Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I don't really like to talk about it because I find the word "bowel" extremely off-putting and embarrassing. Fortunately I don't have a serious case, and it's usually only an uncomfortable inconvenience. Occasionally, however, it is extremely painful. What happens is that the muscles at some point in my intestines go into a spasm, and nothing I ate or drank earlier can go through. Sometimes when the affected area is in the upper portion of my abdomen, it presses against my diaphragm and makes it hard to breathe.

I found out I have IBS after a trip to the emergency room several years ago. I had always suffered from a touchy digestive system, but after 3 days of unremitting pain, I was afraid something had gone terribly awry. The good news was nothing was seriously wrong and I wasn't facing imminent death from gastric torture, but the bad news was that IBS is a chronic problem, and it might never go away completely.

IBS is often the reason that I don't make it out to social events and I just stop answering the phone. It gets worse with stress, so after a crappy week at work I often have a lot of pain on Friday night - just in time to wreck any going-out plans I might have had. One of the things I regret missing most was Ann T.'s engagement celebration. I was flattered to be asked, and I was really looking forward to the wine tasting. But I had to cancel just hours beforehand because it hurt so bad. Once I missed an interview for a job I really wanted at the Writer's Garret.

I do have medicine that helps, but it makes me feel slow and stupid and gives me a terrible dry mouth. I also can't drink when I take it, so it puts a definite crimp in my social style. Lately, as I had to take it more often, I found that it would wear off sooner and sooner, leaving me with 8 hours of pain to cope with until the next dose and no other options to try.

However (and I'm probably jinxing myself), I haven't had any problems in over a month. The main difference in my habits is that I've starting doing yoga once a week. I've tried exercising and eating better in the past to help reduce the symptoms, but this is the first month I can remember that I didn't have any pain at all. I usually have flare ups around that time of the month, so we'll see in a couple of weeks if I just got lucky or if I've actually found a way to deal with this condition without the drugs and the ruined plans.

I'm still a big flake and might not answer the phone when you call, but at least I'll be ignoring you because I want to. :)

1 comment:

sealegs said...

i was diagnosed with this affliction years ago. i rarely have problems anymore, but i know stress was a MAJOR factor in it for me. i also take Lactobacillus Acidophilus. i've taken it on a pretty regular basis for close to a year. i seem to have less stomach aches and i also think it helps out my lactose intolerance. that and limiting my dairy intake. i can remember back when i would have to miss work because i was so miserable. it's not a fun thing, but for whatever reason it seems to be mostly dormant now. i truly think leaving that job changed things for me, so if you can find ways to relieve stess, like taking yoga, that will continue to help.