We conducted a survey of more than 1,500 people currently suffering from IBS or other gastrointestinal issues. Read below to find out about the real impact of GI issues on quality of life.


It’s Time to Talk Sh!t
2019 Consumer Insights Survey



Let’s Talk Sh!t

Let’s be honest. All of us have experienced eating something that doesn’t quite sit well or have found ourselves constipated. But if you had that experience every time you ate, your gut issues would not only be annoying and often very painful, but also life impacting. Imagine spending countless hours in pain or on the toilet every week, plus feeling cultural pressures to keep quiet about what’s happening to you.

More than 45 million Americans suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). To give that number some context, that’s roughly the same number of Americans who use online dating websites or hold student loans. For those experiencing IBS and other digestive discomforts, eating can be difficult and can result in significant lifestyle challenges.

Fody™ Food Co., a leading provider of low FODMAP foods, found out just how impactful those lifestyle challenges can be in its inaugural “It’s Time to Talk Sh!t” survey:

  • 1 in 3 are late to work, spending more than 30 minutes on the toilet.
  • 58% suffered for a year or more before seeking help.
  • 72% avoided going out to eat at a restaurant.

The company conducted the survey of more than 1,500 people currently dealing with IBS as well as other gastrointestinal issues to better understand their experiences and help individuals smile inside and out.

And it’s very clear that these individuals are tired of the taboos around talking about poo – with an impressive 9 out of 10 millennials agreeing that it’s time to start being more open about our digestive issues.

  • 91% of millennials surveyed agreed that it’s only natural and should be discussed.
  • 76% of all survey respondents think that we need to be more open to talking about poo.
  • 66% of those ages 65 and older were also in favor of it.

Fody Foods encourages open discussion about digestive discomforts and is committed to bringing back the joy in eating for those dealing with these issues. Studies conducted by Monash University in Australia show that up to 75 percent of IBS sufferers experience symptom relief when following the low FODMAP diet, which categorizes foods that trigger gastrointestinal problems according to the type of carbohydrate they contain.

The survey results highlight the extensive impact of digestive distress. Gastrointestinal issues disrupt daily routines and toss a wrench into holidays and family gatherings. Through the survey, stories were shared that brought to light the pain and often embarrassment that can accompany IBS, as well as how many suffered in silence for years and that talking about digestive issues still feels culturally unacceptable.

As noted by one survey respondent, “Staying silent about these issues prevents people from getting help or even realizing they can get help.”

There are solutions to help those suffering, whether it’s from a form of IBS, a food allergy or intolerance or other discomfort. Gastrointestinal-friendly diets such as low FODMAP have been proven to provide symptom relief, and more than ever people are seeking and receiving assistance from health professionals.

Having open and frank discussions about the physical, mental and emotional stresses of dealing with digestive discomforts creates a stronger community that is better equipped to address symptoms. Fody Foods’ recent “It’s Time to Talk Sh!t” survey confirms that people are not alone in their suffering. Sharing experiences helps others to learn how to remove anxiety from eating and get back to living life to the fullest.




 


Digestive Distress Can Impact Everything

Digestive discomforts make everyday life difficult. Of all survey respondents, 72 percent admit to having to struggle through everyday routines, impacting their ability to be fully productive at work or school, as well as enjoy their personal life. Notably, one in three have been late to work; and 64 percent of respondents 24 or younger were late to school due to digestive discomfort.

This is similar to a 2015 report from the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) on IBS in America that found each month, on average, IBS leads to two missed days of school or work and nine days of impacted productivity.

Many of the “It’s Time to Talk Sh!t” survey respondents shared that they have had to leave work unexpectedly to deal with a digestive issue, with one respondent noting that they keep a travel toilet in the back of their SUV for emergencies. Living with IBS or any digestive discomfort changes how individuals approach everyday situations. “I’m stressed about what foods to buy at the grocery,” says one respondent, with another explaining, “First thing I do when I go anywhere is find out where the bathroom is!”

Unfortunately, 72 percent of people suffering from IBS or another digestive issue will avoid going out to eat at a restaurant. According to the United States Census Bureau, annual restaurant sales amount to $704.18 per person a year. Considering the more than 45 million people in the U.S. currently experiencing digestive issues, the lack of inclusion in the restaurant industry for those with digestive issues is definitely a missed opportunity. As pointed out by one survey respondent, “I'm hoping that restaurants will become more aware of IBS as they have of celiac.” If restaurant owners and operators offered menu items that were low FODMAP, for example, imagine the potential windfall of revenue that could be generated.

What We Heard

“I’ve been taken by surprise in public places…that’s very embarrassing!!”
— Female, age 65-74, Florida

“I’m always allowing extra time in the mornings before leaving the house, I always check with restaurants on menu items for my dietary restrictions – also, when traveling, I make sure I bring food items I can eat.”
— Female, age 55-64, California

“IBS is life-altering, and that is AFTER the diagnosis.”
— Female, age 45-54, Massachusetts


Missing Important Life Experiences

IBS is not only disrupting millions of people’s everyday life, but it is also impacting life’s special moments. Nearly 80 percent of survey respondents report missing out on activities with friends and family because of a gastrointestinal issue.

Life is complicated enough, but when you add abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating or cramping, often at unexpecting times, you can lose out on the experiences that makes life worthwhile. Sadly, 27 percent of respondents didn’t go on a vacation because of their symptoms.

Sometimes people try to enjoy a life experience by choosing to ignore the potential of having digestive issues afterwards, such as 38 percent who will take a risk eating something that could upset their stomachs during a special occasion. Those who do have the courage to go out to a restaurant are also often putting their digestive discomfort on the back-burner in order to do so. Just over a quarter of respondents will willfully forget their issues when out with friends.

Still, 26 percent say they never ignore the potential of having digestive discomfort, with one providing the blunt response, “I can never ignore it.”


Toilet Time

When suffering from a chronic condition such as IBS, many resign themselves to spending much of their day in the bathroom. As reported by the AGA, IBS symptoms are not only bothersome for sufferers but can also be unpredictable from day to day. This includes abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, urgency and cramping. In its 2015 study, the AGA found nearly one in four are not at all able to accurately predict when symptoms may be experienced on any given day.

If your body is unpredictable, it is important to know where the nearest toilet is at all times. Although symptoms often arise outside of the home, almost half of Fody’s “Its’ Time to Talk Sh!t” survey respondents (47 percent) try to avoid public bathrooms, with 20 percent willing to endure pain until they can get home.

That said, as many with digestive discomfort will tell you, when it is time to go, there may be few choices, and 49 percent of respondents will use a public bathroom. Some will scope out a public bathroom with only one door (20 percent), but slightly more (25 percent) will patiently wait until the public bathroom is empty before using.

As noted in a May 2017 article in Thrillist, recent research shows that mammals poop in approximately 12 seconds on average. That’s not quite the case for those experiencing IBS as well as other gastrointestinal issues. Twenty-five percent of “It’s Time to Talk Sh!t” respondents are spending 30 minutes or more on the toilet each day.


It’s Time to Stop Suffering in Silence

The most difficult experience of suffering from IBS or digestive discomfort is often finding a way to express your symptoms or the impact it is having on your life. As one respondent from Arizona put it, “I’ve suffered in silence for decades.”

In Fody’s survey, a minority of 22 percent sought help within six months of experiencing digestive discomfort symptoms. However, the majority (58 percent) waited at least a year or more to seek help, including 21 percent that took more than six years to find symptom relief.

Unfortunately, not immediately seeking help is a trend that is continuing with millennials, as 61 percent of those surveyed took more than a year to address their digestive discomfort. Also, 58 percent of millennials haven’t openly shared their difficulty with food because they are embarrassed by their issues, with 39 percent worried they would be judged for having digestive discomfort and 25 percent didn’t think people would believe them.

These results are difficult to digest, as many still find talking about their gastrointestinal issues frustrating. Respondents expressed that they constantly have to explain what they can and cannot eat, with one person stating, “I found that trying to explain it all was draining for me.”

The lack of openness about IBS and digestive discomforts carries over into work and school. Slightly more than one in six people surveyed won’t tell the truth about why they are late to work when it involves a symptom, and 43 percent of those 24 or younger haven’t told the truth as to why they were late to school.

There are those that are not embarrassed to discuss having to constantly listen to their stomachs and keep an eye on the nearest bathroom. “I have told many others because it has affected my everyday with the discomfort and pain,” explains one respondent. Generating an open dialogue and creating a community not only helps those currently diagnosed with IBS or another gastrointestinal issue but also encourages others with digestive discomfort to seek help from a doctor or medical professional.

Overwhelmingly, 76 percent of survey respondents say they want people to be more open about talking about poo, and 91 percent of millennial respondents want it to be less taboo.

As one respondent from New York concisely explained, “Everyone defecates. Food goes in one end and eventually leaves the other. If we're lucky. Bowel movements are part of the human experience.”

While the bathroom door should be kept shut, the digestive discomfort conversation needs to be kept open.


The Low FODMAP Solution

Many have found an answer to their digestive discomfort through the low FODMAP diet. Research shows following a low FODMAP diet can provide complete symptom relief for up to 75 percent of people suffering with IBS. The diet was developed by Monash University in Australia and is quickly becoming the go-to dietary intervention for those with gastrointestinal issues.

For Fody’s survey respondents, three in four find the low FODMAP diet to be extremely or very helpful. Although 73 percent noted their friends and family had never heard of low FODMAP, and 27 percent got the impression they were speaking another language from friends and family when they mentioned low FODMAP, 50 percent of respondents describe friends and family as being very supportive. This showcases how the narrative of IBS and digestive discomfort can go from being a taboo topic to one where people can talk openly and discover food that makes them feel good.

Not only does Fody deliver a wide range of low FODMAP, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO products, but it offers resources, recipes and more to help IBS sufferers and anyone challenged with digestive discomfort. Fody is a one-stop shop so everyone can enjoy convenient, delicious and symptom-free eating at any time of day.


Methodology

Fody Foods conducted a web-based survey of more than 1,500 people who identified with having IBS-A, IBS-C, IBS-D, GERD, SIBO, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, food allergies or intolerances, or a symptom of digestive discomfort. Nearly 80 percent received a diagnosis from a medical professional, 18 percent received help from a medical professional but no diagnosis, and three percent have not sought help for their digestive discomfort.

Respondents were a mix of ages, ranging from under 18 to over the age of 85. The majority of the respondents (77 percent) were ages 25 to 64. Additionally, 74 percent were from the U.S. and 23 percent were from Canada.

For data requests and media inquiries, contact Katie Volney with Kohnstamm Communications at katie@kohnstamm.com. For brand and product inquires, contact Delaney Brown with Fody Foods at dbrown@fodyfoods.com.

Missed Experiences

  • 72% of survey respondents have avoided going out to eat at a restaurant
  • 72% have struggled through everyday routines
  • 47% were unable to hang out with friends
  • 31% missed a family event
  • 27% didn’t go on a vacation
  • 16% were late to a significant occasion or milestone – e.g., wedding, anniversary, funeral, etc.

 

Missed Experiences

  • 72% of survey respondents have avoided going out to eat at a restaurant
  • 72% have struggled through everyday routines
  • 47% were unable to hang out with friends
  • 31% missed a family event
  • 27% didn’t go on a vacation
  • 16% were late to a significant occasion or milestone – e.g., wedding, anniversary, funeral, etc.

 

When To Ignore

“I’ll ignore the potential of having digestive discomfort only when I know I don’t have to go anywhere for a couple of days.”
— Male, age unknown, Michigan

“If I know I will be off work and will not be in a situation where I will be around people for multiple days.”
— Female, age 25 to 34, Pennsylvania

“When it’s a special occasion and I know I don’t have any commitments for the next couple days and can stay home – maybe one or two times a year. Other than that, I never ignore it.”
— Female, age 45-54, British Columbia

 

Why We Hesitate to Talk Sh!t

“Even though everyone experiences it, it's somewhat of a personal matter that usually doesn't involve other people. You should definitely be open with your doctor and maybe family/friends that you live with, but it's not for casual conversation with a stranger or neighbor.”
— Female, age 25-34, Florida

“I wish people would be more open and understanding about any medical condition. But I don't always want to hear details of people's poo.”
— Female, age 45-54, Wisconsin

“I don't want to talk about poo but I will gladly discuss the discomfort, physical and mental, of dealing with this difficulties.”
— Female, age 45-54, Missouri

 

Why We are Ready to Talk Sh!t

“Staying silent about these issues prevents people from getting help or even realizing they can get help.”
— Female, age 45-54, Kentucky

“As gross as it is, it’s a normal human bodily function. Poop can tell you a lot.”
— Female, age 25-34, Indiana

“As I've opened up a bit more, I realized that a lot of people have similar issues. It's nice to know it's not abnormal.”
— Female, age 25-34, Washington

“Everyone goes. For some, it’s easy, not so much for others. I have a disease that will not be going away. I have a disease that affects everything I do; yet, people can’t see it so they don’t take it seriously.”
— Female, age 25-34, North Dakota

“I hate talking about it - and I even hate the word - but I realize it’s a normal part of life, and it’s valuable to be able to talk to your significant other (for support), doctor (for guidance) and/or close friends (for encouragement) about what’s going on.”
— Female, age unknown, Washington

“How many people have serious issues that could be treated if only they spoke up?”
— Female, age 55 to 64, California

“Anytime a subject is spoken about more openly, it can only lead to a better mental outlook on the topic and potentially more research. It can also bring a community of people together to form as a support group.”
— Female, age 25-34, Manitoba

“I think the fact that people don't talk about poo leads to widespread ignorance about digestive issues and causes some people, like me, to suffer needlessly in silence.”
— Male, age 45 to 54, New Jersey

“It's too taboo and makes it difficult for people to let others know when they have an issue.”
— Female, age 25 to 34, Utah

“Poo shouldn't be taboo!”
— Female, age 55 to 64, Michigan