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5 Things People with IBS Are Sick of Hearing

We’ve all been there, that situation where you’ve been up all night, rushing from your bed to the loo with an IBS flare. You feel drained, empty and pretty fed up. You manage to drag yourself out the house the next day and are greeted by a friend who tells you they can relate as they had, and I quote, ‘a bit of a dodgy belly after a curry last night.’

I’ve gotten so used to hearing things about my IBS, how others can relate and also how it inconveniences them, that I’ve written a checklist of things not to say to someone with IBS. So, if you find yourself in a situation with a friend who starts to mutter something along the lines of the phrases below, show them this. I’ve got your back.

I think I had a bit of IBS last night, after eating a curry

No. You didn’t. Trust me, you would know if you had IBS. It’s a chronic illness with a whole wealth of symptoms it keeps tucked up its sleeves. Loose bowel movements are one small strand of a flare. You haven’t even mentioned the cramps, sicky feeling, lethargy, mouth ulcers, back pain and headaches.

How long have you been in there?

Minutes. Hours. Days. Weeks. Who knows and more importantly, who is bothering to keep track. There is no limit when it comes to doing your business. Especially when you have a gut that likes to make urgent evacuations or take time building things up. I’m an advocate of taking a book in with you for that very reason. I mean, if you have to go, you might as well try and make it as pleasant as possible. My standard response is to just say yes. Yes, I have been in there a while, this is a really good book. Thanks for asking.

What do you mean you can’t eat lactose/garlic/onions? Can’t you just eat around them?

In short, no. Not without a horrendous rush to the nearest loo where upon my body will have what I like to deem a meltdown, leaving me a sweaty heap on the floor. But sure, if you’d rather I go ahead, pass the dairy my way, it’s your bathroom I’ll be using afterall.

I’m sure it’s all in your head

Yes, my mind does like to play tricks on me and get caught in a cycle of worrying about my IBS which then triggers my IBS, however it’s not that easy. There are numerous reasons why I might have a flare, from nerves to eating something that my gut can’t handle. Please don’t trivialize it and make me feel worse than I already do.

You’re cancelling our plans? Again?

This one comes served straight up, alongside a big portion of guilt. When I cancel plans, which used to be often, it’d be because I genuinely was having a flare and couldn’t risk leaving the loo seat, let alone the house. It’d be because I’d already had a flare and was in that weird period straight after where your body has been sucked of all energy and you have no choice but to lie in bed and recover. Or, it’s because my anxiety has reared its head and is freaking out about not knowing where we’re going, the uncertainty of the loo situation and the panic of all being too new. Please understand, we never want to cancel but sometimes we have to for our gut and our brain’s sake.

Which of these have you heard the most frequently? And how do you respond?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • JudyStaed
    1 year ago

    This was an excellent article, Jo. Thank you. I think one of the things we people with IBS suffer with so much is a total lack of understanding by others. My IBS is chronic. I am always in two fields…one is going constantly, often with terrible pain. The other is not being able to go at all. There is such a HUGE difference between a casual flare-up with IBS and having it as a chronic condition. My anxiety causes me to fear so much. I fear people wanting to get together for a casual outing. I will not eat anything while out of my house. The fear of an attack while in a public place is overwhelming. The pain. The sweating. Wondering when you will go and then when it starts wondering when it will leave again and you can safely leave the bathroom. Also, my intolerance factors are vast and many. Having said that one day I might be fine eating something and the next day get horribly sick with it. There is tremendous stress and anxiety that come with living with this condition. My only comeback is to enjoy the things I can in life with great gusto because I know the darker side of my illness is always going to come again.

  • Jo Coates author
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much, @judystaed! I found that my anxiety – similar to how you described – had a massive impact on my IBS. I recently started CBT and it’s helped shift my mindset a lot. Know that you’re not alone and we’re all in this, struggling through together. Jo

  • JudyStaed
    1 year ago

    Thank you, Jo. Yes, it’s nice to know that we who suffer this are not alone but by the same token each and every article I read on truly touches my heart because i KNOW what people are saying. I UNDERSTAND what people are saying. I am curious as to what CBT is and how it helps the mindset. What is it? Thank you. I hope you have had one of your better days.

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