What is IBS?

IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is misunderstood by people who don’t have it. Some of my family and friends never really could hear me when I would tell them I couldn’t eat the foods they wanted me to eat, that I was bloated and couldn’t eat any more. Or that I was in pain. Or the severity of the symptoms I had. I remember a friend just telling me to get over it and that it wasn’t that bad. I don’t really spend much time with people like that anymore.

Many individuals I have met think that IBS is caused by nutritional or lifestyle factors. Its not. You can read about IBS here for more detailed info.

The bad news
But so what. When you have been passing mucous for weeks at a time, bloated and in pain every day, this knowledge is not really helpful. Neither are your friends thinking its all in your head. What many don’t see is the psychological and isolating side to this illness. Depression and isolation was/is also an issue for me.


Its important to become aware of your nutrition and what you are eating and what may be triggering your flareups.  However unlike the people mentioned above, I also realise that nutrition does not fix the issue. It helps me manage them only. It doesn’t always work.

In my 20s when my IBS was at its worst I read every single book I could get my hands on and I tried everything. What I discovered was this: most books and people contradict one another. I had to learn the hard way.

The Reality

Here is a big dose of reality that life taught me over the last 40 years of my life. It doesn’t always matter what I eat – I still have flare ups. I have eaten organic fresh and raw foods and still suffered. Alternatively I can be eating crap and feel better than ever with no symptoms. Avocados may not have been an issue then all of a sudden avocados are an issue. The next time you eat one you bloat immediately. This is the reality of IBS. Im sorry. But its true.

I have many people tell me that I must not be eating properly if I have digestive problems despite me eating cleaner than them before their very own eyes. To these people its simple: You just eat like this blah blah and try this supplement blah blah blah. I have figured out one very important thing about these type of people. They are ignorant – get rid of them. People who think they know it all are usually full of crap themselves. This can be an isolating experience as many people are full of shit.

Advice givers seem to fall into these categories:

  • What works for me must work for you
  • Your lying or not trying hard enough
  • Your probiotics/supplement mustn’t be a good brand
  • Spend all your money and time doing this.. what it didn’t work? la la goes into denial
  • As I read a lot of the net, and think I’m smart, instead of listening to you, I will beat my chest

I still struggle with this from some friends and family.

New Theories

From what I have read a current theory is that something happens between nerves between the brain and the colon. Trauma is likely to be a factor triggered by stress and allergies to foods. Read about it here and here.

It is clear to me that IBS is not a nutritional illness. You may be able to help and improve your situation with nutrition but please don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t wrap all your health issues up in one clean knot. You are not a failure.


3 thoughts on “What is IBS?

  1. I, like you, suffer from IBS however being only 19 years old I have only been diagnosed for the last 2 years after every other possible diagnosis had been disregarded over the course of my lifetime. From what I understand, which obviously is going to be at least slightly different to yours because as you rightly say it is a different situation for all, times of stress – whether conscious or unconcious are the most likely times for flare ups. Also getting up and moving too soon after eating, or eating on the go. I have tried various different diets, cutting out various foods, and attempted to identify my trigger foods but definitely agree with your observation that it is not a nutritional illness and something which you could eat perfectly happily 2 days ago, could give you the most almighty and painful

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