A woman looking frustrated with her head in her hands and elbows on a table is gently offered advice from another woman sitting next to her.

Noticing Symptoms of IBS in Others

I know my daily struggles with irritable bowel syndrome, and I pay more attention when others complain of symptoms similar to my own. Perhaps I am overly sensitive when it comes to IBS. I have caught myself asking others if they have considered talking to their doctor about irritable bowel syndrome. Honestly, I find myself asking this a lot. Surely I am not the only one.

Part of my reason for doing this is there are a lot of people who just do not know about IBS. Part of it is because I know these symptoms are often dismissed by doctors, especially if the complaints are sporadic and not persistent. Am I too eager to see my symptoms in others? Perhaps, but it is hard not to speak up and suggest someone ask their doctor about it when many of us struggled to get a diagnosis. We know the long journey we endured, and we know the relief a diagnosis can bring. I do not want others to have this terrible illness. I want people who may have it to have a chance of finding relief through treatment.

Our experience and knowledge is valuable

We know the difference in what is normal and what may be IBS. If someone complains of repeated bouts of diarrhea, I will mention irritable bowel syndrome and suggest they ask their doctor about it. If a friend tells me about persistent constipation, I will mention IBS-C. When someone complains they feel like they have had bout after bout of food poisoning for months, I will suggest they look up the symptoms of IBS.

In the past, I have spoken to people who knew about IBS but didn’t think they had it because they had flares ranging from one extreme to the other. Many people think having bouts of both diarrhea and constipation rules out IBS. They do not know it is possible to have IBS-D and IBS-C. Others know nothing about IBS-C and never considered the possibility because they assumed IBS meant having terrible diarrhea. I think clearing up the confusion is helpful to others.

Awareness is helpful

Am I overzealous? Maybe, but the very first time I heard about irritable bowel syndrome was when I was diagnosed. I did not know about it before my doctor said it while discussing the results of my colonoscopy. I am certain there are many others who do not know about IBS and could find some relief if they knew to discuss it with their doctor.

Stress agitates symptoms and can lead to terrible flares. I wish I had known about the possibility of IBS when I was seeking a diagnosis. Four people in my family were Crohn’s disease patients. My stress levels were through the roof because I did not know there was another possibility. I was terrified of a Crohn’s diagnosis because I had witnessed first-hand what that diagnosis meant. Knowing would have been helpful. It would have been less stressful because I would have known there were other possibilities. That would have been comforting. The stress of assuming there were no other options would have been gone, and I could have had less severe flares during that time.

Sharing information to ease fear

I was diagnosed years before the internet came along. Researching other conditions was not possible like it is today, but the availability of so much information presents a different problem. There is an overwhelming amount of information on the web, and we are often presented with the worst options first. That is stressful, and we can give someone hope by sharing our experience. Sometimes we can make someone feel more optimistic by assuring them there are symptoms beyond the standard list and having additional symptoms does not mean it cannot be IBS.

Thinking about all the reasons why I point others in this direction, I do not think it is a bad thing. If you find yourself telling others to ask their doctor about irritable bowel syndrome, you are trying to help others find relief. Keep doing it.

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