If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, life can become a bit of a challenge. Your lifestyle can become affected. In the more severe cases, the symptoms can be unpredictable, debilitating and even traumatic.
IBS not only affects the sufferer, it also affects the people around you – family, friends, co-workers, employers, and basically anyone that may interact with you.
Some of your symptoms such as urgency, diarrhea and gas can cause some social discomfort and embarrassment, leaving you feeling anxious, leaving you wanting to confine yourself to home and never leave.
Embarrassing incidents leave you even more nervous about social interaction and the simplest things like grocery shopping can be a challenge. Imagine shopping for clothes and worrying about having an episode while trying something on. Or attending a family event and not being able to eat or drink because you know you will be running to the bathroom every few minutes. Or dreading going on a date because in your mind, you are sure you will have an embarrassing episode.
Imagine being like this all your life, every day. “Why me?”
When Others Don’t Understand Your Condition
It’s hard for others to understand your predicament because they don’t know typical IBS symptoms. Unless you have experienced IBS, you have no idea. You may not WANT to talk about it, but you NEED to, at least to the people in your life.
If you have IBS you probably have heard such comments as:
You can’t eat that either? Really?
It’s all in her head. She’s just fussy.
You stay so skinny and you don’t have to diet. Lucky you!
You said you can’t eat that but just try a little of it.
Sure you can come to dinner but I’ll have to make something different for you.
I get an upset stomach sometimes too, but I don’t make such a big deal of it.
You’re not a lot of fun to be with sometimes when your IBS acts up.
She’s anti-social. She never eats or drinks with us and she always leaves suddenly.
They don’t want to be cruel or insensitive, they just don’t understand.
Compassion and Caring for You
IBS is a condition you have, it’s not who you are. Instead of shame, you should feel compassion toward yourself. You’re as deserving as anyone to enjoy life. Others may feel uncomfortable about talking about it at first, but if they know they’ll be more helpful and understanding.
IBS can affect your mood, your daily activities and energy level along with your general well-being. You may feel ostracized and feel that people are avoiding you. You may want to just stay away from people because you feel embarrassed or that may be imposing on others.
Simple outings can become complicated and managing the symptoms can sometimes be a struggle. But there are ways to help you cope. You and your healthcare provider can work together to identify what triggers the symptoms and develop a plan that will work for you. Taking care of YOU is the most important step. Maintaining good health will not only reduce your symptoms but also your stress level.
Living with IBS becomes simpler when you accept the fact that your life will be different. You will learn to adjust accordingly. Some steps may be simpler than others. You can start by not worrying about when your next flare will happen. Follow simple guidelines but don’t stop living.
Getting on with Your Life
There is no cure for IBS, but with some help and guidance, you can learn to live with IBS.
Take an active role in the management of your IBS. Don’t let it control you.
Keep a log of your flares to identify what you were doing, eating, drinking when symptoms worsened. If it was a certain food that set it off, take it off your diet plan or find an alternative.
Learn about IBS – do your research. The more you know about it, the more options you will have at your disposal. Take care to identify the sources of information that are accredited and trustworthy. Not all information out there is provided by experts. If you have any doubts, ask your doctor, dietician or healthcare professional.
Stay active physically and socially. Don’t hide. Moral support and human interaction will help you take your mind off your IBS and give you the emotional boost you need to cope.
Eat well. Don’t skip meals. Even though certain foods may trigger flares, it’s imperative that you maintain good health, energy and a strong immune system by adopting a healthy diet. Supplements can help you boost your immune system. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you. Consult a dietitian to outline a meal plan. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what you can eat without triggering symptoms.
Medication may be recommended by your doctor to help you with your symptoms. Make sure you follow your doctor’s directions to the letter. Don’t skip doses or take more than prescribed. When discussing medications with your doctor, make sure you tell them about any other medications you are taking, prescription or off the shelf.
Learn to relax. Don’t automatically assume you will have an embarrassing episode if you leave the house. Anxiety can trigger IBS symptoms.
You’re not alone. You would be surprised how many people have IBS. Join support groups. There are several out there. Sharing to others with IBS may lead you to better ideas for controlling your IBS and certainly provide much needed moral support.