Episode 1: The show notes

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If you're looking for the accompanying notes for the first episode of the IBS podcast you're in the right place!

 

This is an open and honest account of what it was like for me to live with IBS, it may be TMI for some, but I've chosen to be open about this stigmatised and taboo condition, so let’s talk all things IBS, the poo, pain, metal health and more!

 

Purpose of this episode: to share my story of living with IBS from the physical symptoms I had, the effect IBS had on my mental health, how the IBS affected my daily life, sex life and how IBS affected my work life.

If you want to skip ahead:

     What is IBS?

     Natalie's IBS Story

     Support for Suicide 

What the heck is IBS?

  • IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome.

  • It is a chronic, functional bowel condition – basically the bowel functions differently than how nature intended it to.

  • IBS is experienced differently person to person, one person’s symptoms may be completely different to someone else’s.

  • There are 4 types of IBS,

    • It's all down to your type of poo…to determine your poo type use the Bristol Stool Chart.

 
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The types of IBS:

  1. IBS-D, diarrhoea predominant – the most common type of IBS

  2. IBS-C, constipation predominant [the type I had]

  3. IBS-M, mixed between diarrhoea and constipation, also known as IBS-A, a standing for alternate

  4. IBS-U, unclassified, when someone’s poo does not accurately fall into the above categories.

Reference: NICE.

IBS sub-types explained:

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The Rome IV Criteria to diagnose IBS:

       

Recurrent abdominal pain on average at least 1 day/week in the last 3 months, associated with two or more of the following criteria:

  1. Related to defecation

  2. Associated with a change in frequency of stool

  3. Associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool

          * Criteria fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months prior to diagnosis

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Reference: The Rome Foundation

Other facts about IBS:

  • 20% of the population have IBS….that’s 1 in 5

  • Gender: IBS is more common in women than men

  • Age: most common in people aged 20-30

  • Ethnicity: IBS affects people from all ethnic backgrounds

  • Symptoms: IBS symptoms can be mild, but some people do experience severe IBS symptoms.

  • The symptoms can have a drastic impact on the person's life.

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My story

Now that I have dropped the shame and embarrassment of living with IBS, here’s my open account of how IBS affected my life.  

 

The first time I can confidently say I had IBS: on holiday with my family in Jamaica at an all-inclusive resort, aged 16. I had a 10-day streak of constipation, this was the first time I truly realised something wrong . My parents took me to the onsite Doctor who prescribed me laxatives which eventually had the desired effect. Below is a photo from that holiday when we met Lionel Richie & Lennox Lewis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Physical symptoms:

I had the following symptoms for around 7 years before I was diagnosed with IBS.

  • Type 1 poo (Bristol Stool Chart) aka “bunny balls”

  • Constant constipation (IBS-C)

  • Bloating distention

  • Farting

  • Tummy pains & cramps – sometimes so bad curled up on floor as if I had been winded

 

Next I started to have all of the above PLUS anal fissures (skin tears in and around my rectum, bum hole, which caused bleeding in and around my bum) from the years of constipation. My body was screaming out for help, I was eventually diagnosed with IBS aged 23to read about the rollercoaster of getting a diagnosis click here or listen here in episode 2.[nm2] 

 

Note: according to the medical literature I have read rectal bleeding is not common with IBS. If you have this and haven't had it checked out, please do see a medical professional.

How IBS affected my mental health:

When I was diagnosed the GP told me that IBS was a lifelong condition, I was going to have to co-exist with IBS, live on a low FODMAP diet and have a life on laxatives from 23 years of age.

  • I felt helpless, hopeless. I thought “what’s the point?” There was no end in sight, I was told it was me & the IBS for life, I wasn’t down for that at 23, I was meant to be at the peak of my life! See pic below of me having an IBS flare up in 2016.

 

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  • I felt low and had suicidal thoughts along this journey. I wondered when the pain and suffering was going to end?

  •  I felt misunderstood, others the same age enjoying life and I could not enjoy life how I wanted to.

  • I felt tired a lot and had low energy.

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  • My gut was sluggish and I felt sluggish too.

  • I started to lack confidence.

  • I felt stressed because of the symptoms and how my body was feeling.

  • I felt anxious and depressed, I really wondered where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? And if IBS I s lifelong and I have anal fissures aged 23 where is the IBS going to lead?

How IBS affected my daily life & my sex life:

Living with IBS felt like a constant endurance test.

  • Food: I was living a life of restriction, I felt very frustrated, I loved food and I was on the low FODMAP diet for years.

  • Clothes: the looser the better! I felt fat, my tummy was sensitive and irritable from the bloating.

  • IBS and living on a low FODMAP diet became my identity.

  • The IBS symptoms changed how I lived my life and who I was.

  • Friends: I wasn’t contacting friends as much, didn’t feel like socialising, hated doing pretty much any activity like going out for a meal, going clubbing, going to the cinema. I felt like no one understood so I started to withdraw and avoid.

  • Basically, life was less enjoyable, I was unaware that the IBS symptoms (bloating, distention, constipation) was affecting my mood, energy and overall quality of life.

  • The faff of going out: When I did socialise, the hassle was real! I felt misunderstood, and thought it was annoying for others.

    • Restaurants: I’d ask “do you have a gluten free menu?" "I'll have X off the gluten free menu, oh...could I have that without the onions please?" to avoid any FODMAP trigger foods.

    • Farting on the dance floor & other inappropriate times made me feel embarrassed and shameful that my body could produce such a stench.

    • Drinking: The bloating from alcohol, fizzy drinks, cocktails and general discomfort and bloating in my gut made me feel so miserable.

 

  • Intimate relationships: My sex life and intimacy was affected, I had a low sex drive, I was in a bloated, painful and sensitive body so I really was not interested in having any kind of sex or intimacy.Dating: upfront when dating someone about me & the IBS but it was still embarrassing, me & the IBS came as a package.

 

I landed up living a more sheltered life because of IBS, not doing the things that made me feel happy.

 

How IBS affected my work life:

  • Unable to sit comfortably. 

  • Toilet time: I didn’t feel I had long enough in my schedule to actually be able to deal with the constipation and squeeze out the bunny balls.

  • Bloating & distention from the IBS: The awkward moment when a lady at work asked me “are you expecting?” while I was waiting for papers to be printed at the printer, and I responded with “oh…no…that’s IBS”. An embarrassing moment for both of us.

  • Time off work: I had time off work because of the symptoms of IBS from time to time, I had various medical appointments in work time and I had around a week off when I had an operation (Botox in the bum).

  • Staff celebrations and conferences: I had to avoid FODMAPS so the usual birthday cakes, sandwiches, quiches, the usual stuff at a conference buffet or the things colleagues bring in to work to share, I could not enjoy.

 

The symptoms of IBS I had were embarrassing, I think they wuold be embarassing for anyone, including me at 23!

 

I’m doing this podcast because I hope to be the light at the end of the tunnel for anyone suffering with IBS. No matter what type of IBS you have, or someone you know has, I want you to feel understood and supported.

I believe you do not need to live with the IBS, it doesn’t not need to live with you and I believe I can help you alleviate the symptoms of IBS, or even help you be free from IBS, just as I am.

I don’t live with IBS, I haven’t since 2018 and it's 2021 when I wrote these notes and recorded this podcast.

 

I am:

✓ Pain free ✓ Symptom free ✓ No flare ups ✓ No anal fissures

✓ No more mental health issues  

I have my life back, and I want to share my experience with others even if it helps just one other person for me, that is worth it!

 

 

In the next episode I will be talking about:

getting diagnosed with IBS

→ dealing with“no known cause and no known cure” for IBS

what I tried to help alleviate the IBS symptoms

→ how I became free from IBS for good

I hope you enjoyed listening to this podcast, found these notes helpful and I hope you can join me for the next episode.

 

If you want to view the next episode notes click here.

Support for Suicide

UK: When life is difficult, Samaritans are available day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

 

United States: Help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can call them for free 24/7 on 1-800-273-8255