So some time ago now I had a request to write a posting about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This is something I have had since before I had the girls.So this would be around about 7 or so years ago. I had a really stressful time with some family issues and this is what triggered it off for me. A diagnosis from the GP basically is a case of do you have the red flag signals? If not then it's just IBS sort of thing!
Here are the red flags:
Ask for an urgent appointment if you have:
- lost a lot of weight for no reason
- bleeding from your bottom or bloody diarrhoea
- a hard lump or swelling in your tummy
- shortness of breath, noticeable heartbeats (palpitations) and pale skin
These could be signs of something more serious.I had fecal testing for any longstanding infections or something that might need antibiotics. I also had blood tests - I'm assuming these were for inflammatory markers to check for things like Crohn's. After that I was shoved a sheet of paper telling me what IBS was and sent on my way. No real follow up, what to expect or what to do if it gets worse etc etc.
So like everyone else on the planet I took to Dr Google. I joined facebook groups and searched forums for more info. It didn't take long to realise that stress was my number one big trigger. Food doesn't seem to be related although I haven't gone into that too heavily.
Getting pregnant for me worked wonders and I didn't have any symptoms during both pregnancies. For the 1st this extended for about the first year after aswell as I was breastfeeding. The second time round I was really stressed out due to PND & Anxiety though so this was only about 6 months.
I have noticed that my symptoms will be occur around 2-3 days after a stressful event. Or if it is something very stressful coming up then it could be within the week before it aswell.
My main symptoms are cramping pain- with or without pain. With or without a bowel movement of any kind. A very noisy stomach. Passing Jelly sometimes instead of a movement. During really bad flareups I will have a lot of pain also I would be shivering and my stomach would mimic a stomach bug. This could have me impaired anything from 20 minutes to 3 hours in the bathroom. After I would have a lot of pain for several hours after. These attacks to happen when I was working so around 4-7pm then late at night around 11 then they went to mid afternoon. Now they will occur either mid afternoon - an hour or so after lunch or late/in the middle of the night. I prefer the middle of the night as this doesn't affect me dealing with the kids! After I will grab a hot water bottle and lay in bed until the pain has subsided enough to be able to go back to sleep.
I have had some humour with both a close friend and also an IBS facebook group. So if i'm sat there at 3am I can message her or the group and we can all talk about what we are suffering with in "real time". Quite funny!
How to both cope during an attack and help prevent an attack.
During an attack:
* Some people will take something like loperamide - This slows down the muscle activity in the bowel. I have seem people use this primarily for going away or out. Esp during train, car, plane travel! Caution must be to not over use this esp if you are IBS C&D (constipation and diahrea) as this can make you constipated. I personally chose never to use it. I don't really like anything that interfers with my body's function unless vital. I like to keep in tune with my body. Feeling the pain etc means I can keep up with the pattern and know whether its getting better or worse. This is a reminder to me of a need or more self care!
* Buscopan. This is a known antispasmodic drug in the UK that stops muscle spasms. It is marketed for IBS alone but did you know it helps with the following conditions: Irritable bladder (both benign and caused by Urinary tract infections ... Period pain and my absolute saviour and only use of this drug ... Esophageal spasms!! I found this by mistake one day whilst having the worst attack ever and took one wondering if it would help - Sure enough 20 minutes later I was no longer gripping the window sill in agony worse than labour pains! For me however as IBS this does practically nothing.It appears to be 50/50 if it will help.
* Mebrevine: This is a prescription drug. Dr's were reluctant to give initially but a different one did. I've not used it enough to comment on how good it is but I would say it helped a bit.
* Peppermint: You can get this in drug form or in peppermint tea. I have never used this as I have GERD/Reflux issues so this would just kill my stomach. If you are in good health though - Worth a try. Don't use at the same time as Ibruprofen or another NSAID/anti-inflammatory as they alone can fry your stomach and i'm sure the combination would give you bad heart burn! Paracetamol would reduce this though. If in doubt - don't use it.
* Hot water bottle - A hot water bottle is good at calming and relaxing both your muscles inside and you mind. There is nothing like cuddle a hot water bottle! (Unless it's 35c in the middle of summer!!)
* Chamomile tea - I drink this for not other reason than it's calming - often my IBS can affect my GERD and really upset my upper stomach so this sometimes helps this and if not well it tastes ok!
* You can buy a card or key from The IBS Network shop or Disability Rights UK shop that can help you access public toilets if you get symptoms while away from home. I have a "Can't wait" card. Never used it though!
* Have a just incase pack in your bag. Spare pants, tights, nappy sized bag, wipes, cream. I have knickers - mostly due to being female a period can catch you out but also this too! Cream and wipes etc I have anyway from having a toddler still in nappies.
How to Prevent:
* Taking time out for you - Take a bath, read a book go for a walk, anything that you find calming and destressing . It's a bit catch 22ish in that if stress didn't cause IBS then IBS will cause you stress which can make it worse!
* Mindfulness/Mediatation - Yes this comes under taking time out for you but it's also so important that I feel this should be something separate. It's not just a case of shoving some music on to listen to or listening to some calming voice in your ear - You learn coping skills. I personally love headspace. Not only is the guys voice so amazingly calm but it has little videos and things that teach you why and how you react to xyz. Knowledge is power!
* Know your triggers - Only time having IBS will help you see this. Keep a diary both of daily symptoms, what you have eaten and what is happening in your life around you. This should over time help to show you what might be triggering it off.
* Take a probiotic - Can help gut health in general - Eat healthy food and veg blahdy blah. We all know it! Also try porridge oats. It has been proven to boost the good bacteria in the gut also. Avoid tea, coffee, cakes, processed food, chocolate etc etc.
* Learn about the Low FODMAP diet. The IBS network website has more info on this. I've read it but not followed it as mine is not diet related. The only food I know does set me off is fizzy drinks. So I don't have them.
So that's just a few hints and tips i've picked up over the years! Feel free to share yours below. Take care!