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sad tales: women with ibs-d page fourteen

The tale of...Jane (14 April 2005)

As a woman of 45 who has displayed varying symptoms of IBS since the age of 14 and was diagnosed at 19, I feel more than qualified to suggest possible causes of this debilitating disease! For me, the female hormonal cycle can't escape consideration; ovulation pains can trigger a particularly bad attack and period pains most definitely have their part to play.

Most significantly, about 12 years ago (after the birth of my third child) I was suffering particularly badly. In the end, my GP reluctantly decided to send off a stool sample. The tests came back negative, he said. 'Nothing sinister, all you have is a high yeast content.' OK, I thought, in my (then) ignorance.

So I continued feeling ill, tired, foggy-brained and generally awful. Now I strongly suspect candida was the culprit. Nothing I have read on this subject has caused me to doubt there was a definite connection between his throw-away remark and the way I was feeling.

Do I still have candida? Don't know, but although the chronic fatigue has eased, boy it comes back with a vengeance when I have had a 'toilet episode'! People do not realize how much my 'nervous stomach' (yup that's their favorite way of describing my life-limiting condition) affects me. It is definitely hereditary; my beloved (deceased) mother had it, my sisters have varying degrees of it - I was the lucky one who got the worst condition! Now my daughter has been diagnosed with it.

I think the worst part of it is the embarrassment; the fear of being out in public and people knowing you are going again and again to the toilet - horrendous. Just talking about it now helps. Hope some of my comments strike a chord with someone and perhaps even help.

E-mail Jane: [email protected]

The tale of...Kelley (17 April 2005)

I am a 21 year-old who has been suffering from IBS since I was about 10. When I was in the third grade I would get these horrible gassy stomach aches after every meal. During school I would beg my teachers to let me go home because I could hardly stand up. It went away for about four years while I was in high school, which made everyone think that my stomach aches were due to stress.

After graduating high school I started getting these horrible gassy stomach aches again. I went to the doctor and she said it was anxiety and put me on Zoloft. Well, the Zoloft didn't help and I went back to the doctors. She sent me to a specialist OBGYN who diagnosed me with endometriosis and I had a surgery to fix it.

Well guess what? I still didn't feel well after the surgery, the pains where still there, but now I had constant diarrhea. I have a full-time job now, and I have to be out the door by eight in the morning, Well, that never works because when I wake up in the morning I feel horrible. I feel like I have the stomach flu.

Usually I can make it through work, but there are times when my stomach is so bad I sit in the bathroom crying, and having a panic attack. The doctors have done many tests including sticking their fingers up my butt. They have diagnosed me with IBS, and are trying to find a medication that works for me. In the meantime I do deep-breathing exercises and try not to panic, but it doesn't work. I am trying to keep a positive outlook on it in the hope that it changes how I feel.

E-mail Kelley: [email protected]

The tale of...Chelsey (21 April 2005)

Throughout high school my IBS was pretty well under control. I went to the bathroom several times a day, but luckily at that time didn't need any medication for the symptoms I was having. After being in an abusive relationship at 16 my symptoms worsened to the point that I could barely eat, I pretty much ate Maalox tablets all day and clocked in at the doctor's at 88 and a half pounds. My GP diagnosed me with IBS, and put me on an anti-depressant that made me gain weight and helped me to be 'hungry' again.

At 17 when the ordeal was mostly over I met Keith, who one of my close art class friends had introduced me to. Needless to say, he's the man of my dreams and we've been together almost five years now. Engaged. And going to graduate school. He's completely turned my life around.

Over the past few years I gained the weight back to where I should be (since I'm only five feet tall I weighed around 115) and all seemed to be well. We moved out of our parents' homes to live together and go to college at the age of 18. I ended up still putting more weight on...by the age of 21 I weighed 167 (pretty hefty for my frame) and on my 22nd birthday is where it all began.

At the time I was working at a veterinary hospital and after a night of eating party foods wasn't feeling too bad. I remember around 7:30 having these horrible sudden stomach pains. Running to the bathroom I thought I was just going to have bad diarrhea from a bug I may have caught or something. Pouring with sweat and aching they sent me home early.

After getting home I proceeded to 'go' blood, and when I was still going in the morning my parents told me to go to a doctor. They did tests which showed the obvious, blood in my stool, and referred me to a specialist.

My specialist admitted me to the hospital for a colonoscopy (ugh) and to sum it all up, after two night and three days in the hospital I was diagnosed with diverticular disease, a bad gallbladder, and colitis. I ended up going to see a GI later who said he wasn't totally convinced I had had an attack of diverticulitis, even though I have the diverticulosis. He said he was sure it was severe IBS.

Needless to say, he prescribed me Levsin SL (which happens to work for me, I'm very lucky that it does), and off I went. To this day, I started out as IBS-diarrhea (which was never really diarrhea, but was loose and happened around four times a day) and now I have bouts of both, going two days with diarrhea, and another with constipation.

I take Metamucil every day which seems to help my stool form, and I've also had an attack where I woke up at 3am with horrible upper abdominal pains to the point where I was hunched over crying and begging for help or any kind of relief from the pain. I pray to God it doesn't happen again. My fiancè was very close to taking me to the ER. It seemed like after I relieved myself I was better and took one of my pills, the cramping stopped and I could go back to sleep. Fitfully of course.

Things that seem to work for me other than my pills that I have to take four times a day - eating fruits, especially apples, seems to help me a lot. Since I was hospitalized six months ago I have lost almost 40 pounds and feel healthier. I still have my IBS attacks every month, and go back and forth between D and C (seems to be a constant battle).

Even though someday I'll still need to have my gallbladder out, I'm continuing a strict diet and still trying to find little hints about how to help the cramping and abdominal discomfort that I have almost daily. Not to mention the bloated feeling, gas, etc that goes along with my IBS. But I wish you all the best of luck, God bless you all and hope you can all find some comfort.

The tale of...Liz (April 2005)

My whole life, I have always had symptoms of IBS. Even my mother has had similar problems. When I was 16, though, it went full speed ahead. In less than five months, I lost 40 pounds (155 down to 110). I was afraid to eat anything. When I did eat, it went right through me. So, of course I didn't absorb any of it.

After fighting it for a while and hearing accusations of being anorexic, I finally went to the GI. I had done my own research according to my symptoms and made the assumption that IBS was the cause of all this. Since loss of so much weight wasn't a symptom I had come across, I decided to be safe and get it checked out.

I did the barium testing (anyone who has done this understands when I say 'Casper poop'). I did the special diets with the stool samples (having poo in your fridge really isn't visitor friendly).

And, finally, they informed me that I would need a colonoscopy. I was terrified! I was convinced that a 19 year-old shouldn't have to do such a thing! I went through with it and, honestly, it wasn't that bad. The induced diarrhea was much less painful then what I was used to!

After it all, they diagnosed me with IBS. My GI offered me pills but not without a cost. The side effect was 'severe fatigue'. Being a full-time student and a full-time manager at a restaurant/brewery doesn't allow for that.

I am now about to be 20 and still struggling. I wonder if people can develop social anxiety disorder from IBS. I don't go out much anymore, and if I do, I am paranoid and uncomfortable...understandably. I am so fed-up, though. I am 20 years old and I feel 80. I shouldn't have to deal with all this.

I have supportive friends, family, and a boyfriend. But I don't think they see that my jokes are just a cover-up. I have tried high fiber diets, but it only makes it worse. The most successful diet for me consists of carbs, carbs, carbs...and sometimes some chicken or veggies. My weight is still all over the place causing me to buy new clothes frequently. The saddest thing...my boyfriend says one day...'This sucks, I can't even take my girlfriend out for a romantic dinner on our anniversary.'

E-mail Liz: [email protected]

The tale of...Alison (April 2005)

I have been suffering from IBS for about eight years, since the age of 26, but I actually think that it may have been going on since I was a teenager at least. As a teenager, I competed in sport every weekend and suffered with extreme anxiety, which affected my bowels.

I have experienced all the classic symptoms of IBS for years, but took more notice when I was bleeding for five months during a very stressful job. I was finally diagnosed with IBS following a recent colonoscopy which was extremely painful, despite sedation.

I notice that I am affected by the stress of life and also from past childhood trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder and consequent family breakdown. Symptoms often improve when I experience more emotional security and have released any repressed emotions, following psychotherapy.

I am highly sensitive to food - even very healthy organic food which indicates that my emotional life has a large part in my IBS. I know that when I manage more normal bowel control that I am literally 'getting a grip' on my life and this feels great!

I think that it is important not to become too 'neurotic' about IBS, yet learn enough to make diet and lifestyle changes and receive therapies that improve symptoms, so that one can make the best out of life. I do suspect that the general disconnection with the earth and nature through modern lifestyles in the West also plays a part in the disturbance of the bowel.

Many of us no longer grow our own vegetables or live 'close' to the earth. Maybe we are becoming psychologically and physically affected by living in a consumer society. I have often noticed how I sink into a good feeling in my bowels when I do some gardening and spend time in the countryside!

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