This is the third article in Pain.com’s “IBS Awareness Month” series for April 2011. The topic for this article is living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
There is no cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As discussed in the previous article about IBS treatment options, treatment for IBS is symptomatic. A person may suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome for many years, or even the rest of their life. However, by managing their symptoms and avoiding things that can trigger IBS symptoms, a person can often control how much of an effect Irritable Bowel Syndrome has on their life.
One major way to cope with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is also a treatment for IBS: Eliminate triggers that make your digestive symptoms worse. Identifying foods and other substances, such as caffeine, that make your IBS symptoms worse and then avoiding those things can make a big difference in severity and frequency of symptoms. Some of the many foods that can potentially make IBS symptoms worse in many people include dairy products, wheat, rye, barley, carbonated sodas and beans.
These triggers are different for different people, and finding them may be a matter of trial and error unless you notice an obvious pattern. Keeping a log of your digestive symptoms and when you experience them may help you or your doctor determine the things that make your symptoms worse. It may also be helpful to make a note of the things you eat in this journal; sometimes a pattern will appear on paper that you may not notice if you don’t keep track.
People with a lot of stress in their lives tend to have worse IBS symptoms, so stress is considered an aggravating factor of IBS. Some people manage stress on their own with methods like moderate exercising or meditation, but others have a more difficult time controlling their stress level. In this case, these people may be helped by counseling. This type of help can be found by talking to a psychologist, or there are even support groups for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Someone may want to talk to other people with IBS on a message board, or meet people with IBS in person to tell stories and exchange coping tips. These support groups can be located online.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is, unfortunately, an embarrassing topic for some people. Someone with IBS may feel like they are constantly sneaking off to the bathroom in public and feel self-conscious about it. Experts recommend that a person with IBS try to lead a normal social life as much as possible, and talk to someone if they are feeling a significant level of anxiety that is preventing them from doing the things that they used to do. Some tips for people with IBS who are going out to a new place include knowing where the bathroom is ahead of time and researching the menu before going out to a restaurant. You may feel more comfortable if these things are not a surprise to you when you get to your location.
Living with a person with Irritable Bowel Syndrome may pose special challenges. It may be hard to understand sometimes that although a person can often control their symptoms with diet and stress relief, it doesn’t always work, and it is not their fault. It may also be difficult when a person is not feeling well all of a sudden and can’t go through with certain plans. Living with someone suffering from IBS requires flexibility, communication and understanding.