As we head into cold and flu season, I wanted to share my recent experience being sick and how the sickness, both directly and indirectly, ended up doing battle with my IBS. I really wasn’t expecting it to be honest. Getting the flu, bronchitis, virus or chest cold doesn’t really seem, on the surface, like it would have much to do with the whole IBS thing, but I think when we take a look at what might be happening with our bodies during a time when our immune systems are compromised, the two illnesses might not cooperate very well with one another very well at all.
Does the cold or flu affect IBS symptoms?
Unfortunately, several weeks ago, I started feeling a really bad chest cold coming on. I started taking vitamin C gummies that my mom had given me and upped my hydration regimen by double. I was going to kill this thing before it started. I’m not sure if it was the vitamin C gummies, zinc tablets or the overdose of Gatorade (I do tend to overdo things) but I noticed my IBS symptoms getting worse right alongside the cold. So, there I am with bad diarrhea and a cold. Lovely... To make matters worse, the cold ended being bronchitis, which ended up being pneumonia. Not good.
This is where things started getting really bad and half the reason I’m sharing this experience. I was given a really heavy-duty antibiotic to treat pneumonia. I think we are all aware that antibiotics can be rough. Rough on the stomach, rough on your energy, rough on a lot of things. Hell, half the time I’ve taken antibiotics I think I’ve wondered which is making me feel worse, the illness or the medication? Until it helps, that is. This time was a little different. The stomach cramping got very bad and for some reason I was unable to pass gas to relieve the terrible bloating that I was experiencing. From what I could tell the IBS didn’t really know how to take all this and started reacting in painful and unusual ways. I had to make a phone call to my doctor to ask for a different antibiotic to try and relieve some of what I was going through. The third antibiotic was the one that my body was able to tolerate and I finally settled into being miserable from JUST pneumonia.
Takeaways about cold/flu season and IBS
There are a couple of things that I took away from this harrowing situation. First, is that you should never, ever expect your doctor to always be thinking about your IBS when they prescribe something. I knew this, but was in so much discomfort that I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. I think there was a part of me that was expecting that the doctor wouldn’t give me something to antagonize the IBS because it was ‘on my chart.’ Bad call.
The second takeaway is that cold and flu can take a huge toll on our immune system, our digestive system...our whole system. To expect that they will live happily in a bubble side by side with any IBS issues you might be having is sort of silly. Treat both, try to be cognizant of how treatments may affect the overall situation and make adjustments as necessary. Hopefully, we will all be able to get through the cold season without too much hassle.
Have you ever had a public IBS accident?