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The tale of...Mark (16 March 2005)

Well my story all began four years ago. Living in a town 30 miles away from work (due to the cost of living near my new job being too high) I had my initial meeting with IBS. There was a lot of stress at the time, my wife (just married) hated where we lived and so did I.

It all started innocently enough. I had a Chinese takeaway - they never did sit well with me but my wife loved them so I let her have her way, boy do I wish that I hadn't. I was in agony, not having a clue what it was and getting scared when it didn't go after three days. I thought I had food poisoning. I went to the doctor, a very impatient ex-army doctor who was more interested in me being overweight than giving a damn about my stomach cramps and loose stools.

Almost as suddenly as this began, it stopped, and I was OK. I put it down to experience (dodgy takeaway!) and moved on. Three weeks later it was back, and for no reason that I could tell. My symptoms lasted for a year this time, right over Xmas (which was the worst I had ever had).

I saw an emergency doctor on Boxing Day 1999 who sympathized but didn't have a clue. I even went to accident and emergency, and saw a very young doctor who gave me some Gaviscon and sent me home. Two days of sitting on the toilet doing the IBS prayer (a special prayer for the digestively-challenged! Sit on the toilet with your arms buried in the pit of your stomach and shout out for God to help you!).

And it was New Year's Eve, 1999. Yes, the millennium. In desperation I tried my Dad's remedy (for everything from a toothache to a flat tyre) of Kaolin and Morphine. That did seem to ease it and I can remember sitting in an armchair at my wife's gran's house tasting the horrible taste in my mouth wondering when I would be high enough on the morphine!

After Xmas I decided that I had to get away from where we lived. I started a new job in the September of that year meaning I could move back to an area we knew. Things did seem to get a bit better (slowly) and I was not in as much pain. Slowly but surely I started to go to the pub with my team at lunch time, I even dared myself to try a Guinness! Heaven for 15 minutes, hell for three days! But by the November I was OK again, almost back to my pre-IBS days.

My wife fell pregnant in the January (hooray!) and things looked great. Then I had another attack, June 2001. Stupid of me. I had eaten fish and chips at lunchtime (very rare for me, but remember my tum was OK at the time) then felt a bit naughty and had a cream bun. I was OK if a bit stuffed.

Then my wife met me from work - 'Let's go out for dinner!' she cried. 'Oh great' I said, but it wasn't long before I was the one crying. One large burger with all the trimmings later and I was sitting at 5am next morning with stomach cramps from Slough (er...I mean hell!). This attack lasted just three months, but they weren't the best three months ever, trust me.

My son was born on the 28th September and my life changed totally, my IBS almost totally cleared up and apart from several small attacks (all my own fault, chocolate ice cream at the cinema, strong curries etc, how I miss curry!) I had been completely fine. Thought I was over it.

Just to show how fine I was - I had moved jobs several times in this blissful period, bought a house, seen my parents through three knee operations (two for Mum, one for Dad in case you thought that my Dad was Jake the Peg or something!), seen my son develop dyspraxia, go through a bullying lawsuit (I was the victim!) in one job and also welcomed my new daughter into the world on the 7th April last year. I'd sorted out our finances, everything was just great.

Then just before Xmas this year I tried some latte coffee with my French boss. It was delicious, I kept having it, every other day or so. All OK.

Then I started getting more and more diarrhea, more slight cramps, nothing too bad but I was trying to lose weight (very successfully I might add) so put it down to hunger.

Then I got more into my new job, Project Manager at a very large US-based automotive company, they are everywhere, blue oval? I found it was quite stressful; all the senior management blamed me for everything!

Then my daughter contracted a stomach bug, I seemed to get it too. But much worse.

Then whilst visiting a customer I was sitting at a hot desk when my bottom decided to see how fast it could make me run the 200 meters. Stomach cramps and an hour later I was on my way home to face a heady cocktail of diarrhea mixed with agony and large doses of embarrassment.

At the beginning of my long and probably anesthetizing tale I had a very bad bout of food poisoning. It only lasted 24 hours but I was vomiting and having diarrhea at the same time. I have always thought that this was the cause of it but never been 100% sure. Has anyone else ever 'caught' IBS like this?

I'd be glad to talk to any men around my age (29) who have had any experience. Women tend to suffer most from these types of things and I find that most groups do have a female bias (rightly so, they are by far the people who suffer the most frequently). However I find that dealing with my symptoms are particularly hard as I am the sole breadwinner for my young family, and if I don't work, I don't get paid!

You know the thought of that makes my stomach hurt! Looking forward to hearing from anyone in a similar situation to me.

E-mail Mark: [email protected]


The tale of...Shane (22 March 2005)

It has been about eight or nine years since being diagnosed with IBS, and it has been nothing but hell for me. Going to work I have to make sure that I know where a toilet is along the route, when going to the shops I go before I leave home, and then I sit in the car because I start to feel light-headed and as if I am going to be sick.

Being at a party is the worst for me, because of all the people, and even at my own parties I feel ill. There have also been embarrassing times where I haven't been able to make it to the toilet in time, and for me being 30+ it's not the nicest of feelings when you've soiled yourself.

I have tried special diets and even tried aloe juice which was working for a while, even to a stage where I didn't need it any more. I'm still suffering with IBS, and would like to one day go into a shopping center with my wife and do some shopping with her or without.

E-mail Shane: [email protected]


The tale of... Brian (March 2005)

In brief, I have had a gastrointestinal problem since about 1996. It reached its height after a year or so when any exercise made it far worse. A GP said 'definitely not irritable bowel syndrome'. I saw a consultant at a hospital and introduced myself with the phrase 'It seems to be a case of IBS'. He snapped back at me 'Don't tell me what I already have in front of me' - a note from the GP who had told me it was not IBS. This rather spoilt the interview.

He prescribed mebeverine which produced no detectable effect. Neither did Colpermin peppermint oil capsules I had tried previously. Another consultant said 'Nothing to do with your diet' whereas a GP had blamed it on my diet. I guess such contradictions are typical of the problem.

It was especially bad a few years ago, having been being quite painful just to step off the pavement. There was a marginal improvement over years. I suggested the only other antispasmodic listed in the BNF, alverine citrate. The pain was reduced almost immediately and I became far more comfortable, but it did not reduce other symptoms. I needed to take it at double the maximum recommended higher dose, so as a chemistry graduate, I wanted to look into its toxicology.

I found little on the internet, as it is a UK product not apparently available in the USA. The manufacturer refused to send me any details or even references to original papers on the product. Nor would it send the details to a US citizen who tried to get details for me. I have found a limited amount of information on it, but feel it really should not be so difficult to obtain detailed information on any pharmaceutical.

A GP suggested a tricyclic antidepressant which I refused. I have tried paroxetine and venlafaxine which have not caused any problems at all, maybe helping me to relax more easily, but they do not seem to have helped much with the problem itself.

After nearly a year or so I stopped taking alverine citrate to see what happened. The pain did not return. The other symptoms such as bloating are rather less severe than in the past, but are still a real nuisance. Hopefully the slow improvement will continue, but I expect it to take years.

My guess is that it is useless expecting a 'Zauberkugel' (magic bullet) from any drug for IBS (and probably for many other health problems). Drugs may help, but I guess many IBS sufferers would do much better if they could change their lifestyle. This is easier said than done in many cases. I spend far too long in front of a PC!


The tale of...Peter (March 2005)

Where do I start? Well, just thinking about it makes me want to cry...I am always in fear of an attack and don't know what to do...I don't know what to eat and I'm afraid to go out and eat. I'm afraid of eating at other people's homes...I'm afraid of eating out with friends such as when we go to drive-throughs. I am scared of eating, but I have no choice but to eat since I want to live.

Over 60 per cent of the time I have an attack...sometimes two to three weeks go by and no attack. This past week, three attacks in less than a week...can anyone help?

I take Dicetel but it does not seem to be 100 per cent effective, even some help from it would be nice. I even have times when I don't eat, but I go to the bathroom and still suffer... I do admit I worry a lot and I do suffer from anxiety, but how can I stop my worrying...I can go on and on but living with IBS is a nightmare, it's terrible.

I can't enjoy myself when I go out to restaurants... If there is anyone out there who sympathizes with me, I would like to hear from you...It's so sad and so depressing...Why me, I just don't understand it...I know that there are worse diseases out there, but I still do suffer and I wish that it would stop...

Within minutes of eating something, I rush to the bathroom and end up spending about a half an hour in there. My stools are usually soft, very light diarrhea if any, small thin stools and feel constipated during my visit to the bathroom... I have a girlfriend who loves me, a family as well and friends that are surprisingly supportive. I think they are what keep me going...

Update on Peter...

It's me again, Peter who continues to suffer. I just had a small bout of IBS and finally have some time to sit down on something other than the royal throne. I've read stories of people lacking the will power to live or to continue on and I can sympathize with them. The important thing to remember is that we are not alone and as we can see, others suffer from the same thing we do and that is IBS.

I have found that supervisors/bosses can be somewhat understanding as they too are people, sometimes, but it sometimes doesn't hurt to try and talk to someone at your work. I sometimes wonder to myself and think what is worse, somebody terminally ill or somebody with IBS. I guess people who are terminally ill if given the chance to pick, would pick irritable bowel syndrome over some terrible illness that they have.

I think what I am trying to say is that others have it worse than us. I myself have had to make changes in my diet and restrict myself from having dinner at a restaurant because I fear an attack. I have a loving and very understanding girlfriend who is there for me and I would not want to leave her alone without me in her life who she loves dearly.

I'm sure we all have special people in our lives who care about us and want us in their lives. Until next time I guess, take care of one another and I hope the best for everyone.

E-mail Peter: [email protected]


The tale of...John (March 2005)

I am a 52 year-old male with alternating diarrhea and constipation. I have had the symptoms since childhood but I was only diagnosed in 1990. Prior to this I was treated with tranquilizers (since 1975) for 'anxiety state'.

I stopped working in 1989 due to the severity of my condition (that will be 15 years next March). My main problem today is depression and isolation and I see a psychiatrist for this. Today I am not taking any medication as the side effects make me feel worse. I have tried most drugs including anti-depressants and major tranquilizers but they do not help.

Over the years I have tried many alternative/complementary therapies but nothing works for me. These are some of the things I have tried. Diet: excluding sensitive food, avoiding dairy products, no alcohol etc. Eating bio-yogurts, bulking agents, taking extra vitamins, honey and anything advertised as the latest cure for IBS.

I have tried hypnotherapy, meditation and holistic ideas all to no avail. I ran a self-help group in the early 1990s in London but nobody ever reported success in overcoming their symptoms.

To conclude, my situation today is one of isolation as I feel unable to leave home and if I do I have 'panic attacks'. My latest 'therapy' is to begin an exercise program but this is proving difficult to do. This is my first time using the world wide web and I would welcome any comments that other people with IBS would care to share with me.

E-mail John: [email protected]

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