How To Live With Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Story of My Own
How to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome sounds kind of like a silly question, but it’s not!
This question is very near and dear to my heart because I have my own story to tell.
Many of us are looking for an ounce of hope to get better, but that can be hard to find.
While there’s no known cure, there are many great treatment options, many are outlined on various posts on grumpy stomach.
I want to put Irritable Bowel Syndrome into perspective for you, whether you have it or not.
I’m sharing my story in hopes to help others and show people without IBS what it’s really like to live with this incurable chronic illness.
Pre IBS Background
I’ve had IBS for over eight years now. It’s been a long journey with many ups and downs.
I feel like I had a pretty “normal” life prior to IBS.
I had a great immune system and no major illnesses or diseases during my childhood.
However, I was always a picky eater and my diet was not very well-balanced.
I’ve always thought about whether that could be the cause of my IBS, but truthfully I have no idea to this day.
Just before I started experiencing symptoms, I began my senior year of high school, got my first job and was working towards a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
With so much going on, life can get stressful. I don’t remember being stressed, but maybe I was and just didn’t realize it.
Many experts say that stress can really make IBS go through the roof.
But there are so many mixed ideas on what really causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
My symptoms started one morning out of nowhere. It’s like I was sick, I even felt better after a few days. However, those symptoms came back.
The abdominal pain reminded me of a bad stomach bug and of course I had zero appetite due to the pain.
It took months of medical testing and doctor appointments to uncover IBS.
This was the toughest part of my life to live through, I was constantly in pain and uncomfortable.
I also started experiencing some depression due to not getting any answers when I was hoping for them.
I was missing out on a lot of fun things because I didn’t feel well enough to do them.
Finally, I got my diagnosis a few months after my symptoms began, but I didn’t get much information on IBS at that time.
IBS is such a vague diagnosis, it didn’t feel satisfying to learn what I had at all. There really wasn’t much research available at that time.
It seemed that even health care experts didn’t know what to tell their patients on how to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
I knew that doctors and scientists knew almost nothing about this.
All I was told is that stress can make symptoms worse and that there are trigger foods, but I would need to discover those for myself.
An endoscopy took place several years later and uncovered GERD (chronic acid reflux) as well, but also confirmed the original diagnosis of IBS.
I was never given a specific IBS diagnosis, like IBS-C (constipation) or IBS-D (diarrhea), but it seems that I had a combination of the two.
The Beginning Of A New Life
In the beginning of my post-diagnosis life, I really wasn’t thinking about IBS in the long-run and how to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
I would need to be on a schedule for my new medications and when I would eat throughout the day.
Plus, I had to figure out what NOT to eat. This has been the toughest part of all.
My triggers have changed over the years, like my body is constantly transforming and changing the rules.
How to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Well, it doesn’t come with a one-time answer.
Basically, I had to do years of research on my own to get to where I am today.
Even with all of this research, I have good and bad days.
Health Journal: Discover Food Intolerances and Allergies: (A Food Diary that Tracks your Triggers and Symptoms)
In the beginning, I was in pain everyday. There was a trial and error period with different medications as well as food and drinks.
I missed a good chunk of my senior year due to the disorder and I had no idea what I was up against.
This was mostly due to not knowing my personal IBS triggers. It took a very long time to figure this out.
During this time, I kept a food journal to try and track patterns of IBS flare ups and the foods that may have caused them.
With a lot of googling I also came across some common triggers. The first thing I ever cut out of my diet was coffee.
People look at me with the most puzzled looks when I mention that I can’t drink coffee and haven’t in eight years.
Trust me, it’s possible for adults to survive without their morning ritual of coffee. I’m living proof!
I’ve also cut back on dairy, I avoid artificial sweeteners and soda, and rarely eat fried foods.
So the best way (in my opinion) to answer our original question of how to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, would be to cut all triggers.
While I’m not a huge fan of medications, my IBS medication has saved me from a lot of pain and suffering.
I was originally started on an over-the-counter antacid, but that only helped me for a couple weeks at the max dosage.
After that, they put me on an antispasmodic medication to help control muscle spasms in my lower abdomen.
I had the dosage increased not long after.
This has been incredibly helpful, but will never help 100 percent and comes along with many side effects.
But overall, the medications helps me life a great quality of life.
My Greatest Struggles
Discovering my triggers was the most difficult task for me.
It was also tough for me to give up some of my favorite foods and drinks, including coffee.
Additional struggles include the intense pain from an IBS flare up, adjusting my wardrobe due to severe bloating, side effects of medications and so on.
Many of my struggles have become second nature to me by now and don’t bother me the way they did in the beginning.
Gluten Free Diet
For a while, I thought that gluten free would be the answer to how to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
For an entire year (2013-2014) I ate a gluten free diet in hopes that it would help with my IBS symptoms.
While a gluten-free diet wasn’t the answer for me, I did cut out certain foods containing gluten that helped with my symptoms.
In general, it forced me to eat some healthier options.
I’m also consuming less dairy which really helps me get rid of my IBS symptoms.
Prior to visiting a GI specialist, my primary doctor felt my abdomen and said that I was just constipated.
The doctor recommended I try laxatives, these did nothing for me.
If you do suffer from IBS-C (Constipation) or other forms of IBS, I don’t recommend laxatives personally.
These can impact you in a very negative way, because your abdomen is already sensitive.
If you want to try out herbal teas to treat IBS symptoms you’ll want to make sure that:
- It’s Caffeine Free
- It’s a natural herbal tea
Caffeine can seriously irritate the gut as well as non-herbal teas.
You have a variety to choose from, and I recommend trying different herbal teas until you find the one that helps you most.
Hot Water Bottles
Heat battles cramps. Hot water bottles have saved me from misery time and time again!
A hot water bottle is a very comforting and effective way at treating IBS cramps and flare ups.
These bottles are also very convenient to take with you while traveling and safe for using while asleep.
Avoiding Trigger Foods/Beverages
This is the best possible treatment in my opinion.
Cutting your IBS triggers will lead to a happier and pain-free lifestyle.
As I mentioned above, a food journal really helps speed up this process of discovering IBS triggers.
Low FODMAP Diet and Smaller Meals
The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS
The low FODMAP diet eliminates the FODMAP carbs from your diet, which are said to worsen IBS symptoms.
I also recommend eating smaller meals instead of eating a lot at once.
IBS can cause major bloating and trigger symptoms when your body is overloaded.
Take care of your body and take it easy.
The low FODMAP diet has plenty of variety while helping reduce IBS symptoms.
If you have to live with IBS, you need to stay calm.
Stress will only make Irritable Bowel Syndrome worse and harder to deal with.
Find something that relaxes you, whether it be a hot bath, aromatherapy, exercising, etc.
Controlling stress will reduce the amount of IBS flare ups and symptoms you experience.
This may sound downright stupid, but this has been a key for me on how to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Forget the skin tight jeans and constricting belts, they just make symptoms worse.
Over time, I noticed certain clothes were tight to the point where they can actually contribute to IBS symptoms.
As an IBS sufferer, your abdomen is sensitive!
I love to wear dresses, stretchy leggings and any pants I can find that aren’t too tight or too loose.
Believe it or not, I make a schedule, constantly working things out in my head.
I’m constantly planning when I’m going to eat and what I will eat and the times in which I eat or exercise or go to sleep.
It’s crucial for me to plan these things ahead of time to minimize IBS symptoms.
Our GI tracts are sensitive, so even the little details matter!
I’ve noticed when I have to wake up earlier than I normally do, it has negative effects on my IBS.
My All-Time Favorite Products
When I ask myself how to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, these are my miracle-workers!
Heather’s Tummy Tea
Heather’s Tummy Teas Organic Fennel Tea Bags (45 Jumbo Teabags) for IBS, 8.82 Ounce
This tea is amazing!!!
Heather’s herbal fennel seed tea is exactly what I need when I’m experiencing an IBS flare up or typical symptoms.
This herbal tea is caffeine free, making it a great treatment option.
It really helps with cramping and bloating!
I’m well-stocked on this tea for those times I will need it!
Do you want to know how to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Drink this tea and you will know.
Cozy Chamomile Herbal Tea
Bigelow’s Cozy Chamomile herbal tea is another HUGE favorite. This tea works very similarly to the fennel tea.
I personally prefer this tea’s flavor over the fennel, but they’re both just as effective for me.
I recommend giving both a try to see which works best for you!
Chamomile tea is also great to drink before bed as it will help calm and ready your body for sleep.
Snuggle Safe Pet Bed…Wait What??
The Snuggle Safe Pet Bed Microwave Heating Pad is not just for pets!
I love this heating pad because it’s safe but also effective.
This heating pad can provide up to ten hours of warmth just by microwaving it.
Heating pads are perfect for easing IBS cramps or upset stomach.
I take a heating pad to bed anytime I’m having IBS symptoms.
Heather’s Tummy Tamers
Heather’s Tummy Care does it again with another amazing product!
These peppermint oil capsules are made with IBS sufferers in mind.
Peppermint is my holy grail product and I can’t imagine my life without peppermint oil!
These capsules also contain ginger and fennel, all miracle herbs when it comes to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The bottle can easily be thrown into a purse or suitcase and taken on all of your travels.
What Keeps Me Going
Learning to live with IBS hasn’t been easy, but the advice that I’m giving you here will be helpful.
The most helpful advice on how to live with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is keeping a positive attitude.
That’s easier said than done and even I’ve had days where I’m not quite up to par.
Additionally, I always tell folks with IBS to take things one day at a time. Looking at the bigger picture can be too overwhelming.
Focus on the present, stay in the NOW.
Overall, staying positive just makes life better, including life with IBS.