IBS is a diagnosis that usually only occurs once doctors have no other ideas as to what can be causing problems. This is what happened to me!
Personally, I have had a lot of digestive issues before being diagnosed with this that were actually mostly a corn intolerance. But after that more stomach issues occurred that still have not been fully understood or diagnosed with anything other than irritable bowel syndrome.
Here’s my experience with living with IBS:
Usually in the mornings, about once or twice a week, I was having urgent needs to use the bathroom. It seemed like something was causing my digestive tract to speed up and need to release everything before it had fully digested and compacted (i.e. diarrhea at least twice a week).
This usually happened in my calculus class. I remember one day turning in a test way earlier than anyone else because I had to go. And I didn’t think my teacher would let me continue for fear of having notes in the bathroom or something.
Now, I would feel mostly fine after, and it just seemed like a sudden need to go. But this is not how a normal stomach should react multiple times weekly. So I saw a new doctor. The initial thought was that I had some bad bacteria in my intestines, but all of the tests came back negative.
That also would have stopped after a while. At this point, I was told to take probiotics every day. This was to see if that would help maintain my microflora, by having a large quantity of healthy bacteria. This didn’t help any. After a few visits, the doctor gave me an IBS diagnosis (irritable bowel syndrome)* and suggested I take Pepto Bismol** every morning as a preventative.
It was also suggested I try an elimination diet, to see if something new was causing the issues. I didn’t want to try an elimination diet because I felt like taking corn out was more than enough emotional stress. I didn’t want to go through that again so soon.
*Irritable bowel syndrome is something I’ve been hearing for years by doctors and it drives me crazy. This “diagnosis” seems horrible to me, because it seems like a doctor is just slapping a name on the problem. Then they don’t have to look into it anymore and can just forget about you. It feels lazy and not patient-centric. It’s their way of saying I should just figure out how to live with these symptoms.
**I tried the Pepto Bismol for a while, and it didn’t do anything either. This just frustrated me and eventually I stopped. Someone suggested Imodium, and that had no effect either.
Navigating College with IBS
I went to college like this, dealing with these stomach problems and getting used to a different kind of “normal” compared to my peers. Because I had an IBS diagnosis, it meant there was nothing I could do to make my body act normally. With corn, I could kind of link it to high sugar foods, but this I had no idea.
I actually thought it was related to stress, and it was my version of a panic attack. I was highly stressed at the time; being in college in general is stressful. My heart rate and anxiety went up around the same few minutes that my stomach would act up.
After 4 ½ years of dealing with this, I talked to my primary care physician, and tell her I think my IBS is caused by anxiety/panic attacks. Previous doctors have looked at me like I’m crazy when I suggest that, so I didn’t have much hope. She suggested taking an antidepressant to help because it acts in the gut the same way it does in the brain, which would slow down the digestive tract. (I never tried this)
Traveling to New Zealand
The issue with this idea is I was weeks away from leaving for New Zealand. I didn’t want to try new pills while I’m traveling, and didn’t know how I would get a prescription in a foreign country.
I decided to just deal with my IBS and head to New Zealand.
Starting April 2019, I was working at a fairly busy store, and most mornings I would be working alone. This is where the problem began, because I would have to struggle to wait until the shop was empty, run to the back to the bathroom. I always hoped to be back on the floor before anyone stole anything. This just added to the stress and I made it worse, making it not just annoying, but unacceptable in my mind. I couldn’t leave the shop unattended as often as I was.
Months later, right before the holiday season, I decided to try and do something about it myself. If my previous stomach problems were from food, why wouldn’t this be the same? I decided to do a huge elimination diet, and found that it wasn’t just one food that was causing the problems but a huge selection adding to the problem.
At least it was a start.
You can read about my elimination diet here and tips and tricks to make yours more successful. It might just give you a better answer than just an IBS diagnosis.