Patient Perspective: Having IBS Causes Me So Much Anxiety

IBS Gives Me So Much Anxiety

I am 62 years old and have been dealing with symptoms of IBS for close to 15 years.  I’ve had countless accidents in public – at events, friends houses, you name it.  The early days of having the condition were mortifying to me - I got pretty good at coming up with all sorts of excuses for why I need to leave a party or event early. But the isolation I think may be the worst. I just always felt like there was no one I could talk to about it and no one who would understand.

Luckily, my family has been supportive.  They don’t say much about it and just try to help with what they can. I know now to bring back up clothes and cleanup supplies everywhere I go.  I’ve also worked a lot with my doctor to develop an evolving treatment plan and ways to manage my IBS.

This condition has been so embarrassing for me and has caused me a great deal of stress throughout my life.  I’m constantly worried about having an accident, but that just makes me even more anxious and in turn triggers more accidents. It’s a vicious cycle that is so hard to break. 

The biggest things that have helped me are exercise, watching my diet, and taking up meditation. I find that exercising daily is a great stress reliever and also helps to get things moving, if you know what I mean.  It’s been a long road of trial and error to determine a diet that works for me, but cutting out beans, gluten, and sugary foods has seemed to really help.  Keeping a diary of what you eat and drink each day, and how it affects your bowels, can be a huge help in determining triggers and patterns. (Download our free diaries here!)

Finally, meditation has been a complete game changer. I’ve taken some classes, done a lot of self study, and have even found apps that have helped guide me through the process. Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed or anxious, even just a quick 5-minute meditation can be enough to calm my nerves, and seemingly, my bowels. I encourage everyone to give it a try – what do you have to lose?   

I think the most important thing is for people to keep some perspective on life and know that while this condition is a constant struggle, it doesn’t have to be limiting unless you allow it to be. Talk with your doctor, a nutritionist, a therapist – or all three if it helps! Find ways to manage it and cope with the stress. It really makes all the difference.  

Sherri K.,

Baton Rouge, LA

 

 

What Are The First Signs Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

What Are The First Signs Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that can cause painful stomach cramps and changes in the frequency, or type of bowel movements. IBS can be hard to diagnose since it can be triggered by a variety of things. And everyone’s trigger is different, and symptoms are not always consistent among patients. Finally, the symptoms of IBS also mimic that of other conditions, making it difficult to know for sure if you have it without talking to a doctor.  Below are some of the more common symptoms of IBS.

 

Signs And Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

 Abdominal pain or cramps.

This is one of the most common sigs of IBS, and usually occurs in the lower abdomen.  The pain typically goes away after a bowel movement. For many people, a change in diet can help with the pain. Medications also exist that can treat pain associated with IBS. 

Gas and bloating.

This is another common symptom of IBS. With IBS, extra gas is produced in the gut, and can cause bloating (which may also lead to pain mentioned above).  Again, certain changes in your diet may help reduce gas and bloating.

Diarrhea, constipation, or both. 

Some people with IBS may experience loose stools, or a sudden, immediate urge to have a bowel movement.  Others may experience constipation, which when accompanied by pain that improves following a bowel movement is a common sign of IBS. Still others may have alternating bouts of both diarrhea and constipation.

 Fatigue.

Feeling tired or a lack of energy is a common complaint in people with irritable bowel syndrome. This may be because certain vitamins that are essential to our well-being are not as readily absorbed when you have IBS. Additionally, disruptions in sleep due to increased symptoms of IBS may lead to a worsened quality of sleep, and increased tiredness throughout the day.

Food intolerance.

Different foods may trigger IBS in different people, but some common ones may include lactose and gluten, or FODMAPs, which are certain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine.  These include certain vegetables and fruits, beans, wheat and rye, some nuts, and sweeteners or artificial sweeteners.  Learn more about FODMAP diets here.

Pay attention to your diet to see what foods may be triggering your symptoms. A bowel diary can help you track this. (Download our free bowel diary here!)

Stress.

The symptoms of IBS may cause great distress and leave patients feeling overly stressed and anxious. Ironically, reactions of stress can actually lead to added IBS symptoms. Finding ways to reduce stress (like meditating or exercising regularly) may lead to less severe symptoms of IBS.

 

IBS can be a very painful and uncomfortable condition, but the good news is that it’s treatable. Not everyone with IBS will have all of these symptoms, but if you’re experiencing any of the conditions listed above, talk to your doctor. Together you can figure out a treatment plan that works for you.

 

What Is IBS?

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

We’ve all experienced bowel trouble at one time or another. But for some people, cramping, excess gas and loose stools (or not so loose stools) are all too common of an occurrence. If you suffer from these symptoms, you may have a condition called IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder and is not the same as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), which is a more serious condition and can cause more severe complications.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF IBS

  • Abdominal pain or cramping (this goes away once you have a bowel movement)

  • Excess gas and bloating

  • Diarrhea, or constipation (sometimes people with IBS experience both)

  • Changes in stool consistency or frequency

  • Mucus in the stool

  • Loss of appetite

CAUSES AND TRIGGERS OF IBS

It’s not completely clear what causes IBS, sometimes referred to as spastic colon, but many experts believe that people with IBS simply have a more sensitive colon.  Things such as changes in your gut bacteria could have a greater effect on you than on others. Some experts also believe that the condition is a result of problems with brain-gut interaction, or how your brain and gut communicate with each other.

And, just like other conditions, such as overactive bladder, IBS has it’s own triggers.

While everyone’s trigger might be different, there are some common ones:

FOODS IN YOUR DIET:

Depending on your symptoms, different foods may be causing you problems. If you suffer from constipation, some foods, such as breads and cereals, processed foods, high-protein diets, and dairy products (especially cheese) can contribute to you symptoms. If you’re making more trips to the bathroom because of diarrhea, things like too much fiber, large meals, fried and fatty foods, and dairy products can be a problem. And for either symptom, you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, or carbonated beverages.

HOW YOU EAT

It’s not just what you’re putting in your body that can have an effect on you, but how you eat can also impact your IBS symptoms. Eating too fast, or with distractions (like eating while you work or drive) can increase symptoms of IBS. Make sure to eat slowly and without disruptions.

STRESS AND ANXIETY

Stressful life events, or even certain mental conditions such as depression, can bring on symptoms of IBS.  Learning ways to stay calm and manage stress can be helpful tools in managing IBS symptoms.

HORMONAL CHANGES:           

Many women with IBS often experience an increase in symptoms around their menstrual cycle (in fact, 70% of people who live with IBS are women). While you can’t prevent your menstrual cycle from happening, it may help to find ways to better manage your symptoms. Birth control pills can sometimes lessen the effects of your periods, which may also help with IBS symptoms.

NOT ENOUGH EXERCISE:

Simply put, exercise can keep things moving if you’re suffering from bouts of constipation. And, as a widely known way of banishing stress, it’s helpful in keeping you calm and stress free, which can eliminate another trigger of IBS symptoms.

RISK FACTORS FOR IBS

IBS is a common disorder affecting up to 20% of US adults. IBS is not an old person’s condition either – it strikes young, often occurring in people before turning 35). The majority of sufferers are female (70%).  While not proven to be hereditary, people who have had family members with IBS may be at a greater risk for developing the condition themselves. 

DIAGNOSING IBS

Diagnosis for IBS is typically done at a doctor’s office through blood tests. If you suspect you have IBS, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms, and get tested for a diagnosis.

TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR IBS

COUNSELING

If you suffer from a lot of anxiety, or have experienced a traumatic event, speaking with a counselor can help you work through some of those feelings and may help ease your IBS symptoms in the process.

DIET CHANGES

Making some changes to what you eat can have a big effect for some people experiencing IBS symptoms. Try eliminating some of the problem foods listed above to see if you experience any relief.

BIOFEEDBACK

This technique involves training your body to have more control over your bowels, and has been proven an effective tool in managing IBS symptoms. Learn more about biofeedback here.

MINDFULNESS

Practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to result in a reduction of IBS symptoms. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and has been thought to reduce stress and calm the mind. 

MEDICATIONS

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help you manage. Fiber supplements or anti-diarrheal medications can help manage constipation and diarrhea, and antidepressant medications may help you manage symptoms of stress and anxiety, which are common triggers of IBS. There are also medications specifically approved by the FDA to treat certain symptoms of IBS.

IBS can be a very painful and debilitating condition for some people, and while it is not life-threatening, it is a long term condition that should be treated. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms and work with him or her to find a treatment option that works for you.