I Live With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here's How I Cope.

 
I’m working on making it a less shitty experience—literally.

I’m working on making it a less shitty experience—literally.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there with poop problems.

When I started opening up to my friends about mine, I was surprised to find out that many of them also had been quietly suffering from similar issues too. We’re sort of like a poop posse now. 

There are still so many taboos around women having "poop problems" though. Growing up, I remember the running joke that “girls don’t poop.” But did you know that celebrities like Tyra Banks, Jenny McCarthy, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy all reportedly suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Disorders like this are more common than most people realize. So, it's time to cut out the BS from IBS and have a real conversation about it. Ready?

Hi, my name is Sydney and I have irritable bowel syndrome

For most adolescents, the biggest body worry when starting college might be the "freshman 15." I had a bigger problem to deal with. What started as a stomach ache turned into chronic constipation and lead to a visit at the student health center on Halloween.

Unfortunately, for 18-year-old me, my symptoms were mistaken for a bad case of cramps. The doctor on duty suggested taking Pepto Bismol, but warned me to go to the ER if the right side of my stomach started hurting because it could indicate that my appendix might need to be removed. This was, as they say, a reach.

For the next two months, I would spend all of my free time in-between classes researching my symptoms at the library. As expected, WebMD became my best friend on the web. When I eventually came across IBS, I felt like I had finally cracked the code.

It wasn’t until I trekked home for the holidays and paid a long overdue visit to my physician that I was officially diagnosed with IBS. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, IBS can be triggered by “stress, large meals, certain foods, and alcohol.”

My body had experienced noticeable changes in the lead-up to that doctor's appointment. I lost three pounds and the rate of my metabolism plummeted. I’m convinced that part of this shift had to do with my diet changing from my mother’s home-cooked meals to fast (and fried) food at the dining hall, and one too many Natty Light’s at frat parties on the weekends.

Another theory I have is that it was a reaction to my sudden lack of physical exercise. Before I was a collegiate, my former life was spent as a varsity athlete. Before that, I devoted nine years of my life to being a pointe ballet and tap dancer. But I left all of that behind when I went off to college, and it clearly made an impact because my body was not operating how it was used to.

While IBS isn’t curable, it can be managed to some degree. My doctor initially prescribed me with dicyclomine capsules and instructed me to take them in-between meals or as needed. These tablets specifically treat gastrointestinal spasms which are not only uncomfortable but painful.

For five years, I took the pills without complaint, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized the side effects of my medicine were taking a toll on the rest of my body. I started to feel lightheaded and disoriented at work, unable to stay focused and sit still in front of a computer for long periods of time.

By the end of the day, I was weak from exhaustion. And even though I was tired and ready for a good night’s sleep, I found myself laying awake every night, or watching shows on Netflix until around 12:30 a.m.

My body also started feeling extremely sensitive to temperature. Anytime it was above 80 degrees, I would slowly begin to go into overheat mode until I was on the verge of passing out. Being in a constant state of dizziness was bad enough, but add heart palpitations, and I was beyond overwhelmed.

At this point, the only liquor I could drink without getting extremely sick later was wine, champagne and beer. Oh, and if you think your period is bad imagine how awful it is when your entire digestive system is affected as well. Nobody likes a gassy girl.

Here's hoping (and coping)

However, once I started implementing The Nue Co.’s Debloat Food + Probiotic into my routine and stopped taking the pills, I found my symptoms and side effects improved almost immediately. This anti-inflammatory supplement contains organic turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and maqui fruit to help reduce bloating and put uncomfortable stomachs at ease.

It also reportedly stabilizes blood sugar and aids digestion. Every once in a while, when I need it most, I’ll sprinkle this golden powder in some of my meals and beverages. It blends really well in lattes and oatmeal.

Knowing that the founder of The Nue Co. also has IBS makes it seem all the more effective, but studies from the American College of Gastroenterology report that probiotics do improve symptoms of IBS, such as bloating and flatulence.

Some recommended approaches to treating IBS include yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy, and acupuncture.

Lately I’ve been embarking deeper on the path toward mindfulness. While I can’t tell you that there are instant results, I do see the value of being more in tune with your body. We can learn so much about ourselves when we pay closer attention.

I’ll be dealing with IBS for the rest of my life, but I’m working on making it a less shitty experience—literally.

Words: Sydney Gore
Photo: Courtesy