“Oh, that hurts my stomach, too.”
I hear this statement a lot, and it lets me know that people do not understand the difference between a food that unsettles your stomach and IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome is not just food that irritates your stomach. It is so much more.
If there was one food or even a dozen foods I could avoid and stay symptom-free, I would never eat those foods again. Life would be so much better if it was that simple. This is not simply having food that is bothersome. This is a matter of just about any food being more than bothersome. Unfortunately, we must eat and that means we must face the pain of irritable bowel syndrome.
Common IBS symptoms
IBS is a nagging illness that sometimes has no trigger at all. It suddenly rears its head and decides to wreak havoc no matter what you eat. Having dinner can result in hours of cramping and misery. Once that wave of pain passes, it is time for another meal and the cycle starts all over again. This can go on for days, weeks, or months without a break in symptoms.
Let’s talk about symptoms. IBS is not just having to run to the bathroom after eating a food that is irritating. It is a ridiculous amount of cramping, bloating, and nausea. Symptoms vary from person to person, but most of us experience those symptoms frequently. Other symptoms we tend to have include a prickly sensation that spreads over the entire body, hot flushes and cold chills, sudden sharp pains, and an urgent need to go.
Symptoms of IBS-C
The urgent need to go is an issue that varies and creates different issues depending on what type of IBS a person has. I have episodes of both IBS-D and IBS-C. In IBS-C, the urgent need to go is compounded by an inability to go. This is not your average bout of constipation. This is the type of constipation that can lead to a bowel impaction or obstruction. It is the kind that can result in fissures, prolapses, and large hemorrhoids.
IBS-C is not an occasional bout of being unable to go. It is repeated unrelenting episodes of constipation so severe that you cannot stand to breathe deeply. Finding relief by finally being able to go may result in being unable to sit comfortably for a while. It is so much more than your occasional bout of mild constipation. This is episode after episode of severe constipation accompanied by nausea and severe pain. IBS-C is constipation that can lead to emergency room visits and hospitalization.
Symptoms of IBS-D
IBS-D causes an urgent need to go that can result in bowel incontinence, which is an extremely embarrassing problem to have. It causes wave after wave of cramping and pain followed by an urgent need to release the bowels that cannot be stopped. Cold sweats, nausea, and intense pain occur when trying to delay using the bathroom and trying to delay it often results in an accident.
Eating out becomes a major problem because of the urgent need to go after having a meal. Leaving home can be impossible. These episodes strike with little or no warning and require immediate action. It is disruptive to your daily routine. It does not go away after a few hours, and this can be an everyday occurrence for years for some people. Imagine having a stomach virus every day. That is pretty close to what IBS-D is like, and it does not go away in 24 to 48 hours.
Understanding the severity of IBS symptoms
Symptoms of IBS can be triggered by specific foods, but this is not the same as having a few foods that hurt your stomach or having occasional bouts of stomach upset. IBS does not have to be triggered by certain foods. It is more than heartburn, gas, or mild stomach upset. The symptoms are much more severe, and it stays with you for a lifetime. While I understand that broccoli might cause you a bit of misery for a short time, it can cause me to be miserable for weeks. It is not the same, and comparison of the two is a trivialization of IBS and those who suffer with it.
Do you have an experience where someone trivialized your IBS?
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?