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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Toilets and Trying Times.

I am ill. It varies. I have endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I have various manifestations of madness, and I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). All of these are long-term conditions.

Endometriosis, PCOS, IBS and insanity all have something in common. They are not especially socially acceptable things to discuss in many circumstances. Talking about girlie bits, poo or emotional dysfunction makes many people uncomfortable. They think you are being too personal, or too revealing, or something, and they often want to run away. My tip for chronic illnesses is to try and acquire one which people don't 'faire un cul de poule' with their lips if you mention it and look at you like you just mooned the Queen.

So, I mentioned IBS among that lot. I was diagnosed with this around 7 years ago. At times it is not a big problem, at other times it is entirely debilitating. I developed it post-virally, but once the virus had gone, the IBS stuck, and is still hanging around (no 'like a bad smell' jokes necessary ;) ).

Lists and explanations of IBS symptoms are all over the internet. My own form of it affects me to varying degrees and intensities on a seemingly random basis. I get extreme pain and diarrhoea. Sometimes the pain is milder, thankfully.

But at its worst (which it is today), the pain makes me cry. Even if I could move around easily I'd be scared to in case I was too far from a toilet when I get the sudden cramps and need to go now. So when my IBS is this bad, it essentially halts my life. And there is little warning that it is going to be bad.

Like today for instance. I had to cancel meeting two friends for lunch, as about 20 minutes before I was due to leave, I had an 'attack' which lasted until long after I was due to be there. Thank goodness for text messages.

I felt very bad for having to cancel, especially on the last minute, and I worried, as I always do in this situation, that people would think I was making excuses, or at the very least exaggerating what I was going through.

So, I felt very validated and much better, when I read this, a guide explaining IBS to people who don't have it.

You can (and should!) read the whole document and explanations of the points made at the IBS Group site, but points I particularly liked were:

  • WHEN I’M HAVING AN ATTACK, I NEED SPACE

  • THE RULES ARE ALWAYS CHANGING

  • I’M NOT USING IBS AS AN EXCUSE NOT TO DO THINGS

  • IBS IS NOT ‘ALL IN OUR HEADS’

  • I CAN’T ALWAYS HELP BEING LATE

  • I CAN’T CONTROL HOW OFTEN I GET SICK

  • IBS IS A HIGH MAINTENANCE CONDITION
.
My friends may be smirking about the tardiness statement, and quite rightly. Often I am late because I am unorganised, but sometimes it truly is for IBS reasons.

It is not a socially acceptable condition to discuss, and yet it is important for those of us who live with it, to be able to get some understanding from those who don't. Billy has talked about it, and there are IBS blogs. And so now I am coming out too. It might be related to poo, but I live with it and it really, really hurts and disrupts my life sometimes. There.

I take Colpermin which is prescribed for me by my doctor, to help manage the symptoms. Its active ingredient is peppermint oil and the capsule is designed to only disintegrate once it is in the intestines, so the peppermint is released within the intestines and helps to relieve the spasms. When I was first prescribed it I thought I wasn't being taken seriously ("I'm having diarrhoea 12 times a day and you're giving me aromatherapy??") but decided to give it a go anyway, and was very pleasantly surprised at how much more effective it was than the previous prescription medications I had tried.

It's not a cure, it's not even always an effective reliever, but more often than not it helps, and I'm extremely glad of that.

You can also buy Colpermin over the counter I believe. I do have a few tips though if anyone does decide to try it.

The information explains that
The capsule’s enteric coating ensures that it remains intact as it passes through the stomach acids and the small intestine. Once in the large intestine the active ingredient, peppermint oil, is slowly released for maximum effect and relief.

I agree with that, but I also have to state that the other reason the tablet must not disintegrate before the intestines is because if it disintegrates in the stomach, the heartburn you will get is incomparable to anything you have ever experienced. Seriously.

So, for that reason, when it tells you to not eat for at least half an hour after taking the tablet, it means it. Eating seems to keep the capsule stuck in your stomach a bit too long, and it starts to disintegrate there. Similarly, I would add some perhaps odd advice, but it is always worth smelling the capsule before you swallow it. If you smell a strong odour of peppermint, throw it away and take a different one. The capsule is probably cracked, and this can make the capsule come apart too early, in the stomach, too. I'd imagine it is for these same reasons that the packet advises to not take antacids at the same time as this medication. My theory about that is that the stomach is an acidic environment, and the intestines a more alkaline environment. So presumably the capsules are designed to begin to break up on contact with alkaline substances. So if you take an antacid, which are often made of alkaline substances, to neutralise stomach acid, then you are exposing the tablet to an alkaline environment within the stomach, so it will start to disintegrate, leading to heaaartbuuuuuuurn.

Don't say I didn't warn you ;)

Recommend: IBS explained for people who don't have IBS.

2 comments:

Robyn said...

Hi. I started reading your blog about a month ago. I was searching on the internet for a childhood friend of mine named Pippa Black. I don't know if you are her or not, but I really enjoy reading your blog. I just had to comment today because I can really identify with what you are talking about. I don't know if I have IBS, but I have a lot of the symptoms. As a matter of fact, I'm supposed to be somewhere right now and can't go because I'm afraid of what will happen once I get there. Thanks for telling your story. It made me feel a lot better.

incurable hippie said...

I'm so sorry you have similar symptoms - it can be really, really evil to get so ill, so suddenly and so severely!

I'm glad reading what I wrote helped you, and I'm really glad you like the blog :)