My Messy Bowel Syndrome

I wrote the following for the Spring, 2014 issue of Geez Magazine http://www.geezmagazine.org/magazine/issue/issue-33/

My Messy Bowel Syndrome

I was in my vehicle when I started to get the usual signs an attack was imminent – stomach gurgling and churning, sounds of liquid rushing through the intestines, feelings of pressure in the lower abdominal region, bloating, gas, and so forth.  Immediately I began to panic.

Frantic, I looked for a place that might have a public restroom. As I was holding on – and holding it in – as best as possible, I reached a Walmart several agonizing minutes later.   I flew out of the car, sprinted towards the doors, and prayed there was an empty stall available.  Thankfully, there was.  After ten uncomfortable minutes in that stall, I was drained, in more ways than one. The feelings of stomach instability continued that evening, along with a post-flare up exhaustion, although I didn’t have another attack.

Many who have travelled to Mexico have experienced Montezuma’s revenge and can relate to my story as an isolated incident. However, imagine having “Monty” every single day. Imagine not knowing when you will have an IBS attack, or where you will be when one occurs. Or, on the flip side, being so constipated that you don’t go for several days (and believe me, that’s worse). This is the reality of those individuals who, like myself, cope with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

As with most chronic illnesses, IBS flares and subsides. Several foods can trigger an attack, including salad items such as greens and other raw vegetables. Eating “healthy” isn’t healthy for those with irritable bowel syndrome—the healthiest of foods can be the nastiest of triggers.

I try to manage IBS as best as possible with dietary changes, medications and supplements.  I had a stint of several years where it was particularly well-behaved.  In addition to gastro-intestinal symptoms, those with IBS can also experience lack of appetite and headaches. I call those headaches “toxic headaches”—it’s as if the food become toxic, and, until it is out of my system, the headache continues.

I want to be able to eat and enjoy a variety of foods.  IBS, you make that impossible.