coffee, Chinese food, spicy foods etc. I had always relied on Imodium and sometimes it did not work if I took it too much. I had to be very careful with my Imodium usage.

I was feeling very depressed and I had anxiety problems. This was especially bad because I had to travel and it was really giving me sleepless nights months before my travel.

I recently came across this website and read the story posted by Linda. She had mentioned that she was taking calcium carbonate and it really helped her. I decided to try it. Instead of going for Caltrate Plus, I tried Tums. I took one in the morning along with a spoonful of flaxseed.

It was like magic, all my bloating feeling disappeared and I had no diarrhea. I also stopped drinking coffee. I have been trying it for a week and it seems to work, except on New Year's Eve when I went to a party and decided to have a couple of drinks. Even though I had taken Tums I had an IBS attack the next day. I suffered for the whole day.

So, in essence, no alcohol, no coffee and taking a Tums in the morning before breakfast seems to have fixed my problem. I am going to be very careful on what I eat and continue with my one Tums. Good luck to anybody who wants to try this.

The tale of...Paul (March 2005)

I am writing to inform you of a way in which my IBS symptoms have been relieved. I have suffered from diarrhea-predominant IBS for around eight years, since suffering from a viral infection.

I have had the usual medical tests, eg: sigmoidoscopy etc to rule out any other condition or disease, and basically my life has been a living hell, particularly over the last year where a normal day for me was to have around five or six bowel movements a day (accompanied by lots of pain and bloating.) My worst day was about a month ago where I had 15 bowel movements. (Sorry that this information is so graphic but with this condition you learn to overcome your loss of dignity!)

As you will no doubt realize this has made holding down a job very difficult, but luckily I have an employer who has been fairly understanding about this condition (most of the time!). I recently decided to go back to my GP, and she prescribed 30mg of Codeine three times a day to try and stop my bowel movements from being so frequent. This has helped to reduce the number of bowel movements that I have per day dramatically.

I have also tried a supplement called Esdifan which contains Calcium, vitamin B12 and a mineral called Zeolite. This has definitely helped with the pain and the bloating that I would suffer from. This condition has dominated my life for the last eight years but now I actually feel hopeful for the future.

E-mail Paul: [email protected]

The tale of...Jake (23 September 2006)

After reading some of these stories I realize that I may not have as severe a case of IBS as some people. But I've definitely had my share of racing for the toilet, leaving parties and dinners early, running red lights on the way home, etc. One time I had to go so bad in this awful bar with the worst toilet in all of Chicago. There was no stall and the toilet was disgusting. To top it off, there was no toilet paper so you know what I did? I took off my underwear and got it wet in the sink and used that! I had to throw out my underwear and go commando the rest of the night!

Women - I will dare to say that you do have it a tiny, tiny bit easier because men's rooms rarely have stall doors and guys routinely pee all over the seat. Not fun. Also, women disappear into the bathroom for hours to fix their make-up, have a chat, etc. We men never know what you're doing in there! Whereas if a guy is in there longer than 15 seconds, everybody knows he's taking a crap!

Anyway, on to the self-help advice. The thing that I found has helped me the most recently is that I started to get a bit scientific about paying attention to my body and reaction to foods. This probably sounds gross, but I try to identify the food when it comes back out! Some foods are easy, like corn for example. The thing that this helped me to discover is that not only do foods have various negative and positive effects, but their effects have different timing.

It took me a long while to figure out that spicy food was messing up my system because it doesn't cause problems until about two days later. Whereas eating red meat or drinking coffee will cause an almost instant reaction for me. Eating a green salad, on the other hand, is extremely helpful - but it doesn't start to have an effect for two or three days.

I don't know why this is, but once I started paying more attention it has been a major change for me. I eat a lot of salads and avoid spicy food now and that has had a huge, huge effect. Also, I like knowing that I am taking a healthy approach as opposed to eating a bunch of garbage and then trying to reverse nature with a pill. I know everyone's situation is different and medication is the right choice for some people. But for me if I can remove the cause that is preferable to treating the symptoms.

The other related problem for me is the feeling that I have to go urgently, but then I can't go. That one probably messes me up the most because that's when you have to go to the bathroom over and over and never get any relief. At least with diarrhea you get it over with! The constipation is really torture that keeps on going.

I've noticed that the nerves and feelings in my digestive system are sensitive but not exactly precise. For instance, the spicy food - I'll start to feel like an emergency is coming on within about eight hours of eating. But it's only working its way through my system at this point. I won't be ready to actually crap it out yet (excuse the grossness) but I'll have cramps and feel like I have to go.

My colon seems to just send a generic distress signal to my brain and it's hard to distinguish between that and truly having to go. I might feel this way for a whole 24 hours before the inevitable happens. So, I try now to be very sensitive to my body and sometimes I can feel the difference now. Though I still have uncomfortable cramps it does save me a few fruitless trips to the bathroom.

I've also found that if I'm at home where I can go to the bathroom whenever I want at a moment's notice, I'll try not to go to the bathroom until I absolutely have to. A lot of times the cramps will just pass if you don't try to force it. If I try to go constantly, it's always worse. If I wait as long as possible, that seems to let my system 'catch up' or whatever. Of course, it's better to avoid the bad food in the first place, but we can't be good all the time!

I hope that my information is helpful to someone. It's probably just common sense, but nobody ever gave me this advice, I feel like I've had to figure it out for myself.

The tale of...Chris (September 2006)

I had very bad IBS from 1989 to 2004/05, by which I mean I was in constant fear of soiling myself, worried about getting on a bus or visiting someone else's house, and never got a full night's sleep. I did however develop an almost supernatural ability to find suitably concealed places in which to relieve myself.

I had given up on the standard medical response a very long time ago and had decided to live with it, but having read a Danish document (I'm a translator by trade) about the 'azole' group of drugs, I decided to try that route. I had already convinced myself that my IBS was due to an imbalance in the gut flora.

The whole thing had started after a course of antibiotics for an earache. It began with vast amounts of wind, then gradually the foul-smelling stools, blood and severe stomach cramps, all of which I interpreted as a change in the gut flora as the bad stuff took a hold and got settled.

It occurred to me that if 50% of the dry weight of excrement consists of dead bacteria, they must play an extremely important part in digestion and the production of gas. The fact that I was producing something that was frankly toxic must therefore be due to an altered internal flora. There was something living in there that shouldn't have been there, and my body wanted rid of it - as quickly as possible. I reasoned that it was this process and the presence of toxins produced by the unwelcome guests that was irritating my gut.

So, back to the treatment: I persuaded my GP to prescribe some itraconazole (trade name Sporanox) and the change was instant. The gas and bloating went and my stools returned to normal. At the time I didn't realize that this needed management, so over time the IBS returned. I tried the itraconazol a few more times, but eventually it became ineffective as the yeast became tolerant.

More recently, with my condition as bad as it had ever been, I decided to try herbal anti-mycotics (substances that kill yeast, in this case the presumed candida albicans) and started with a grapefruit seed extract. This restored some normality and at least removed the urgency. Next I tried out pao d'arco (the scrapings of the inner bark of a Brazilian tree). This turned out to be the miracle drug.

Having eliminated the yeast from my gut, I started eating live yogurt in order to repopulate my gut. Over the following months I managed any deterioration with more pao d'arco and live yogurt, and now I hardly ever need to take anything. I no longer consider myself to have IBS and I can eat and drink anything - spicy food and neat spirits included. I can now enjoy the sensation of pushing a fart out (I'm sorry about this, but I'm sure you'll understand), I move my bowels once or twice a day and my stools are hard and have a wonderful, healthy farmyard aroma, as they should.

Update on Chris...

I previously posted about how I cured my IBS using a herbal product called pao d'arco (a natural antimycotic) based on my conviction that my IBS was caused by a yeast infection in my gut. I recently had occasion to put this to the test when I was prescribed a broad spectrum antibiotic for an unrelated rash. As expected, all the familiar symptoms returned. This situation persisted for some months so I can be fairly certain that it was not a temporary condition.

I then repeated the cure using pao d'arco followed by live yogurt (one particular brand and - curiously - flavor seemed to do the trick) and once again it did the trick. I'm not prepared to risk inducing IBS a third time, so that's as far as this unofficial trial goes. As I understand it, there may be many different causes for IBS, but perhaps this might work for a few more people out there.

E-mail Chris: [email protected]

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