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Severe stomach problems for over a month. Does this sound like IBS? Please read.

I'm sorry for this long post, but I would be very thankful if you could read this and if anyone else have gone through similar problems and it turned out to be IBS, let me know.

I am male and I just turned 40. Almost two years ago I started having bowel movement trouble. I was often constipated for several days and then when I finally did go to the bathroom, the stools would be quite soft, the consistency was somewhere in between normal and diarrhea, and often very pale. I also occasionally woke up with a faint stomach ache which would go away later in the day.

I saw my house doctor about this in early 2018 and he ordered a bunch of blood tests. He said the results came back proportionately normal. He also had me do a fecal test to check for possible blood in my stool, and it came back negative.

He speculated that I may be suffering from some kind of food allergy or possible IBS. Nothing was further investigated though.

I tried experimenting by eliminating various food out of my diet, and while the stools would improve for periods, and then go back to being worse, I didn't feel as if it had anything to do with what I ate. It just kept changing for no apparent reason.

Earlier this year, I saw my doctor again regarding my constipation problems. The doctor took new blood tests in April, which according to him showed nothing abnormal. He took a blood test to check for gluten intolerance, which came back negative. He also prescribed a granule mixture medication. The granule is not dissolving but more of a gravel-type consistency and it is supposed to be swallowed whole together with a glass of water. This is to regulate bowel movement.

The medication worked great at first, and I was going to the bathroom basically once a day once I started taking this medication.

The stools consistency also seemed to improve (not as loose as before).

However, approximately a month ago, I started having:

-Stomach pains, not just in the morning but throughout the days.

-An unexplainable feeling that resembles a hunger sensation, although I don't think it's real hunger because the stomach doesn't growl. Sometimes, this sensation would be reduced when I ate something, but it quickly returns.

I tried to eat a lean diet, like boiled fish and rice, and I cut out acidic drinks like orange juice. Nothing improved. The doctor prescribed Omeprazole which he said may reduce the stomach pains in case it's caused by excessive stomach acids. I have been taking it, along with probiotics, but nothing is helping.

As the days went on, the problems kept getting worse. I started feeling nausious, kind of like a motion sickness. The hunger sensation was now constant, and wouldn't go away anymore even when I ate. I would also get stomach pains whenever I DID eat something. I was also badly constipated and over the counter laxatives and Magnesium Citrate did not help.

I finally decided to contact a clinic who specializes in digestive diseases and they performed an EGD and colonoscopy on me monday July 22. They did not find anything, no inflammations, Crohn's disease, ulcers, tumors, polyps, etc. Everything looked good. They took two biopsies to check for Celiacs disease and some type of infection, but the biopsies both came back negative.

Right after the procedures my intestines / abdominal area hurt a lot, worse than before I had the procedures. But I figured that was because the instruments they used may have irritated my intestines and it would get better after a couple days.

I do however still, nearly a week later, experience abdominal pain. The pain is beneath my belly button, not just on one side but all over. It's not a very strong pain, but it's uncomfortable, kind of like a cramping feeling. That hunger feeling is also persistent and when I do eat I feel full right away, like I'm bloated. So I feel the false hunger feeling and bloated at the same time. It's the best I can explain it.

Does it sound as if I am suffering from IBS? From what I read online, IBS symptoms flare up and stay for a few days, but this is just not going away. I have tried cutting out fruit juices, dairy, fibers, fat, carbs, lactose, gluten etc. Nothing is helping. I am on the verge of being underweight so a very lean diet doesn't work for me anyway. While I was eating boiled food (which also didn't help) I dropped down to 132 lbs (I' nearly 6 feet tall). I have since then been forcing myself to eat fatter food and managed to gain a few pounds back. The lean diet was not improving my IBS-symptoms anyway.

Right now my stools are very hard too, and I go approximately every other day.

Is it likely I would develop IBS when I was nearly 40 years old, and would the symptoms stay for a whole month? How do you diagnose IBS? Is it even possible? I get the impression the doctors are just guessing it's IBS and they don't really know. What else could it be that I am suffering from and any suggestions on how I get it to go away? What can I try?

Did anyone else here develop these problems so late in life, and did the symptoms ever stayed for over a month for you?

Please, any suggestions are welcome.

  1. Hi @ifiweopfjwfjwef,

    First, I'd like to say that I'm sorry that you are enduring this very frustrating and challenging experience. Secondly, I am not a doctor, just a guy with IBS that participates in and contributes to the site. I read your questions and thoughts. I am a 45 year old male that was only diagnosed with IBS about four years ago (about the same age as you). As I read your story, I thought at various times it sounded like gastritis, ulcers and/or IBS. I thought about the colonoscopies and endoscopy and how many people with IBS get negative lab results back. I don't know how they diagnose IBS other than by symptoms. I'm not aware of any full proof, 'YES, YOU HAVE IBS', test. Could it be IBS? Sure. Do people of all ages get diagnosed with IBS? Yes, they do. You also mentioned about the duration. I have had flare ups, both constipation and diarrhea (yeah, lucky me 😀), that have an 'aftermath' of a month or more. What does this all mean? It means you should keep searching, both for a doctor that can help you and diet and exercise routine that can, at very least help relieve your pain a bit. I personally am also a big proponent of
    mental health support should you need it. It took me three years to learn to manage my illness(es). I have IBS, Gastritis and ulcers. It took drastic changes in diet, medication and incorporation of meditation and therapy to get me to a place I can live with. We are here for your support and wish you the best of luck in getting some answers. Please do keep us up to date on where the journey takes you. Hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

    1. Thank you so much for replying and sharing your experiences.
      Since my intial post, the clinic has informed me that the biopsies for celiacs disease and H. Pylori bacteria has come back negative as well.
      I am now back home and my problems persist.
      Yesterday I saw my crappy house doctor whom finally after much nag referred me (my country uses public healthcare which used to be great but unfortunately does not function well this time and age) to a gastro center that I am hoping can help me with some sort of elimination strategy in diet / FODMAP diet, to find out if something I'm eating is making the symptoms worse.
      The wait time to see someone there may be anything from a couple weeks to a month, so I'm praying the symptoms at least don't get worse before I get some help.
      If I was rich I would spend money on private care and just get the help I need right away, but I sorta used all my savings on the selfpay healthcare in the United States to get the colonoscopy and upper GI as my doctor at home was stingy about letting me do these procedures at home under public healthcare.
      Again, thanks for your words and support.

  2. As I have been told by medical professionals the diagnosis Of IBS is reached simply by examining symptoms and ruling out some other possibilities. Personally how it feels to me is oh we can’t figure it out with the routine testing for GI issues? Here’s a diagnosis good luck you’re on your own now.

    1. @TLJ22
      Teri, sorry you're in the same boat with SIBO. It's frustrating that most gastroentereologists in general frown upon the condition and know very little about it. I've spent hundreds of hours reading about SIBO, followed other sufferers' experiences with the condition, asked them questions to see what has worked and what hasn't etc. Had it not been for my own research I would still be as bad as I was a few months back. Frankly I don't think I would even have been alive anymore as I came very close to just putting myself out of the misery. If it ever comes back, I don't know what I'll do.

      It's truly a horrible condition, or should I say symptom. Because that is kinda what SIBO is also, a symptom of something else being wrong. You don't just develop SIBO out of nowhere, something causes it. Especially if you have it, successfully eradicate it and then get it back a second time.
      I still don't know for sure what led to SIBO in my case. It's difficult to know for sure, there is no test etc that can tell you. All you can do is look at your body as a whole and see what all is going on, and guess and speculate what might have caused the overgrowth of bacteria. I have a good guess about what caused mine, or at least contributed to it. If I'm right, it should not return. Only time will tell.

      Often SIBO is caused by a motility problem. I did undergo a motility study which showed very long transit times, but the GI doctors here still refuse to say I have a motility problem (the food spent nearly 12 hours in my small bowel and the gastric emptying was about 5 hours, total transit including colonic transit times was close to 70 hours).

      The functional medicine doctor put me on prokinetic medication to keep my bowels going just in case the slow motility had something to do with my SIBO. The GI doctors said I don't need prokinetic drugs as I don't suffer from gastroparesis and I should just take Miralax and live with it. If you don't mind telling, do you know your gastric emptying numbers that I'm sure was part of your GP diagnosis?

      By the way, when your SIBO was in remission, did you still suffer constipation, or did you have regular bowel movements until it came back?

      I am very distraught my root symptoms were not SIBO driven, as I still have them only not nearly as severe. SIBO only intensified the symptoms x10. I still have to find out what is causing my heartburn, reflux, gnawing intestines etc.

      A functional medicine doctor is very helpful when it comes to deal with SIBO. They can also help getting your body in better condition. Mine is trying to help and is telling me to eat all sorts of supplements, as the tests he ran on me showed a lot of issues such as dysbiosis, fungal overgrowth, toxicity etc. But honestly ultimately I don't think that these things have anything to do with my symptoms. Even the doctor said that himself. It still doesn't mean those things should be ignored.
      But in the end, I think that the key to my root problems will need medical care on gastroenterology level. There is something physically wrong in my stomach or GI tract. I'm looking at getting help abroad as I cannot get that kind of help in my own country due to the way the system is set up, but for now I can't go anywhere due to COVID.

      GI doctors dismiss functional medicine and naturopath and vice verse. I think that both medical worlds can learn from each other and they should join together. There is not just one answer to every medical condition. Some conditions need lifestyle changes or natural remedies. Others need western medicine or surgery. And that's a fact. One medical approach can't solve everything.
      I haven't given up hope on finding a doctor that can help me, but I have given up finding one where I live. As soon as this virus pandemic is under control enough that I can travel, I'm out of here to get help, if I'm still alive.

      Stay strong and I hope you get to feel better soon.

    2. @tlj22,

      The supplements I was given were to kill off the bacteria. My Naturopathic Doctor did muscle testing to see which supplement was appropriate for me. The brand he uses is Thorne and the supplement was called SF722. I was also given a supplement called Bactrex 3. In addition I was put on probiotics, the brand is called Orthobiotics. I will say however, the strand of bacteria overgrowth can be different. The supplements he gave me matched the strand of bacteria that was over-growing so it may not be the same for you if that makes sense.

      Warmly, Elizabeth (team member)

  3. I sure feel for you. Living with this is just too hard to describe/explain to anyone who hasn’t lived it.

    Have you had the breath test? One clue you have SIBO is if two-three hours after eating, you get the cramping, bloating and pain.

    If you can eat oatmeal in the morning and still not be hungry by 3pm, things are too slow. These are things/clues I wish I knew then.

    My first stomach emptying test showed it was taking 12 hours to digest the scrambled eggs. I was put on meds that would speed up the digestion. It was a lifesaver! But what’s sad is that it took nearly a year (no joke) before my doctor would refer me to a GI. He insisted it was in my head and referred me to therapy instead! Next came the GI and it took her months of tests after tests before doing the stomach emptying test. Why don’t doctors realize we know our own bodies? I’m sure all those needless tests cost more than the one test I needed. Gastroparesis sort of comes and goes and I just have to realize it’s back and then start taking the meds 1/2 before meals.

    As for bowels, I don’t even know what normal is anymore. I do know when I’m not relapsing on the gastroparesis or SIBO, I give in to my coffee and that tends to make me regular.

    The symptoms for IBS and SIBO are almost elusive in the beginning as you try justifying it and thinking it’s something you ate, took, drank, the way you sat, slept, etc.

    When I had the second motility test, I was in the beginning of it all three years ago. And again, I was told I definitely had slow digestion again. But this time, simply taking the meds before each meal wasn’t a cure-all. It helped my food digest, but now my intestines were involved.

    For me, it’s all about the sugar. Almost everything I eat is sugar. I know, I know...I’m not a big fan of fruits and vegetables, I tried the Fodmap diet for about 3 hours and said screw it. I really did sabotage myself this last time by drinking coffee every day (lots of cream) and got hooked on the “safe to eat” choc cookie dough that you’re supposed to bake. And I mean HOOKED. It just felt so good to be able to eat again and I got careless. Gained 10lbs, agh.

    And please don’t give up. Before getting the results from my breath test, I totally relate to wanting to give up. I even lost it at one of my GI appts and told her I just didn’t want to live anymore. The lack of sleep, numerous trips to the ER and constant need to rehydrate me and for potassium were leaving my arms bruised. I’m now absolutely terrified of IV’s. I’d be planning my will in my head, trying to think everyone would do fine w/out me, blah blah. But then my youngest daughter got pregnant and I knew I couldn’t ruin this time for her. Thankfully the SIBO confirmation came in time. But please don’t give up. If you’re in Washington, I have a name for you.

    As a side note, when I first saw my GI, she had asked me if my symptoms were waking me at night. And at that time, they were not. But within weeks, they sure did and now I understood the significance of her question.

    By the way, I keep two containers of the liquid Imodium in my fridge. Talk about a lifesaver!!!!! It helps with the diarrhea, cramps, pain and since it’s liquid, doesn’t involve much digestion. I now drink LOTS of water, all day. They say Vit D is a help. Have they checked your level? Is your potassium level ok?

    My heart goes out to you. Hope I don’t sound too scrambled and that I didn’t ask too many questions. It just feels great that while I’m sorry you’re dealing w/this, that I’m not alone.

    Smiles!

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