A woman holds her hand over her eyes as she searches and sweats, she wears sunglasses shaped like suns which have a toilet in them

Creating a Summer Routine With IBS

If forced to choose between hot and cold, I'll always choose cold. You can always put more on, and who doesn't love a warm blanket? That's my standard response to the hot or cold question. What I don't tell people is that part of the reason I hate hot weather is what it does to my stomach. There is something about a humid, sweltering day that makes my stomach very angry. It sounds like a mini thunderstorm with all the noises my insides make when I've dared to eat the wrong thing or be too active when the temperature's rising.

IBS adjustments as a teen and young adult

Like many other aspects of my IBS, I first noticed it when I was a teenager. It would be most apparent on family vacations, spending hours upon hours in the sun walking around a theme park. Luckily I was never far from a bathroom and was able to handle it surprisingly well for an otherwise anxious teenager.

It became most obvious when I began working for various law firms as a clerk/runner later in my teen years. Part of my day was spent outside the office, running around the city to other offices, government buildings, and wherever my bosses needed me to be. I didn't work far from City Hall so I always chose to walk there instead of using my transpass and hopping on a bus. I'd get halfway there, walking a couple of blocks, before the familiar pains and sounds began. Luckily for me, I quickly discovered where the bathrooms were and the quickest path to them after going through security.

Summer heat and IBS

Over the years of working in this type of job, I found different ways to deal with the worry of a mid-afternoon walk. I took my time and didn't rush; I found that the more relaxed I was, the less likely it was to happen. I also changed what I ate in the office, steering myself away from fast food burgers and salads loaded with creamy dressings, knowing those were particularly triggering foods. It got better. Still, I was pleased when I finally had a job where that wasn't an issue, and I had no reason to leave the office during the summer heat.

Heat is still a trigger for my stomach. I do outreach as part of my job as a children's librarian and almost always walk if possible. Much like my younger days, if I know what's ahead of me that day, I take care to be sure I'm not going to put myself in a bad situation, especially if I'm going to a public park or somewhere else without a reliable, private bathroom. I apply this to places like beer gardens, knowing that alcohol is another trigger of mine and bathrooms aren't always easily accessible there. A little shift in my behavior can make my experience a lot more pleasant and a lot less stressful.

I wish I understood why my stomach reacts so strongly to the hot weather. I also sweat quite a lot, so it sometimes feels like adding insult to injury. Even when I try my best to control it by eating carefully and slowly, drinking lots of water, and taking time to breathe and cool down, it still happens. It's frustrating but it's something I have learned to live with. Like so many aspects of IBS, there's no perfect solution, no miracle cure, but instead I can accept that my body and my stomach don't always make sense. My summer body just needs to stop at the bathroom a little more often, which is perfectly okay.

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