It’s been nearly three years since I was first diagnosed with IBS aka irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system. It causes a range of symptoms, from stomach aches to problems going to the toilet. The symptoms can come and go, lasting for days, weeks or even months.
It is a lifelong problem, that has no cure and can only be managed by diet changes and medicines. The time of my diagnosis was about two and a half years since I first started suffering from anxiety disorder.
At the time, I barely had any idea how anxiety and other mental health related disorders could affect the body. My stomach had always been one to speak volumes to me. Whenever I would have an anxiety attack, feel worried or stressed, upset or angry, my stomach would feel the full impacts.
So it didn’t come as a surprise to me that I had IBS when I got diagnosed.
I remember it was the summer after I had finished studying at college. My sick phobia had just then started to get really bad, so I had spent a lot of time focusing on my stomach and all the physical changes it would make, which a regular normal person would not even have noticed the way I was.
One night, I remember I couldn’t get to sleep. I had an awful stomach ache. It had become kind of the normal that I was suffering from bloated and painful stomach aches most weeks. But this was like on another level. My tummy really hurt. And I couldn’t go to the toilet.
I had been in a similar position before (just less intense and not realising it was IBS). I decided to sit and wait it out, hoping it would pass. But it didn’t. It just continued on and on. It was the worst kind of knot, tight and stabbing stomach ache I had experienced.
It got to the point where I was so uncomfortable and in so much pain, that I booked myself a Doctors appointment and within ten minutes was given the diagnosis, something my Mum was already convinced I had way long before then anyway.
Flashforward to now, 2018 and three years on. I’ve gotten to know my IBS and the symptoms it causes. I wanted to share with you today my experience and my top tips on how to manage IBS in collaboration with Buscopan*.
Get to know your symptoms and triggers
Even to this day, I am still learning more and more about my symptoms and triggers. I am well aware of most of my triggers, but sometimes I’m not always so quick to recognise them, the same with my symptoms.
It’s a good idea to keep track and record any symptoms and possible triggers you might have day to day, to help with managing your symptoms and making you feel better.
You could do this by keeping a diary of the types of things you experience day to day. You can have this as a separate diary or add it into your current one. If you would prefer to track this more when you’re on the go, using the notes section on your phone can be useful.
Ensure that when you are keeping track of the symptoms, that you are also noting down the triggers you experience. Things like stress, certain foods, eating habits, menstrual cycle, alcohol, lack of exercise, can all contribute to IBS.
Once you are able to start to track your symptoms and possible triggers, you will be able to understand more what you are going through and accept it. This will help you to see as IBS as something that can be unpleasant, but isn’t harmful nor is it something to be fearful of.
Take care of yourself
When dealing with any form of illness or even just in general day to day life, it is important that you take care of yourself. If you’re experiencing uncomfortable symptoms and getting stressed, it’s good to take a step back and make sure you are number one priority as you need to look after you.
If you’re feeling tired, run down and fed up, then learn to rest when your body is telling you to. Take a nap, go to bed earlier or have a long lay in.
If you’re feeling hungry or your body is needing a particular food to make you feel better, then eat something that is going to make you feel good. Also, remember to refresh and hydrate your body regularly with a glass of water.
There will be times when you feel down and irritated for having to put up with IBS, but it is good to allow yourself this time to feel how you want to feel. Nurture that part of you that needs consoling, before you go do the things that you know will make you feel good.
Treating yourself to something new, doing your favourite thing or visiting the people you love can also boost your mood, which all will help your physical symptoms of IBS too.
Join support groups
When no one else around you suffers, it can make you feel very isolated. A good idea to prevent this from happening is to join support groups. IBS is one of the most common disorders out there and is thought to affect 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives. Because of this, it means that you are never alone with what you’re going through.
BuscopanUK* have a Facebook group support where IBS sufferers can join together to share their experience and advice with other IBS sufferers. You can pick up useful tips and tricks to managing your IBS better, as well as share your own story and advice with other people, which could help improve someone else’s life.
Other ways you can help manage IBS
Apply heat – Whenever I experience a bad stomach ache, I always grab a heat pad to help ease the pain and discomfort. This can help reduce bloating and ease any pain, as well as help to soothe and relax you, which will help reduce your symptoms also. Heat can provide long-lasting relief. Make sure your heat is gentle on the skin, so you don’t burn yourself.
Drink herbal tea – I’m not a massive hot drink’s fan, but it has to be known that certain herbal teas can be great for eating IBS symptoms. Remember to be careful of caffeine as it can trigger anxiety and IBS.
Peppermint tea helps to soothe the gastrointestinal tract, helping to reduce spasms and pain, as well as get rid of any gas.
Chamomile tea reduces inflammation, spasms and cramping. It is also good for those who suffer from anxiety as it has calming effects.
Anise tea will help to settle your stomach and regulate digestion. This tea is also good for those who might be experiencing constipation.
Try Buscopan* – Buscopan have their own brand of tablets, specially designed to help abdominal cramps and discomfort. They work by relaxing the cramping muscle of your bowel, which then eases symptoms. You can find them in most supermarkets and pharmacies. Consult your Doctor before use.
Drink more water – We all know how good drinking water is for you, so it is no surprise that drinking water can actually help your IBS symptoms. It helps to flush out your system and get rid of any toxins. It can help to relieve constipation, prevent dehydration and improves your mood.
Do you suffer from IBS? How do you manage it?
This post was written in partnership with Buscopan. All thoughts are my own.