It seems that most weeks I find myself talking to someone who has been diagnosed with IBS but who is sure their doctor has got it wrong. They are genuinely suffering and feel sure something has been missed. They wonder whether they may have Coeliac disease or Crohns or worse.
And it seems to me that they are sure it can't be 'just' IBS because we've all been led to believe that IBS is a trivial illness.
IBS is the kind of thing that comedians like to poke fun at. Sean Lock is one comedian who jokes about IBS, but he also says ".. IBS isn’t that bad, is it? I’ve got a sister-in-law who has it." Some people have even had their doctors tell them it's 'just' IBS. For the record, I once saw a doctor who told me it would 'pass'. It seems doctors are comedians too. Just.
So let's get this straight. There is no 'just' about IBS.
IBS is a nasty illness which affects every part of your life. It's not 'just' the bloating and the way that, over a few hours, you can appear to have become several months pregnant. Neither is it 'just' the way your bowels develop a life of their own, apparently rebelling against you at every opportunity. It's certainly not 'just' the intense pain which the pain killers don't seem to touch. It's an awful lot more.
It's the way you begin to fear for your job as you are taking more and more time off work.
It's the way you're surviving on very little sleep as finding a comfortable position at night seems impossible.
It's the look on your friend's faces when you make another excuse not to go out for food.
It's the way you've had to give up on that yoga class as you can't trust your belly to stay silent for that long.
It's not being able to remember the last time you did anything spontaneously.
It's having to cancel that trip at the last minute.
It's being scared to eat.
It's the way you lack the energy to carry out the simplest tasks.
It's the way your whole life seems to revolve around knowing where the nearest loo is.
It's the way your friends and family don't quite understand.
It's the embarrassment of it all.
It's the way it knocks your confidence.
It's the way it drags you down.
And yes, much of that is true for others who suffer with chronic conditions, but we wouldn't (I hope) trivialise those. Having said that, I have a lot of sympathy for people with M.E which, until fairly recently, was referred to as 'yuppie flu'. Talk about trivialising!
So this week I was pleased to discover a petition started by the IBS Network to 'recognise it's not 'just' IBS'. (You can find out more about the IBS Network here.) It strikes me that this is exactly what is needed. But because IBS is embarrassing I do wonder how much publicity this campaign will get.
So, if this is something you feel strongly about, please add your name to the petition and let's stop trivialising this awful condition. It's a small step but you never know, it might 'just' make a difference.
'Til next time Fodmappers - Stay Fabulous. x