13th November 2017
I have lived with IBS for many years, ever since I was in my early teens. Initially, my symptoms were relatively mild – only flaring up on occasion but always present. Then about six years later, my symptoms got significantly worse. It was then, after several frustrating visits to see healthcare professionals, that I was finally diagnosed with IBS. At the time, my symptoms consisted of rapidly changing bowel habit and excessive bloating. Being given conflicting information and being told “not to worry and that it’s just IBS!” was one of the most frustrating points in my life.
Not long after I was eventually diagnosed, I discovered the charity, The IBS Network and promptly became a member. Using the charity’s knowledge and resources I slowly began to regain some control over my condition. I accomplished this by taking their advice and looking at IBS and myself holistically. It wasn’t a matter of finding the one perfect solution, it was about making small incremental changes based on information that had proven research behind it and accepting that there would sometimes be ups and downs.
Understanding the role of different foods and food types (eg fibre) in my diet and how these affect specific symptoms was crucial in managing my condition. Lifestyle changes, such as making more time for myself and not rushing around as much, were all key aspects in making a positive impact on symptoms. I also found that hypnotherapy complemented these changes and helped alongside the adaptations I’d made to my diet and lifestyle.
I personally feel that there are two areas where The IBS Network could campaign to improve the quality of life for IBS sufferers – demanding wider provision of public toilets, and more access to information through GPs about IBS after being diagnosed. Too many people having been diagnosed are left to try and conduct their own research often finding conflicting advice. There are several first line treatments that could make an almost immediate and beneficial impact for many with IBS symptoms (such as reducing consumption of common problem foods like milk and wheat, caffeine and alcohol).
For me, self-management and taking ownership of my IBS was a key aspect in improving my symptoms. Having set up a support group in Leeds for other people with IBS, I know that I am not alone and that there are many others in a similar predicament to me. The benefit of being a member of The IBS Network and also being part of my own support group where I can talk with others in confidence cannot be understated.
You can find out more about the Leeds IBS support group which Matthew runs here: https://www.theibsnetwork.org/self-help-groups/