Riding the IBS Roller Coaster

Problems with my digestive system have been a lifelong issue. I had my first colonoscopy at the age of three and continued to have varying symptoms during early childhood. Throughout my teenage years, I knew something was not right and began to seek answers after graduating high school. I had two more colonoscopies before I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome at the age of 19. This diagnosis was the beginning of learning to cope with a chronic digestive illness.

The IBS roller coaster

The basic treatment plan I was given called for a bland diet of baked chicken and rice. My doctor did not prescribe medication that specifically treated IBS. Instead, he prescribed pain medication for the constant cramping and instructed me to come back in six months. I ditched my gastroenterologist and opted to work with my primary care doctor to find a better solution.

Over the years, I was prescribed a number of antispasmodic medications. My IBS ranged from horrible constipation to never leaving the bathroom. It was difficult to find the right balance when there was constant change. Medication sometimes led to severe constipation, so I was caught in a guessing game with stopping, starting, and adjusting dosage to deal with rapid cycling symptoms. Anxiety aggravated the situation, and I was dealing with quite a bit of stress trying to find some relief. The roller coaster ride was frustrating, to say the least.

Learning what's best for me

It took some time, but trial and error was the key to managing symptoms. I learned what foods bother me most and which foods are the safest choice if I wanted to leave home. Certain medications trigger IBS symptoms, and I have learned the best way to avoid accidentally being prescribed an irritant is to have the list of offending medications in my medical charts.

Completely controlling IBS has been impossible for me, but I have learned to minimize the issues as much as possible when needed. I have also learned how to deal with sudden flare-ups and quickly change course for a constant shifting of symptoms. My diet changes frequently to accommodate current symptoms, but I confess that I do not adhere to a strict diet unless a busy schedule requires more control.

Living on the edge with humor

A sense of humor and a flexible schedule has been key to riding out major flare-ups of symptoms. I like to say I enjoy living dangerously, and eating foods that will trigger a flare-up is my idea of doing just that. I may live on the edge, but I am managing to muddle through with laughter and a bit of careful planning.

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