A big thank you to our guest blogger Lena from Lena’s Happy Tummy for this week’s post. Take a look at her blog or find her on Instagram as @lenashappytummy. If you’d like to write a guest post, email info@theibsnetwork.org. 

Student life. IBS. Two terms that contradict the other. The main things associated with student life are drinking, lack of sleep, drinking, baked beans and more drinking — none of which are compatible with IBS, at times such a debilitating and painful chronic illness.

Though there’s a growing number of IBS sufferers speaking up on social media and online articles about IBS, it’s hardly talked about in the student world.

Perhaps it’s partly linked to the stereotype that students turn a blind eye to their health whilst at university. Yet, in my three years as a student at a large London university, I have encountered many people who have not only been suffering with IBS for years, but also people who have been diagnosed whilst at uni.

University is meant to be our chance to discover all the usual clichés: finding ourselves, learning and having the time of our lives.

But what happens for those students living with IBS and unsure how to manage it at university? What if we feel the pressure of trying to enjoy ourselves whilst living with a chronic condition? Or what if students find themselves suffering from confusing and embarrassing symptoms, especially ones that no one likes to discuss?

An illness that requires a lot of management is undoubtedly going to cause issues for a sufferer who is just starting their student life. It’s incredibly difficult to deal with not just a chronic condition but also an invisible one at university.

With the gradually emerging evidence about the role of mental health and stress in triggering IBS, it is no wonder that more and more students are being diagnosed with IBS.

The high-pressure, high-stress environment coupled with an unhealthy student lifestyle can be enough to trigger gut symptoms.

Eventually these symptoms can become severe enough that even a student will locate their nearest GP, finally register themselves (after meaning to do it during fresher’s week but, of course, forgetting) and wave their red flag, finally willing to accept help.

Considering that university can create the perfect conditions for IBS, it begs the question of why there hasn’t been more said about the condition amongst the student population.

Whether it’s a new diagnosis or something that has been occurring on and off for a while, suffering with IBS as a student is not easy, but there are ways to make the transition smoother.

It is utterly positive that student mental health is now being given a bigger focus than ever and considered more carefully by universities, and talking to your university’s disability services or psychological services is a great first step.

Uni is most definitely possible with IBS, it just takes more careful planning. Hopefully, as IBS diagnoses rise and the research into IBS continues to grow, there will be more awareness, discussion and consideration of the way that this can affect the student population.

We are a population which is all the more likely to be affected IBS, given the pressure and stress that many of us find ourselves under. It’s not ‘just IBS’ for students, it can be the cause of a whole host of other problems.

That’s why it is absolutely the right time for students to start talking about IBS. If you are a student suffering with IBS, please never feel alone: there is help out there.

If you’re struggling to cope with IBS at university, take a look at our Self-Care Programme. Members of The IBS Network can also access our medical helpline staffed by specialist IBS nurses and use the Ask the Experts feature to submit their personal questions to our panel of gastroenterologists, dietitians and other IBS practitioners. Find out more about becoming a member