Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a constant uphill battle. Life almost becomes unpredictable and often times it feels like you are planning your day around the nearest bathrooms. It is hard to enjoy yourself at a social gathering or around friends and colleagues when the only thing running through your mind is “when is it going to strike?”. While this may make you feel like your life is over, fortunately, there are ways to manage your condition. With the right motivation and tools, you can restore your quality of life.
Forget the Insecurities and Stress
IBS does a good job at leaving us feeling embarrassed and stressed which negatively affects our self-esteem. It does not necessarily have to be that way. While you may feel betrayed by your body, the truth is, everyone is fighting their own inner battles. You may feel embarrassed for slipping out every few hours in desperate need of the bathroom, that is no one else’s business but your own. What others think of you is not your business either. Constantly worrying about someone else’s opinion is a waste of time, the fact is, we all have bowel movements and while yours may occur differently or more frequently than others, it is part of human nature. Some else’s judgment and lack of empathy do not reflect on who you are, it merely reflects on who they are as a person.
You don’t have to suffer in silence, there are about 2.4 and 3.5 million annual physician visits for IBS in the United States alone. IBS is a fairly common disorder, someone you know or might be close to may also be suffering from IBS. Opening up to a close friend or relative can lift a heavy burden. Having a support group or someone to talk to will help you feel less anxious or isolated and the support will motivate you to get back on track and restore your quality of life.
Pay Attention to your Body
Diet plays an important role in managing IBS triggers. Start keeping track of what you are eating daily in a food diary. Document what symptoms occur when you eat a certain meal. By doing this you begin to identify a pattern by knowing what foods to avoid.
Living with IBS is an unpredictable reality. It is sometimes impossible to foresee when symptoms may occur. By accepting that you can’t control your body is the key to gaining control. This may sound confusing at first but stressing about when your symptoms will flare up may be a trigger. Preparation is the only aspect you can control when faced with a potential episode in a social environment. Keep necessities such as spare underwear and wet wipes on hand at all times. This may help reduce the anxiety and keep symptoms at bay for a night out.
Look After Yourself
Your disorder does not define who you are. It is ok to feel down sometimes but never stop looking after you. Motivate yourself every day to look at the positives. Change your lifestyle and make healthier choices. Enroll in a yoga class, take probiotics, keep hydrated and listen to your body. Keep trying every day and remember you are not alone.