Toilet TMI: Everything You Are Afraid to Ask About IBS
Do you have a friend or family member who has irritable bowel syndrome? If so, you likely have questions that you do not want to ask. IBS is messy, and asking about it seems a bit taboo. Nobody wants to ask others about their bathroom visits.
In order to help with IBS awareness, I am going to answer some of the questions you might have. Please keep in mind that IBS is different for everyone, so your friend’s experience may differ. This is based on my personal experience and common issues faced by many.
There are 3 types of irritable bowel syndrome: IBS-D, IBS-C, and IBS-M. IBS-D means the person experiences repeated bouts of diarrhea. IBS-C means the person experiences repeated bouts of constipation. IBS-M means the person has bouts of both.
Of course, there is much more to IBS than just diarrhea and constipation. It is also not like diarrhea or constipation you might have. This is persistent and lifelong. A person who has IBS might have brief periods without symptoms, but the symptoms will return. A flare is a return of symptoms.
Is IBS really as painful as people say it is?
Yes. And it is often more painful than you imagine it is. We may have severe cramps, gas pains, bloating, hemorrhoids, fissures, and more all at the same time. It hurts to go. It hurts to not go. Everything hurts. Sitting hurts. Standing hurts. It just hurts.
Sometimes we have nausea. If we become dehydrated, we have aches and pains similar to the flu. We may feel exhausted and have headaches. Everyone has different pains, and there are far too many types of pains to list. If your friends says they do not feel well, take their word for it. It can be really painful at times.
Why do people have accidents?
Why can’t they hold it? IBS can cause explosive diarrhea at times. The urgent need to go is, umm, urgent. It cannot be delayed for long. If someone is caught in a place where a bathroom is not readily accessible, it can result in disaster. This is why your friend does not want to go out sometimes.
The need to go can come on suddenly without warning, and there is little time to find a bathroom at that point. It is totally unpredictable at times, and that is why accidents occur. I am sure you can imagine how embarrassing this would be in public.
Can over-the-counter meds help?
Over-the-counter medications can sometimes help ease symptoms, but it does not cure IBS and it certainly is not considered an effective treatment. It is a temporary solution that does not always work. For some, it never works. If you read the labels on those medications, you will see they are not recommended for long-term use. That is one of many reasons why you need to consult a doctor.
A doctor is needed to diagnose IBS. Aside from ruling out other conditions, a doctor can suggest treatment medications. Some people do find relief with prescription medications. Many do not. It is different for everyone. If you have diarrhea or constipation for an extended period of time, you need to see a doctor. Also, IBS can lead to hospitalization for dehydration, impaction, obstruction, or injuries.
Is IBS really a big deal?
Yes. It is not just constipation and diarrhea. IBS is a chronic condition. It is embarrassing, and it is painful. Your friend might not want to discuss the details with you. Some people are not comfortable sharing about their explosive diarrhea or extremely large hemorrhoids. They may not want to discuss the embarrassment of public accidents or the raw, painful area that makes it difficult to sit.
If your friend tells you they are having an IBS flare, do not ask questions. They will share the details if they want to share. Many do not want to discuss toilet troubles, and it is embarrassing when people prod. Do you have other questions about IBS? Do not embarrass your friend by asking. Ask me. I am happy to pinch-hit for your friend.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?