IBS Confessional: Food Poisoning, Stomach Bugs and IBS, Oh My!

Last updated: September 2022

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find myself sitting on the toilet - or looking in - and wondering, "Well, which one is it today? Stomach bug? Food Poisoning? Or, is it just good ol' IBS?" Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Food poisoning or IBS?

Recently I found myself sick with a small stomach bug. For about 24 hours I assumed it was a bad IBS flare-up; however, there were certain signs that made me think twice. First, I noticed that I was rather chilled the first night - I often run rather hot, and chills are a good indicator that something is wrong. Second, I was mostly nauseous and light-headed. When I have an IBS episode, I'm not usually light headed (unless severely dehydrated). Lastly, I noticed that this 'episode' lasted a rather long time. Often, my flare-ups last about 24 hours or less. I might feel crappy the following day, but rarely am I just as sick as the night/day before. Alas, I concluded that it was a little more than just the IBS.

Defining IBS symptoms

Do you have a checklist that you go through in your head when you feel sick, trying to figure out which 'sick' it is? When do you cross the line from IBS to bug? How many times have you had to say, "Oh, It's just IBS," even though you feel as though you're dying? On the contrary, have you ever used the old "I've got food poisoning" excuse to miss work/school/events when you knew it was your IBS? Have you ever sat there wondering if you're actually sick or just sick?

With all these questions, I wonder why we struggle to define our symptoms. I question if it is necessary to decipher IBS from 'sick.' You might be thinking, "Oh, that's just semantics!" but, ultimately, there's a reason why semantics matter. If we don't even know what symptoms we're exhibiting, or how sick we are, how will our employers/teachers/friends know?! If we're unsure how to describe our crappy bodies, and the experiences, pain, and frustration we're feeling, then how are we supposed to explain them to others?

When to ask questions

Have you found yourself questioning your symptoms this way? How often do we sit there, wondering, which symptoms mean what, how long we've felt them, and what it all means? Do others know how much time is spent questioning just how "sick" we actually are, or which "sick" it might be? I wonder, sometimes, if they do. I wonder if people can see the aura of our invisible illness, or whether they simply pass us by without a care in the world. Do you see me? Do you know that I was sick all day? Do you know how much effort it takes to leave the bathroom some days? To get out of bed? To wake up?

Perhaps I am being too morose. Too self-important. Perhaps I'm not. The point is, I feel these things, I have these questions. And I wonder if you do too.

My IBS confession

This month has been hard for me. As you may or may not know, I suffer from other invisible illnesses that often impact my life. Most notably, this month, is my mental health. I live with anxiety, bouts of depression, and Borderline Personality Disorder. These aspects of my life and mind have been my constant companions for many years. At times, they get the better of me. Momentarily I feel I am lost. I feel as though no one knows, or cares, about me or how I feel. This can sometimes impact more than just my life, but also, my work and leisure time. In regards to the articles I write for IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, the latter two aspects of my life have been most impacted this month. I enjoy writing these articles. I love reading your feedback, seeing conversations evolve, and even look for criticism to further my research. But this past month has been tough. I've neglected my work, and, in turn, I feel as though I've neglected you.

Writing is therapy

Although there are several amazing (and perhaps, more qualified) contributors on this site, I feel that when I am not posting articles regularly, not only am I cheating the readers out of reading an empathetic tale, but I am also cheating myself out of the amazing, therapeutic effects of writing them. Alas, I wish to apologize to readers if my articles are fewer and farther in between. I wish to thank you for being some of the best (and cheapest) therapists out there! And, ultimately, I wish that you, too, can find solace in either my articles, or others on this site. I hope that you can learn to share your own experiences, tell your tales, and even laugh at your misadventures.

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

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