by LUCY JANE
Tummy aches, sensitive stomach, picky eater… I try to gloss over the specifics of my illness because, to be frank, it’s not pretty to talk about your bowel movements, especially as a single, educated, professional 25-year-old woman.
For me, the whole saga began with a nasty bout of gastro (thanks to the lethal combination of working with children in a hospital!). I recovered well from that but about a month later, experienced my first episode of “chronic bowel dysfunction”. I survived that night and woke up the next day feeling completely normal.
Unfortunately for me, these embarrassing episodes of diarrhea, cramping and painful gas started to come on more frequently. When it became apparent that they weren’t going to go away and were, in fact, becoming more frequent, I freaked out. It became all that I thought of from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep. I recorded everything that went in to my body as well as everything that came out of it trying to find a pattern, trigger or just something!!!
The Bristol Stool Scale became my most used app (how many 25 year old women have this on their phone?). I was terrified to go out in case I got sick. Getting through a week at work was exhausting, physically and emotionally. I cried. A lot. The more stressed that I got about it, the more frequently I seemed to be getting ill. I only shared what I was going through with one person – my mum. Mums are a special kind of people that you can share even the grossest things with, even when you are 25 years old.
After many trips to various doctors, I was proclaimed to be of perfect health (apart from the intermittent and rabid cramps, gas and diarrhea that could strike any time, anywhere of course). The conclusion when you are given a clean bill of health (medically) but still experience these symptoms? Irritable Bowel Syndrome, aka ‘IBS’. A diagnosis of exclusion that really means ‘we don’t know what’s wrong with you’. Or in the case of one gastroenterologist, ‘it’s all in your head’ (to that I say, going to the toilet 10 times a day is not all in my head!).
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a “functional gastrointestinal disorder”, although I’ve always thought that whoever named this as ‘functional’ has never gone through it themselves…
The symptoms of IBS differ for each person but it is usually characterised by recurrent gastrointestinal symptoms for which no physical cause can be found.
1 in 5 people in Australia live with IBS at some point and it is more common in women. IBS typically emerges in the twenties and frequently comes on after a bout of gastroenteritis. Check, check and check for me.
Over the past months, I’ve certainly earned my Doctor Google degree. I tried every recommended “natural therapy” out there (and please note that these HAVE worked for some people – it can’t hurt to try them out!).