Stephen Williams - Battling with IBS

This is the success story of one of Stephen Williams, written in his own words, and his battles with dealing with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The following story is written by Stephen. 

Finding out I had IBS

Finding out that I had IBS was a very long and drawn out process that started in the mid to late 90s  when I was in my late teens.

Back then IBS wasn’t really a ’thing’, it certainly didn’t have the awareness it has now.

It presented itself with the pretty standard, constant but irregular painful bloating and uncomfortable stomach cramps.

I went through a long list of tests with doctors and at hospitals, all that gave negative results meaning the only thing that was left was IBS. As there’s no real test for IBS, it’s a matter of elimination. 

During this period I was a very keen rugby and football player, playing several times weekly so exercise was definitely a part of my life. My diet was fairly standard for a teenager at that time, a time when health foods were scorned for being the work of the devil. 

However, despite eating a fairly standard diet and exercising regularly I was still suffering, mostly in silence, and the stigma and embarrassment attached to talking about guts, flatulence and bowel movements meant it was something only really discussed in a GP’s surgery. 

As I grew older it became very difficult to plan nights out, dating, going out for meals and so on, as there was no clear indicator as to when, where and how a bout of IBS would strike.

I can also recall a number of occasions where I had to decline an event, a date or a night out as the pains arrived just in time for to destroy the plans I had and turning a planned night out with the woman of my dreams to an evening on the sofa moaning and groaning and breaking wind!

As IBS was a fairly new medical condition there was nothing like the range of medicines available that there is now, almost 30 years later.

What I tried to overcome IBS

I will never forget my GP at the time telling me to drink 2 pints of cask beer each day as the live ingredients in the drink was good for the bacteria in your gut! A doctor prescribing beer as a medicine will always be a hero in my book! Music to the ears of a spotty 19 year old. 

Over the years I’ve tried many different ‘cures’ for IBS and the fact that I still suffer today is proof that they don’t work.

Probably the most successful of these was drinking those small fermented milk drinks (Yakult, as it’s called over there).

I was drinking one bottle a day but as they were very expensive in the UK back then I decided to stop. During the time that I was drinking them, however, I suffered with IBS far less than I did prior to drinking them.

Once the pains began to flare up again I went back to the drinks and they instantly made me feel sick. I guess my body decided they were too good and it wasn’t having any of that!

At this time I also journaled what I ate and when I had a flare-up of pains and cramps.

The only two real constants in that period were bread - of all types, and raw onion! That was the end of my cheese and onion sandwich fetish! So now I actively avoid both of those and that does definitely help. I’ve since realized that high fiber foods do also cause bloating, but as a married father of two, the breaking wind issue now does nothing other than entertain my kids - and I’ll never stop entertaining the kids, if you get what I mean!