If you’ve been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or experienced painful bloating, you understand how incredibly debilitating and isolating it can be. To add insult to injury, the condition which affects around 15% of Australians, is commonly underdiagnosed and mistreated. This can lead to many people with IBS ‘putting up with these painful and draining symptoms leading to feelings of anxiety and frustration and searching for answers.
Clinically speaking IBS symptoms can look like this:
- Uncomfortable &/or painful tummy cramps or bloating
- Experiencing frequent episodes of constipation or diarrhoea (or both)
- Flatulence or excess gas
But day to day these symptoms can look like this:
Frequently skipping meals or cutting out food groups
Let me paint you an all-too-common picture. You’ve been struggling with painful bloating, diarrhea/constipation, and low energy. You go to your GP, and they send you out for test after test and they all come back negative. You are given the diagnosis of IBS and given little to no information on how to manage the condition. You leave frustrated and without answers. You turn to the internet, your friends, and colleagues, who tell you to try X, Y, and Z magic cure that stopped their sisters’ friend’s cousins bloating. You try cutting out gluten, dairy and sugar, but nothing seems to work. Now not only are you experiencing the same symptoms but you’re now scared to eat as you don’t know what foods are ‘safe’ and which foods will cause you pain.
Avoiding wearing your favourite structured clothes
Do you ever find yourself looking into your wardrobe and defining clothes as IBS-friendly? Do you find yourself wearing an exclusive rotation of oversized and stretchy clothes? Picking items that can accommodate a possible flair-up, including bloating that feels like there is a 5kg watermelon hiding hostage in your stomach – I know I’ve been there. For years I was fearful of buying pants or jeans that weren’t stretchy or had an elasticated waistband. I would get sad looking at different outfits at the shops as I knew if I had a flare-up they would cut into my stomach and exacerbate the pain.
Needing to know where the nearest toilet is at all times
This is a big one I have seen with patients and experienced on my journey with managing my IBS. Having a flare-up, you know that timing is everything, and when you have to go, you have to go. The urgency that these symptoms can provoke can lead to fear and avoidance of leaving the house. For some time, I wouldn’t leave the house unless I knew that there was a toilet accessible. I avoided going on hikes or to the beach because it was too risky. Even when there was a toilet available at the time, the embarrassment of how frequently or how long I was taking would cause me to avoid the situation and sometimes lead me to call in sick for work. That is absolutely no way to live!
But it doesn’t have to be this way, IBS symptoms are not a life sentence.
How can I help?
With the help of an IBS Dietitian. Hello, I’m Maddie and I am a Monash FODMAP and IBS-trained accredited practising dietitian. As Dietitians, we are trained and specialise in the management of IBS. We work to pinpoint what is triggering your IBS symptoms and work together to create your own personalised IBS management toolbox to help you get back to living your life confidently!
Whether your goal is wearing your favourite jeans without fear of painful bloating or going for a hike without needing to know where the nearest toilets are or feeling empowered by your food choices instead of fearful of them, we can work together to make it a reality!