I’ve had IBS for about 10 years now. I am lactose intolerant and my symptoms are stress and anxiety induced most of the time. So day to do I can stomach normal amounts of lactose (but I would not in a billlion years ever consume straight up milk ever ever again – last time I did was 2014, I had a bowl of Coco Pops with regular milk and was ill for 4 weeks afterwards), but when I’m stressed then I can’t digest any amount.
Generally though anything can trigger my symptoms, it’s different year to year. This is what makes it very hard to manage sometimes.
I am a big advocate of preventative Imodium – if I have a long haul flight or any sort of big event that I don’t want ruined, I will pre-empt the symptoms and take an Imodium before I get ill. Not sure this would be recommended by medical professionals, but it works for me.
Also a lot of it for me is my peace of mind, by which I mean the anxiety about worrying about having a flare up often will instigate the flare up. So if I’ve done something preventative I increase my chances of not getting ill from that perspective too.
It’s a shitshow (pardon the pun) sometimes, not gonna lie. It has ruined some experiences for me. When I was in Paris a few years back I was so bloated and in so much pain that not only did I have to loosen my belt, but eventually I couldn’t even button my jeans. I’ve had to turn down many social occasions and leave early from others. I’ve had to tell employers that I need a later start time because my symptoms are worse early in the morning. I’ve been out and about with friends/family and kept them waiting for half an hour whilst I’m shut in a toilet somewhere. It has been a dark, dark cloud for me over the years.
BUT I am still, one decade on, getting a better handle on it month by month. I’m learning what to avoid and when. I’m learning to talk about poo more and to not be silenced by taboo which in turn was forcing myself to cope with things alone.
The biggest kick in the teeth for me in 2019 IBS-wise is that I had some halloumi (previously one of my favourite fods) and then had a massive flare up a couple of hours later. Not sure if it was linked, but regardless, it’s put me off halloumi for life and now I can’t even look at it without feeling ill.
Don’t underestimate how important understanding friend and family are when you have IBS. You need to know for your own mental health that if you need to drop out of things that people won’t take it personally, and will understand. I cannot stress this enough. I know for a fact if I was worried about my friends’ reactions when I have to sometimes cancel plans last minute, I would be more ill from the anxiety from that.
My advice would be to not put all the focus on food/exclusion diets. Even with intolerances, it is quite likely that you will have triggers other than the foods that impact how your body copes with said foods – stress, tiredness, time of the month, anxiety, sadness, everything. Everything is linked.
Also – and this is important – IBS can’t OFFICIALLY, TECHNICALLY be diagnosed. There is not a test they can do that comes out positive for IBS. It’s 99% anecdotal. And it’s different for everyone. Many, many people are misdiagnosed as having IBS when they have general stomach issues, and it’s not uncommon for other (diagnosable) illnesses to be missed purely because it’s easy for a Doctor to say it’s IBS. So consider looking into whether it may be something other than IBS, if you are very concerned.
Good luck xxx