Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

50 Comments

Except for a previous blog post about my knee replacement surgery, I have written little about my own health problems.

I take Toprol for moderate high blood pressure and an antihistamine for my many allergies. Otherwise, I am in relatively good health. But there is one exception. For the past four or five years I have suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

You have probably seen the ads on TV showing someone strolling through an airport searching out every restroom, duly noting their location in case of an emergency. That's me.

What started out years ago to be an occasional nuisance has become a major problem. I never know when the IBS is going to hit.

I have learned to identify certain foods that trigger an episode. Black pepper is the major culprit in my case. There are other foods that will trigger an attack, especially if I consume more than one within a few hours of each other or over-indulge in a known trigger, such as soy, high fructose corn syrup, fruit, soft cheeses and several other lesser irritants.

The condition has reached a point where it severely limits the things I can do and now impacts my quality of life.

I no longer feel free to travel and limit my activities to events that require me to be away from home for no more than two or three hours at a time. I always have to ask if there is black pepper in restaurant-prepared food. I have been in restaurants where there was nothing on the appetizer or entrée menu that I could eat. Better restaurants will usually try to accommodate me by preparing something special, but at other times I have found I was able to eat only a dinner roll and dessert.

A 70-mile drive last week with a friend to enjoy the fall foliage almost turned into an embarrassing disaster. We had been on the road for about forty-five minutes when the distressing cramps warned me that it was going to be a bad day. Lunch plans were cancelled and my friend, who was driving, immediately turned around.

We were still miles away from the nearest town, and the cornfields were looking more and more like a viable option as my friend hurried for home. We finally came to a small town with a country store, which I jumped out and ran for, as soon as the car stopped.

The dour proprietor pointed me to a Port-A-Potty outside the door as my only option. I have always avoided those things like the plague, but, any port in a storm. Much to my friend's relief, we made it home without a disaster. But I don't think she is going to be inviting me on any road trips in the near future. That's what my life has come down to.

I have tried many things to mitigate the problem; peppermint capsules, Immodium, probiotics, avoiding coffee and tea, using lactose-free dairy products and various other remedies that have been suggested. Nothing seems to make much difference.

I have learned that stress is a contributing factor. But I am a caregiver. There is no way to avoid stress.

My daughter recently suggested that we take a three-week trip south after Christmas. I would dearly love to park Charlie with his daughter and hit the road with her, visiting friends and relatives along the way. But unless I decide to survive on a toothpick and a glass of water for the duration, I don't see that happening.

Ah—the Golden Years. My aunt used to say, "The only thing that's golden is my urine." So true.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

View full profile

You May Also Like

Free AgingCare Guides

Get the latest care advice and articles delivered to your inbox!

50 Comments

about 8 years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes 2. the doctors put me on a medicine called 'metformine'. well then the irritable bowel started. I was like marlis. I knew where every washroom in every store in town was. I could not go anywhere because I was spending my life in the washroom. I was on all kinds of pills by the doctors. nothing worked. finally one day I visited my doctor and he told me that they have tried every medication on me and nothing works . I asked him what was next and he told me 'surgery. I thought 'no way. so I immediately stopped taking 'metformine'. eventually the trips to the washroom slowed down to a tolerable state. now I can go for drives shop with little fear of having to run to the washroom.
there is a drug available called' remecade'. it is very very expensive.
the reason I am writing this letter is because you may be taking medications which could possibly be causing your problems.
thank you
I've made progress in dealing with IBS. First, a naturopath got me off Zoloft (an anti-depressant the Gastro put me on for stress even though I felt I was not experiencing stress). The Zoloft was one of the causes of the IBS.

Extensive testing discovered I have a defective anus, so controlling my stool was still a problem if it was not firm.

Later a FNP talked me into trying 100% Psyllium Husk (fiber supplement). She explained that even though it is normally used as a laxative, many of her IBS patients had good success with it "thickening" the stool.

After staying home for 3 years, I have traveled over 15K miles in my motor home without major issues for the last 2 years... and I'm still traveling.
Oh, I hear you, Marlis. My IBS started the day my husband had his stroke. I tried everything but nothing worked. In my case the culprit was stress. How do you avoid stress as a sole caretaker? Answer: it's impossible. I have lost my husband, yet the stress seems to be still around. I have normal days and out of the blue the IBS rears it's ugly head. I am looking forward to the time I can make travel plans without the worry - "what if - and no bathroom in sight".