This is a wide-ranging overview of what irritable bowel syndrome is, what treatments are available, and what steps you can take to help yourself to better health. The probable causes of IBS are explained in both scientific and ordinary language, and readers are given advice on the range of physical and psychological changes which they can make to improve their symptoms.
The author of this book, Heather Van Vorous, has had IBS since she was a child, and now works as an IBS 'patient expert'. The First Year - IBS is a guide to what you need to learn and do each day of your first week after diagnosis, each subsequent week of the first month, and the following eleven months of the crucial first year.
Heather Van Vorous covers a wide range of practical, medical, and lifestyle issues, beginning with coming to terms with the diagnosis and then moving on to subjects including:
key strategies for symptom prevention
guidelines, tips, and recipes for understanding and modifying your diet
The First Year - IBS is a fantastic introduction to IBS for people who have just been diagnosed, as well as those who have suffered for months or years. As well as providing a good overview of the basics of IBS diagnosis and causes it also offers in-depth and very up-to-date information on the latest scientific research into IBS.
The section which explains the theory behind a mind-gut interaction as a cause for IBS is particularly good and very well explained. (Note: the 'mind-gut interaction' theory does not mean that IBS is all in your head, it just means that there are certain functions of the brain and digestive system which work differently in IBS patients).
The author of this book is Heather Van Vorous, who has suffered from IBS since she was nine years old. This gives her a great insight into the particular difficulties and embarrassments of living with IBS, and she is not scared to reveal elements of her own struggle to make the reader feel less alone. Throughout the book she is clearly on the side of the IBS sufferer.
The First Year - IBS covers all kinds of different treatment approaches, such as diet, yoga, alternative therapies, hypnotherapy and supplements. A huge number of different resources and further sources of information are listed, all geared to the UK audience. Heather Van Vorous also offers many smaller useful tips, such as specific tips for patients who have had their gallbladder removed.
The structure of the book is very handy, because it is broken down into different week and months, with a task for each week. For example, in one week you might investigate the use of fiber supplements, and in another you might try to find a self-help group nearby. This breaks the struggle down into easy chunks and makes the whole process of fighting IBS seem less daunting.
I would highly recommend this book to any IBS sufferer.
Review by Shelly
I started following this book in May 2005, and I am writing in December. Through trial and error before and during this past seven months I have found that following Heather's advice is the way to go. She has it figured. I found it's true that especially the saturated fats are truly one of the main triggers.
I place psychological help secondary to food as the main therapeutic value. Her additional sample menu for those who hate to cook makes her book very doable. It's nice that she has a website for discussion; that's important. I had done all the tests previously to rule out anything other than IBS, so I consider myself a classic IBS case.
It was four years before finding this heaven. How can something so hellish be so easy to correct...It took a lot of trust. What a wasted period for lack of any caring suggested remedy...The doctors left me broke.
Heather Van Vorous has kindly given permission for these extracts from The First Year - IBS to be published here.
This is a book I never intended to write. After all, why would I? Why write anything about IBS when for the first twenty years I suffered from the disorder I never once met someone else with the same problem? IBS wasn't something I even talked about with friends, let alone a topic I envisioned myself becoming some sort of 'expert' on. Just the thought conjured up awful visions along the lines of introducing myself with, 'Hi, my name's Heather. And this...is my colon.' Not exactly a glamorous path to fame and fortune. Embarrassment and isolation were more like it.
I honestly believe that, to this day, I still wouldn't have met another IBS sufferer had it not been for my first book, Eating for IBS. That book was as unexpected an event in my life as this one. It evolved from a two-page email letter I sent to people on IBS internet boards into a full-fledged website, and only from there, in quite a roundabout manner, did it eventually end up as an actual published book.
Once again, I was left to deal with the pain all alone and try to find the answers to my questions, blindly hoping that if I just searched long and hard enough I would be able to successfully overcome the disorder through my own attempts. Though it was difficult and at times extremely frustrating, over the course of many years that's exactly what happened.
The answers to my questions eventually came from 20 years of first-hand experience with countless trial-and-error discoveries, equally lengthy and ongoing research into applicable health and lifestyle issues, and extensive tracking of current scientific IBS findings. The answers I found form the chapters of this book.
My primary goal in writing The First Year - IBS has been to imagine the possibility of being transported back in time, so that I could give my younger self a guidebook for living with the disorder. What advice would have helped me then? What information and support did I need most? What exactly would I tell my nine year-old self if I really could go back in time?
The result is a sort of 'survivor's manual' that details the strategies needed to control IBS on both a short and long term basis - and I can't tell you how much I wish I really could send this book through a time machine to make it available to me back when I so urgently needed it.
Dietary guidelines, strategies, and recipes are covered, and some of this information overlaps that in Eating for IBS as diet is truly a crucial means for managing IBS. But there is also comprehensive and empathetic information about stress management, suggestions for dealing with friends and family members, advice to enable you to work around the illness while learning to overcome it, and detailed coverage of alternative therapies that may well help more than prescription medications.
There are also special sections throughout the book just for children with IBS and their parents, as they have unique concerns to be dealt with. These sub-chapters draw extensively from my own perspectives, experiences, and memories from childhood, and the issues they address remain very close to my heart.
Medical information is also given in detail, though in general physicians have had a poor track record when it comes to researching IBS (particularly in comparison to other chronic illnesses), and in fact very few studies were conducted until quite recently. As a result, there is much to be desired in how some medical professionals deal with this problem, and what they have to offer their IBS patients. Things are finally, fortunately, changing in this area, but it sure has been a long time coming. We're still nowhere near where we need to be in terms of medical solutions to what is indisputably a physical problem.
One of the fundamental tenets of this book, from day one through the end of your first year and beyond, is the idea that from this point forward you and your health must be a priority. You're worth it, so don't let anyone suggest otherwise. You will have to make time in your life to eat properly, exercise, manage your stress, try alternative therapies, and generally adjust your lifestyle to accommodate IBS by preventing the symptoms.
There's something very important to note here - you're probably already living your life around IBS, but in terms of dealing with the symptoms. Planning extra time in the bathroom, driving an inconvenient route that allows quick access to restrooms along the way, avoiding restaurants and travel, minimizing social occasions where you have to eat - all of these restrictions and deprivations should end. You will still spend time planning, but to prevent problems, not accommodate them.
The hours you've been wasting worrying about an attack, living in fear of one, or enduring one, will now be free. You will simply have to spend some of that time instead on a little daily lifestyle management to prevent the onset of attacks. This involves not just the avoidance of triggers, but taking active steps to maintain stable health on a continuous basis.
The calendar format of this book is well-suited to giving information about IBS in manageable segments (learning), and throughout each chapter you'll be walked through ways to take this new knowledge and actually apply it to your life (living). We'll start with a day-by-day guide to your first week that answers questions about what, exactly, IBS is, and how you can take control of the problem immediately. We'll then cover each subsequent week for your whole first month, and finally address each month for the rest of the year.
As you progress into later chapters and grow habituated to the various IBS management strategies, the learning and living elements of the book will be smoothly combined. This shift will allow you to broaden your focus and continually expand your most personally successful means of controlling symptoms to further-reaching areas of your life. You will continue to learn as you follow the months, but there will be a gradual transition as your knowledge begins to come from experience itself, and your living techniques will both respond to and reflect this changing mindset.
Should you wish to follow your own pace and adjust the calendar stages to better fit your needs, please feel free. Skip ahead to future chapters if they're relevant to you now, skim the whole book initially before tackling each section in-depth, or read each designated day, week, and month in strict order. The choice is yours. The structure of this book is meant only as a suggested means of managing the information you need to learn in order to live your life free from symptoms. It's important that you find a rate of progress you're comfortable with, whatever that may be.
I truly hope this book will be your shortcut to reaching a state of health, happiness, and confidence. May it give you the freedom to live your life however you choose, to go wherever you wish, whenever you want, and to eat, play, work, love, and laugh along the way. It took me almost two decades to get there, but then I had no one's help. Here's hoping that with this book you can reach that point well within your first year. Good luck and good health to you!