Having irritable bowel syndrome can be an isolating, unpredictable, and even frightening experience. Dealing with changing symptoms and flare-ups is difficult at the best of times, and it can especially be the case when you have a new diagnosis. But that’s not all there is to the story! April is IBS awareness month, and today, we’re taking a look at how it feels to be living with IBS.

A visual metaphor for living with IBS. A cartoon man is running towards a public washroom, looking confused and uncertain.

Dealing with flare-ups is no simple task!

What Is IBS?

IBS is one of those conditions that’s hard to explain, as it can manifest itself in a variety of different ways. At its most basic, it’s a little-understood but chronic digestive condition affecting the large intestine which can be influenced by food and even by stress, sleep, and exercise. No one is absolutely sure what causes IBS, but it affects over one billion people worldwide–so if you’re experiencing symptoms, just know that you’re not alone!

Image: A visual metaphor for living with IBS. A cartoon man is doing research on a laptop, looking confused and uncertain, with question marks around his head. He looks uncertain.

Sometimes downright baffling, symptoms are no laughing matter for those with IBS.

While IBS may sound like an issue that mostly affects people in the bathroom, the sometimes uncontrollable nature of symptoms can make it an embarrassing condition that leads people to avoid certain situations, which in turn can exacerbate feelings of isolation and anxiety. It can be challenging at work, where symptoms can flare up at inopportune moments or be triggered by extra stress; it can also make it difficult to enjoy social activities and even eating out, as these situations may take place far from washrooms and can make it harder to control which foods and beverages you have the option to consume. Sometimes annoying and sometimes downright baffling, symptoms are no laughing matter for those living with IBS.

Living With IBS Symptoms

Image: A cartoon of a man running away from cartoons of a bed, a greasy slice of pizza, and coffee and emails representing a stressful schedule. A visual metaphor for dealing with unpredictable IBS symptoms.

Dealing with IBS symptoms can feel like being on a treadmill…

One minute, everything seems fine…the next, you’re scrambling to find a bathroom. Living with occasional stomach pain is one thing, but living with IBS’ varied, unpredictable and sometimes conflicting symptoms is quite another. IBS symptoms can include pain and cramping, uncomfortable gas, diarrhea or constipation (or both), food intolerances such as gluten and lactose, fatigue, and even anxiety and depression. Keeping track of symptoms and finding a pattern in their triggers can be a challenge, and this experience can cause stress, which can also be a factor that further exacerbates the way symptoms appear. Dealing with symptoms can feel like being on a frustrating, self-perpetuating treadmill.

If you think you may be experiencing IBS symptoms, it’s important that you talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about what you’re going through, as they will be able to properly diagnose and suggest ways to treat the condition. A good plan of action is one of the first steps to finding your way!

Managing IBS Symptoms Every Day

Image: A visual metaphor for getting help dealing with IBS symptoms. A cartoon man is talking to a friendly doctor and checking points off a checklist.

Your health care provider can suggest ways to thrive with IBS.

There is no cure for IBS; however, the good news is that it is manageable! Your health care provider can suggest ways to cope with the condition, including reducing stress and choosing foods that won’t produce bloating or discomfort. There are also many things you can do in your day-to-day life which can make managing IBS easier. Researching menu options when going out, setting and keeping to a schedule, and even finding a community where questions can be asked and answered are all great ways to cope. Confiding in your family, friends, or partner can also help you feel supported and less alone. Remember that sometimes, just talking about living with IBS (if you’re comfortable doing so) can do wonders for how you feel!

Image: A visual metaphor for living with IBS and finding ways to manage symptoms. A man is at his computer, doing research and learning from the Fody website.

An informed understanding is key!

You can absolutely live a happy, whole life with IBS! For more information on low-FODMAP, gut-friendly foods, check out Fody’s guides, and check out our recipes to find out how you can keep on enjoying the foods you love!

Happy IBS Awareness Month from Fody!

 Image: A visual metaphor for enjoying life with IBS. A cartoon man is happy in a sunny park.

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