My IBS Journey

This week, I thought I’d talk you through my history with a chronic syndrome: IBS. My original idea for a tagline for this blog was ‘Books and Bowels’, because I love reading and literature, and I have been reading more blogs about people’s experiences with IBS, due to a very bad flare-up last year into this year.

What is IBS?
IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The NHS defines it as ‘a common condition that affects the digestion’, causing symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and stomach cramps[1]. I know this can be considered a bit of a ‘gross’ or taboo subject to talk about, but I think it’s important, as it affects about 20% of the UK population, who have up to six episodes per year.[2] It’s usually a life-long condition, which, while not dangerous, can have a serious impact on someone’s life. There’s no cure, but things can be done to manage it and the exact cause is unknown, but it could be linked to various lifestyle and genetic factors.[3]

My Personal IBS Journey

The Beginning
I was first diagnosed with IBS when I was 12 years old and my symptoms have varied a lot over the years. My mum took me to our family GP when I displayed a severe lack of appetite. This then progressed to severe abdominal cramps that would often force me to lie down for several hours until they passed (and were unrelated to my periods). Over the next few years, I was prescribed a variety of anti-spasmodic medications that would work for a few months, before stopping working again. I also tried a pro-biotic supplement, which helped a little, but I found very embarrassing to use as a teenager – they required refrigerating and had to be taken several times a day, meaning I had to take them with me to school and to sleepovers at friends’ houses.

Progress
At 18 years old, I was diagnosed with depression, received counselling and eventually started taking anti-depressants, which I am still on to this day. I also tried the Low Fodmap diet, but as the research was very new in 2012, I didn’t follow it very exactly and only found that lactose seemed to worsen my symptoms. Between cutting down on lactose and the treatments for my depression, my IBS improved significantly, although I would still have flare-ups when my stress levels were high, particularly at university.

Latest flare-up
Last year, in about mid-June, my symptoms began to get worse again. By this point, I was no longer having the abdominal cramps, but would often feel bloated and gassy, as well as being nauseous at lot. I had been given anti-emetics in about 2010, but these had been taken off the market in the interim, due to complications in certain cases. I put it down a combination of stress from planning my wedding, drinking more coffee because of being busy starting my business and lowering my anti-depressants and didn’t think much of it.

In August 2019, my husband and I got married and went on honeymoon. While we had a fantastic time, I was often unable to eat, because my symptoms were so severe. I would feel nauseous and breathless and anxious when eating out and became so ill with my symptoms that I lost weight and barely left the house for several months.

From September, I was given a variety of new medicines to try from my GP, but none had a huge effect and so was referred to the gastroenterology department at the hospital.

In December 2019, I had my first appointment at the hospital. Given my history, the specialist rediagnosed me with possible IBS, possible abdominal migraine and cyclical nausea and was started on a course of two new drugs that would treat the problems by treating how my body provokes these symptoms, rather than by masking the symptoms themselves. I would say that these have taken the daily nausea down from a 10 to a 1 on average, but I still have some days that are worse than others.

Living with IBS: Next Steps
So what now? I had a second hospital appointment in March and was referred for further tests (a gastroscopy and an ultrasound) and referred to a dietician to try the Low Fodmap diet again. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus outbreak, these have now been postponed and I don’t know when I will get further answers. But I will keep you posted and let you know how it all goes! For now, I will soon be posting on my tips for dealing with nausea with IBS, as there are very few resources out there and taking it a day at a time and seeing how we go.

Do you live with IBS or another chronic illness? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, on my email or on Instagram!


[1] ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), NHS, 9 October 2017, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/

[2] ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)’, Bupa, n.d., Source: https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/digestive-gut-health/irritable-bowel-syndrome

[3] ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), NHS, 9 October 2017, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/

Published by verityroat

Verity Roat BA CANTAB MA TRANSLATION CIOL Career Associate is a UK-based Arabic and French > English translator, Copy-writer, Copy-editor, Transcriber, Role-player & Tutor.

2 thoughts on “My IBS Journey

  1. Thank you for writing so honestly about your experience with IBS. My 17-year-old daughter had been suffering from this affliction for years. She has had to miss out on so many things and it has taken a toll on her mental health. I defy anyone living with chronic pain not to be affected emotionally. I wish more research could be done. I suspect it’s an autoimmune condition. I just wish it had a more glamorous name which would make it more easy to discuss. We have tried so many things to help, including seeing a very expensive doctor in functional medicine – helped to a limited extent. Most helpful interventions have been the low FODMAP diet, CBT and physio (I recommend looking into pelvic floor dysfunction and also the role of the vagus nerve). We‘re about to trial CBD oil. I understand what a tough journey it can be – you’re not alone 🙂

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    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment! I totally wish there was more research into it and agree that it could be an autoimmune condition – I think sadly that because it’s mostly experienced by women and girls, it’s not a top priority! Oh I’d never though of it being linked to pelvic floor dysfunction. I’m waiting for the whole COVID-19 situation to calm down and then I can see my specialist again, I’ll try bringing it up then if other interventions don’t help.

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