If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) April is your month to be heard!  IBS is a topic many people feel uncomfortable discussing. Let’s face it – the symptoms can be painful, embarrassing or horrendous (I have been there).  If you’re like my old self, my life changed drastically when my IBS was out of control.  I had to change up my wardrobe (and buy tunics, sweater dresses, and not wear jeans).  I was that person who couldn’t see down to her feet because of an insanely distended belly – and that same belly would render the sweetest smiles from strangers as I boldly strolled the beach in my bikini ….awww, nope…I wasn’t pregnant then!  I had to say “no” to so many friends who asked me to come and hang out.  I was that person that wished many times I was a balloon so that someone could pop me with a pin to let out all the pressure in my abdomen.  I was that person who had to excuse herself from a very important meeting to go do my business because it would not…wait.  I was that person you might’ve seen running through a parking lot at Target that one day in Point Loma (after I drank some matcha green thing from Starbucks -never again!), hoping to good God that I’d make it to the bathroom in time and that NO ONE was in the bathroom (I did make it).  I was that person who after having consumed a real American breakfast with various items and fruits as well as coffee and regular milk (as no almond or soy milk was to be seen) running into the ocean one day in September 2013, while my husband started to look the other way and run down the beach (do I need to tell you the details?).  I also on another day close to the same beach could’ve been mistaken to be reenacting this scene in the Bridesmaids movie…

I was (and sometimes still am) the woman that is bewildered by her own gas, amazed that I as a female could ever produce such foul-smelling matter.  I have learned how to make these wafts of gas, quiet, silent and unfortunately (for my husband) sometimes deadly.  I was the family member who you could find on Thanksgiving sprawled out on the couch, NOT enjoying the food coma that ensued after eating a little bit of this, a little bit of that, alcohol and dessert.

I was the one in my family, and among my friends, that started talking about FODMAPs because I had finally found the low-FODMAP diet and started to get my life back.

I have been blogging about IBS and the low-FODMAP diet since 2013 and never until this time have I been so honest and open about my own horrors with IBS!  It’s about time, and you need to know that some of these same scenarios are happening around the world.  Like to 25-45 million people in the United States, and 10–15% of the worldwide population.  That’s many, many people! And check out these stats from the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (iffgd):

  • IBS accounts for up to 12% of total visits to primary care providers.
  • A significant proportion – 35% to 40% – of individuals who report IBS in the community are male. Approximately 60% to 65% of individuals who report IBS in the community are female.
  • IBS is a major women’s health issue. Data reveals an increased risk of unnecessary surgery for extra-abdominal and abdominal surgery in IBS patients. For example, hysterectomy or ovarian surgery has been reported in female patients with IBS as high as 47% to 55% and has been performed more often in the IBS patient than in comparison groups.
  • The cost to society in terms of direct medical expenses and indirect costs associated with loss of productivity and work absenteeism is considerable – estimates range from $21 billion or more annually.

So enough about my story and all these unfavorable stats about IBS.  What about YOUR STORY?  Are you willing to tell it?  To share what you have been through?  To spread awareness so fewer people have to suffer and so more can understand treatment and therapy options?  So the people in your life can understand and work with you and your health and somewhat altered lifestyle?  That would be your family and friends who wonder why you miss out on events or cancel so often.  Your partner who can’t understand why you’re so picky with food, why you lock yourself away in the bathroom or would rather do something else than having sex. Your employer who shakes his/her head because of your absenteeism, or frequent bathroom breaks.  Or maybe that guy or girl you went out on a date with, and thankfully they are still hanging around even though your symptoms of IBS got the best of your last romantic adventure.  Yeah, these people in your closest social circles need to know.

Let’s Talk #IBSAwareness

Ways you can spread awareness for IBS include:

  • Have a dialogue with the people in your life and explain what’s going on
  • Log on to Facebook and share this post and comment below with a sentence or two about how it’s affected your life
  • Print up my infographic “What is IBS?” and this blog post, “The Economic Impact of IBS” and share both with your boss and human resources department.  Ask that a program be put into place for digestive disorders and digestive diseases
  • Share your personal IBS story with me and don’t be afraid to be brutally honest.  Why?  You might help someone else to feel less alone!  Just contact me here and I will share your story on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  You can choose to be anonymous or just give me your first name.  I’ll let you know when your story has been shared!
  • Shop for IBS Awareness Clothing and wear it proud or gift it to someone you care about
  • Become an advocate for the digestive health patient community
  • If your doctor has diagnosed you with IBS and suggested trying the low-FODMAP diet, my site has plenty of resources to get you started, and don’t forget to add in exercise and relaxation.  It’s the same as when you want to lose weight – you may not be as successful if you only focus on food or only focus on exercise.  Diet + exercise + relaxation are the key ingredients to digestive success.  A calm brain and nervous system often times can help set the tone for a calm gut brain and digestive tract.  You may also want to consider meditation (even short guided meditations may help), talk therapy, hypnotherapy, and/or acupuncture, herbal therapy and having your blood levels checked for any nutrient deficiencies.
  • If you haven’t been diagnosed with IBS yet and feel it’s something you may have, find a gastroenterologist and ask them to also test you for celiac disease.

Questions, comments?  Please share below!

“Be Good to Yourself and Your Gut!”  Have you signed up for my newsletter?

~Colleen Francioli