index.htmTEXTttxt"doEmBIN ibs testimony
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Childhood
A painful episode
A violent attack
Counselling
Endometriosis
Alternative treatments
Diets
Conventional medicine
Brain-gut axis
Links
Email

Childhood


I have had ibs since I was a child. I remember always having stomach ache, sometimes quite severe, that no one could find the cause of. I was always at the doctor's or hospital being investigated. Finally, at age about 10, I went into hospital for a few days for tests. I think they thought I had a problem with my kidneys (I have three), but after observing me and my bowel movements for a few days (they gave me "tracers" which showed how long it took something to pass through my system) they concluded that I had "irritable bowel syndrome". I don't remember having any treatment recommended at that time (this was the early 70s). I think it was just a case of "go away, your illness is not life threatening and there is nothing we can do for you". The trouble was that, apart from the bowel symptoms, I just never felt well anyway. I felt tired and mildly depressed all the time.

A painful episode

I was okay for a few years and just suffered occasional problems. Then in my mid-twenties the ibs seemed to get worse. I had a couple of attacks in which I passed out. One time this happened in a restaurant, just after eating the first course. I had to rush to the loo as well. I saw an allergy doctor who tried to say that I was passing out to get attention! I can think of better, less painful ways, of getting attention. I went for more examinations and investigations but again I was diagnosed with ibs and sent away. I think it was about this time that I was prescribed anti-spasmodic drugs which I have been taking on and off for years.

Violent attacks

In my early-thirties it started to get worse again. I had more episodes of violent attacks in which I would have terrible pain and often pass out. I began to be scared to go out the house or anywhere that it might be difficult to find a toilet. I would wake up tired and go to bed feeling tired. It would be a struggle to get through the day, especially if I was also suffering from stomach cramps or other ibs symptoms. These symptoms were not restricted to my bowels. I also felt nauseous a lot of the time, and had general malaise. I started to get panic attacks when out in busy places. I became too frightened to even consider travelling anywhere, whether for work or a holiday. Even socialising became a nightmare and I started to want to stay in all the time. I also began to lose weight because I felt too nauseous to eat.

Counselling

I saw yet more doctors who gave me the all clear for various things such as stomach ulcers or cancer. But they couldn't (or weren't able to) help with the ibs. I was even referred to a psychiatrist, who suggested couselling. I found this helpful in someways (we all enjoy talking about ourselves) but didn't get at the root of the problem, the ibs.

Endometriosis

I've always had painful periods and other premenstrual symptoms so I thought that perhaps my ibs was exacerbated by gynaecological problems. I saw a gynaecologist who investigated and diagnosed endometriosis. I had an unpleasant treatment which involved giving me injections to mimic the menopause and was told my endometriosis was much better (although I still had painful periods). This didn't seem to help the ibs symptoms however.

Alternative treatments

I decided I would try some alternative treatments. First, I tried homeopathy. The practitioner prescribed about ten different homeopathic remedies. I think she hoped that if she threw enough remedies at me at least one of them would work. It didn't. I tried acupunture. The needles often hurt when they were placed in my meridian points but I quite liked going because I felt I was doing something. I think I felt a bit calmer. However, after several months of treatment, I had to admit that I didn't really feel any better. Next I tried hypnotherapy and cranial massage. Again, this helped me relax and so feel calmer but after several months of treatment, I felt it didn't actually affect my ibs.

Diets

I also visited a nutritional doctor who suggested various diets. I had to keep a food diary over several months. Some of the ones I have tried include:

1) no wheat
2) no dairy
3) food combining
4) blood type diet

None of these helped in any obvious way. I am currently on the food combining diet because it seems to make sense. It argues that proteins and carbohydrates mixed together in a meal cause problems with digestion because different digestive enzymes are needed to break them down in the gut. Together they put too much strain on the gut and fight with each other. On there own, the gut can easily digest them. On this diet, only fruit is eaten in the morning, then only protein or carbohydrate at lunch along with lots of fresh vegetables and again in the evening. You are not allowed to eat fruit after a meal because the acid in the fruit affects the digestion process. Although none of these diets have helped my ibs in any measurable way, I do steer clear of spicy food (especially Indian) because these do seem to upset me. I am not very good at eating a lot of rich foods, either.

Conventional medicine

After trying several alternative treatments, I decided to try conventional medicine again. I read a book by a consultant who is involved in research into ibs and decided to contact him. He was very understanding about my condition. Just his sympathy alone made a great deal of difference since many doctors had seemed so dismissive of my condition in the past. He tried me on some antidepressant drugs, but unfortunately they didn't seem to have much effect. Finally, after a stay in hospital (for observation again) I was put on another antidepressant, venlafaxine. I also began to see another consultant. The venlafaxine really seemed to help at first and I felt very positive about the treatment. Unfortunately, after a few months the drug seemed to lose its effect. Since then I have tried another antidpressant, zispin, with some success and am now going to try a mix of the two drugs, venlafaxine and zispin on the recommendation of the consultant. He seems very confident that I will eventually get better.

Brain-gut axis

It is interesting that the drugs I am taking act on the brain, not the gut. The current research on ibs seems to be focussing on the brain-gut connection. The chemicals released by the brain that affect your mood, seem to have a great deal of influence on the gut. This is why our guts are affected by a stressful situation. I am hoping that the right combination of antidepressant drugs will one day control my ibs to the extent that I don't even think about it. I am also hoping that the drugs will help my mood. It would be nice to be able to feel well in mind as well as body. I realise that I do not suffer as badly as many people with ibs but it has still affected my life a great deal. I am now less nervous of travelling and socialising, but it is still a nagging worry in the back of my mind every time I step outside the door.

This is my personal testimony about my problems with ibs. I hope they will be of interest to fellow sufferers or to anyone with an interest in the condition. I do not claim to have any medical training or special knowledge.

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