Soup, Celebrities and Other IBS Facts
The culprit, this time, was soup. Soup! That’s usually my go-to stomach soother. After dealing with IBS for more than 2 decades, I’ve learned to avoid some of the most common trigger foods. But soup? That’s discouraging. Now I’ve got one more item to add to ever-growing list foods that are off limits.
I want to curse, but I don’t have the energy.
The fact that I’m sick from soup has put me into a downward spiral. I know this way of thinking isn’t healthy or productive. I know I should probably be researching “delicious low FODMAP recipes” (already did that) or making a list of foods that I actually can eat.
But I’m stuck between the couch and the bathroom today, so I’m Googling random facts about IBS. Did you know it affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States (10 to 15% of the population), twice as many women have it vs. men, and the majority of people who have IBS are under 50?1 There are even some celebrities who have disclosed that they have it.
Celebrities with IBS
Models Tyra Banks and Jenny McCarthy have been outspoken about their digestive troubles. Actresses Cybill Shepherd, Kirsten Dunst, and Cher have shared that they struggle with IBS, too. Camille Grammer and Liz Taylor have also disclosed that they have this condition, along with Seattle Mariners’ center fielder Franklin Guiterrez, and rapper Cam'Ron (Cameron Giles). I also learned today that Sigmund Freud, John F. Kennedy, and Kurt Cobain were fellow IBS sufferers. Who knew?
Digestive emergencies happen to everyone at some point, I suppose. And it’s nice to know that even stars aren’t immune to the wayward ways of an unruly GI tract.
I have nothing but empathy and admiration for the people who struggle with IBS and still manage to perform in front of large audiences. I have even more respect for those who have provided a few more details about how IBS has affected their life and their careers. My favorite comes from Cybil Shephard, a fellow IBS-C sufferer.
“I struggled with recurring constipation, abdominal pain and bloating for more than 20 years because I didn’t talk openly to my doctor about all of my symptoms,” Shephard said. “I tried nearly everything, including fiber supplements and over-the-counter laxatives, but none of these helped relieve all of my symptoms. Sometimes I was not able to enjoy my free time, including the activities I did with my kids.”
Her message, to speak openly about IBS, is encouraging:
“I tell women to talk to everyone — your family and friends and mothers and sisters and especially your doctor, even if it is embarrassing,” Shepherd says. “I was misdiagnosed for 20 years. My doctor told me it was nothing. It was psychological, all in my head. There’s nothing to make you go crazy like being told that pain is all in your head. The bloating was so bad that sometimes a costume wouldn’t fit from day to day and I would just have to leave it unzipped in back.”
Bowel symptoms remain "one of those unmentionables," Shepherd said. "Even to say 'constipation,' it's embarrassing."
I used to be embarrassed to talk about constipation. But embarrassment shouldn’t stop people from getting help, and from speaking up.
"I just have a feeling that I have a responsibility to give back, to speak up," Shepherd said. "I figure that if I can speak up about this, then I can encourage other women to speak up, too, so they don't have to suffer in silence."
When I’m feeling depressed and uncomfortable from symptoms of IBS-C, it helps to remember that I’m only one of millions of people around the globe suffering from this perplexing condition. On my worst days, it’s consoling to know that IBS can strike anyone, famous or infamous.
Thank you, Cybil Shepherd, for bringing your chronic constipation out of the closet. As I lay curled up on the couch today, I do feel a little less alone because you’ve been willing to speak openly about your bowel troubles.
Do you think there is enough awareness of IBS?