Cancelling plans, missing work, or avoiding certain foods: If you have IBS, you’ve probably experienced at least one of these situations before. IBS symptoms can interfere with your daily life, making you feel like you need to give up certain things to better manage your condition. This month, we asked our community members, “Personally or professionally, what did you have to give up because of your IBS?” Have any of these happened to you?
I had to give up work opportunities.
“Being able to work”
“I changed careers so that I could be in charge of my own needs.”
“Can’t get a job where I’d have to commute… not enough toilets on the way.”
“Joining the air force”
“Passed up interview for supervisor position”
“My job… I was let go for absences”
For many community members, IBS has forced you to give up working, or has caused you to avoid new work opportunities. Whether you are struggling with a flare-up on the job or have to miss work frequently due to your IBS symptoms, some community members have trouble maintaining their career while also managing their condition. If you have difficulties at work due to your symptoms, you may consider these tips for working with IBS, such as talking to your supervisor, asking for a standing desk, or sitting near a bathroom. If you are struggling at your current job, or have left or lost a job due to IBS, you may also want to try working from home, or pursuing other opportunities with the flexibility to accommodate your symptoms.
I had to give up school.
“College…. had to defer for a year. Finally starting this fall”
“Finishing college the first round”
For some IBS patients, managing your condition has included giving up or delaying school. If you’re dealing with frequent absences, managing flare-ups brought on by the stress of school, or you’re just not feeling well enough to focus during class, IBS can challenge your educational goals. If you are planning to go to college, or what to go back to school, consider talking to your school’s office of disability services. With the help of a letter from your doctor, your school may be able to provide accommodations, such as a dorm room with a private bathroom, exceptions to purchasing a meal plan, leniency with attendance, or a notice to professors about taking frequent bathroom breaks. If you have had to delay college due to IBS symptoms, you may also want to limit your stress by only taking one class at a time, or talking to your advisor about your specific needs.
I had to give up romance.
“Sex life. It’s hard to even think about sex with a bloated, painful belly.”
IBS isn’t always sexy, making many community members want to give up romance and intimacy all together. If you’re dealing with GI symptoms, feeling fatigued, or simply dating someone new, it can be difficult to feel romantic and sexy. If you’re having trouble with romance or intimacy because of your IBS, you may want to start by talking to your partner about your condition, and how it may impact your personal life. Remember, even for people without IBS, you won’t always be “in the mood”, so don’t let IBS stop you from pursuing a love life.
I had to give up certain foods & drinks.
“I can’t have salads anymore.”
“Lots of my favorite foods”
“I have given up dairy products, high fructose corn syrup, and red meats.”
“Pizza, spicy foods, fried foods, milk, ice cream…”
“No fizzy drinks”
“Alcohol and coffee, and I miss them both!”
As many of you have experienced, certain foods (and beverages!) can make IBS symptoms much worse. Based on your triggers, there may be foods that you just can’t eat anymore without experiencing IBS symptoms, even in moderation. Although every person is triggered by different foods, eating small meals, maintaining a low FODMAP diet, and avoiding common IBS triggers (fatty foods, milk products, carbohydrates, high-protein meals, alcohol, and caffeine) may help you to combat your symptoms.
I had to give up my social life.
“Early appointments, church, volunteer work at an animal shelter…”
“Making plans to do things….I never know when I make an appointment, if I’ll be able to keep it.”
“My social life, but my friends and family are beginning to understand what I go through.”
“Ministries, reunions, vacations, bondings, speaking engagements, seminars–to name just a few.”
According to some of our community members, one of the most difficult parts of dealing with IBS is maintaining a social life. Especially if you are triggered by food, simple things like meeting someone for coffee or going out to dinner may not be enjoyable anymore. Your IBS doesn’t respect your work schedule or the plans you made months ago, leading to frustration if you have to miss an event or cancel plans. If you’re struggling with how IBS impacts your social life, you may want to talk to your friends about keeping your plans flexible, or even setting up a back-up date to get together if you experience a flare. When agreeing to other activities such as volunteer work, appointments, or other engagements, you can also warn people in advance that you may be unable to make it due to health issues. Additionally, If you’re feeling anti-social or alone because of your IBS, know that you are never alone in the IBS community.
I had to give up family events.
“Making plans…I am still in the friends and family don’t understand phrase…”
“Family and social events”
“My daughter’s school trips”
“Eating in a restaurant with my family- or long car trips.”
Just like missing outings with friends, it can be frustrating to skip family trips and special occasions because of a flare up. When planning time with your family, consider the activities that are best for you, even if that means hanging out together at home. You can also enjoy time with your family by cooking the foods that are safest for you, or finding stress-free ways to be together.
I had to give up traveling.
“I don’t go on long trips, if I go on a vacation, I only go with my husband or daughter driving because they know my situation”
“I’m trying hard not to cancel my summer trip to Scotland, but I’m always very afraid and anxious!”
“Going on overnight vacations”
If you experience daily or frequent IBS symptoms, you may feel like you have to give up traveling to manage your condition. For many of you, the stress of travel, or even just being far from a bathroom, can make it difficult to take a trip with IBS. If you are expected to travel for work, talk to your boss about your limitations, or the best travel options for you (such as driving versus flying). You can also consider these tips for travel, like as keeping medications nearby, packing a change of clothes, water, and non-triggering snacks, and scheduling extra travel time to avoid anxiety. If you’re concerned about traveling, you can also consult the IBS Ultimate Travel Checklist, and reach out to the IBS community for more suggestions.
I had to give up being far from a bathroom.
“Eating before I leave the house!”
“I have gave up everything that doesn’t have a toilet nearby.”
“Peace of mind when out and about”
“I am afraid to go where the bathroom is far from me!!”
Even if you’re not traveling, many community members manage their IBS by staying close to a bathroom and avoiding a meal before they leave the house. Especially if you experience diarrhea urgency or incontinence, you may feel anxious if you’re not sure where to find the closest toilet, or if you have something to eat and then get in the car. If you worry about being too far from a restroom, or find yourself giving up certain activities because of this fear, consider getting a “Can’t Wait” Card. You may also ask to be seated near the restrooms if you are on a plane or at a restaurant, or even suggesting to family and friends that you meet in a place where you know you can get to the restroom easily. Knowing your exits can help you to feel less stressed and anxious, which may in turn make reduce your chances of a flare up.
But I won’t give up.
IBS can have significant impacts on daily life, leading many community members to give up certain hobbies, activities, foods, and opportunities to better manage their condition. Even if you feel like you need to give up certain things to control your symptoms, IBS doesn’t mean you have to give up. Even when you have really hard days, believe in yourself that you can power through your symptoms, and know that you can live your life AND make the best choices to manage your condition.