How To Explain IBS to Other People
Last updated: April 2023
One of the hardest topics in my daily life is to explain what IBS is. All of my friends know that I have always been a foodie and enjoy most foods, apart from cinnamon, cucumbers, and coriander (honestly, I cannot comprehend how people can actually eat that soapy parsley!)
When I got my diagnosis and started the elimination process, I got a lot of unsettling questions from the people who surrounded me daily.
Invalidating questions and comments about IBS
I started slow, with little details, explaining that my gut did not react "normally" to those foods that ferment during the digestion process. Then questions about how my body reacts started, "But why? What do you feel?" I explained my discomfort, the bloating, the pain of wearing a pair of jeans, and the unwanted bowel movements that I cannot control.
The response, of course, has always been: "Oh, c'mon, we are all bloated when we eat too much!" or "Oh right, I'm always bloated too! It's not that big of a deal," and I always felt that the society did not validate my pain.
I did not even ask for it, I do not need people to validate my symptoms, but they keep asking questions, so I had to answer.
Frustrated by the same IBS questions
Some are more curious, and they dig deeper. They ask why the body reacts to certain foods, what happens inside the bowel, and if there's any medicine I can take to "cure" it. When I explain that a part of it is connected to the brain and possibly stress, I get the most annoying comment ever: "JUST RELAX!"
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out... "Oh, thanks. I haven't thought about that, duh!"
I understood that I probably got less and less patient about answering the same questions and the same comments over and over again.
I just don't get why people insist. It is quite clear now that I'm not that willing to explain my situation, just because I rather avoid the topic. I have the certainty that I would have to face the same nerve-racking situation every single time.
Learning how to explain IBS
I'm currently at a stage where I just answer: "Oh I have some stomach issues," without digging deeper. When people see you are not willing to explain more, they usually give up.
Meditation (again) helped me face this issue. I realize that people don't mean bad when they comment, pointing out how THEY feel when they ask about you. This is how our society is.
It's the ego talking. As I've seen it, many people see my search for an answer and try to improve my situation as a weakness. It is just like mental health, you can't see it, so it does not exist to them.
To other people, it means that I do not endure in life, that I don't accept that it is normal to suffer, because to earn what we have, we need to walk thru pain and tiredness. I reckon that this is partially connected to the culture, and mostly in Italy, with the Catholic perspective that if you suffer, you deserve to go to heaven.
Meditation helped me elaborate that it is actually the opposite, it is a sign that I love myself. Taking care of my health and how I feel is the only way for me to be more productive, happier, and able to help others to the best of my abilities. Introspection is the key. Always. Love yourself, understand yourself, be patient and go on without caring about what other people say.
Do you have trouble trying to balance your diet with multiple illnesses?
Join the conversation