Irritable Bowel Syndrome: How to Improve Symptoms and Have More Freedom in Your Life

Circa 1996—I’m twenty-two years old.

Scene: My doctor’s office

[This mysterious diagnosis came after two years of non-stop invasive testing that brought me closer to my bowel movements than anyone ever should be. My chronic symptoms—extreme pain and diarrhea—seemed to point to some type of cancer or a need for surgery. The stress and worry had rendered me a complete wreck. I braced myself.]

Doctor: You have IBS.

Me: What?

Doctor: Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s mostly caused by stress, nothing to worry about. It’ll go away once you get settled in life.

He pats me on the shoulder.  My doctor delivered me into this world—and that is the only reason he didn’t get an East Vancouver knuckle sandwich that day.

Present time—I’m older than twenty-two.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve been on quite a ride and most of it has involved a toilet bowl of some sort.

I’m assuming that if you’re reading this you are either

a) living with IBS

b) close to someone who is living with IBS and you don’t really know how to take it.

Does IBS really cause that much pain? Is he/she really going to run to the bathroom? Again??!

For all the skeptics: Yes, it really is that painful: I’ve been a sobbing mess at times.

How do you reduce the severity and frequency of IBS symptoms?

 First of all, I want to acknowledge some of the major psychological consequences:

1.       Anxiety—I’ve felt very anxious at times, when I feel my stomach cramping and hurting and knowing that I need a washroom and not being able to find one. Or someone is in the bathroom and I can’t use it. Major freak out attack!

2.       Embarrassment—Rueben, the male character in the movie Along Came Polly starring Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller is a perfect example of what can happen to someone who has IBS. It certainly is a comical problem to have, but only if you’re watching someone else go through it. Real life IBS is not as funny or heartwarming in a romcom type of way.

Man of your dreams: Baby, I love you.

Me: Er … sorry … hold that thought. I’ll be right back!

3.       Feeling judged—it’s also not so funny if you feel like people are giving you the eye because you’re heading to the work washroom yet again. Please for the love of all things holy, don’t ask about or bring attention to a co-worker’s bathroom habits. Just leave them alone and practice your compassionate self. If you are the one heading to the bathroom again, just do what you need to do and don’t feel the need to explain yourself or apologize for anything.

How to reduce IBS symptoms

Over the past twenty years I’ve developed a prevention protocol for IBS symptoms that works very well for me. There is no “cure” at this point so it’s all about managing the situation and prevention. These are the steps that I’ve taken and the results are nothing short of miraculous. I am not symptom free, but I’m not a slave to IBS as I was in the past.
Please note that since we are all individuals this protocol may not work for you, due to other conditions you may have. You can use the principles of what I’ve done and tailor them to your own situation. I’m confident that you will notice an improvement in your life nonetheless!

1.       Take probiotics—if you don’t take a high dose of probiotics every single day (CFUs count of at least 25-100 billion depending on the severity of your symptoms), put down your phone right now and go to the health food store. You can read the rest of this later. The healthy bacteria for your digestion tract contained in the probiotics (no, you can’t just eat some yogurt) helps regulate the irregular Peristalsis patterns caused by IBS. This one strategy has reduced my symptoms by at least 80%.

2.       No wheat—I used to eat a lot of bread. When I switched to Kamut, Spelt or Brown Rice bread I had a revolutionary reduction in symptoms. Wheat may be hard to digest and is a common allergen for people. I replaced all my wheat products—pasta, bread, etc.—with brown rice pasta, kamut bread, brown rice and quinoa products. This has been the single biggest change for me. However, there are so many yummy alternatives out there now, I know you’ll find wonderful replacements for your favorite foods.

3.       No dairy—this is following the same principle as with the replacement of wheat. Dairy can trigger people and cause “episodes.” Cutting dairy out of my diet made another massive improvement in the reduction of my symptoms.

4.       Seabuckthorn capsules—this amazing remedy has also made a beautiful change in my life. Seabuckthorn is high in Omega 7 which helps repair the mucous membranes of the body. Studies have shown positive results for people with IBS, including moi. I take 500mg per day.

5.       Managing stress—this is THE BIGGEST component. If you don’t figure out how to manage your stress, you’ll be living permanently in the bathroom. Not fun. I became a Reiki Master and I use Reiki on myself all the time. I like yoga—particularly Ashtanga, Hot or Hatha. I take walks. I breathe a lot when I’m stressed—slow deliberate breaths. I also use Rescue Remedy in times of intense stress. Develop your own lifeline when stressful times arrive.

What helps you the most?

I would love to hear about your experiences. Please share in the comments what has helped for you, so that all of us can benefit from the shared knowledge. Many blessings and I hope this has article has been useful!

Download my FREE pdf here: IBS cheatsheet to reduce symptoms