Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Me and my colon

The physical symptoms I have been experiencing in the past couple of months are probably manifestations of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I say probably because it is a diagnosis of last resort: a functional disorder...which just means that they cannot find anything by current testing that is wrong.

IBS has been characterized as a somatic disorder in the past...something that results solely from anxiety or depression. But there seems to be more going on. Some people experience first symptoms after a severe GI illness or trauma. Others, like me, experience the onset after an emotional stressor.

So it is likely that IBS has multiple causes with the same result: a disruption in the normal functioning of the gut. The gut, like most of our body, is a marvelous thing. It takes the food from the stomach and processes the nutrients and wastes. It moves the wastes along in a sealed chamber of flora, until it is egested from the body. As I am only beginning to learn (and I think as scientists are only beginning to learn), I cannot explain in full all that the gut does.

But I am beginning to understand what it doesn't do in IBS...or in the type that I experience. I have an alternating type (which means I've experienced diarrhea and constipation). My colon will spasm causing an intense urgency to use the toilet (although this is not always diarrhea) sometimes. I can recognize that I've had this symptom for about 5 years.

The most prominent symptom I experience is bloating and gas pain. Studies have been done to show that the ability of the gut in IBS sufferers to move gas through the system is somewho compromised. Along with increased sensitivity probably caused by a decrease in serotonin and norepinephrine in the gut (which explains the connection to depression and anxiety), this is a perfect storm of circumstances that results in discomfort in most IBS sufferers.

Last night, in a less than tactful move on S' part, I was told that food doesn't cause the IBS and changing your diet won't cure it. I burst into tears. I'm pretty sure that he was frustrated because he wasn't going to be eating his favorite Thai dish, and he also wasn't aware that I'd spent most of the day feeling uncomfortable. I was wanting hapiness and joy, and didn't want to bring in my feeling yucky because I was sick of focusing on it. It was a lovely picture of what can happen when the scientist meets the vulnerable me. Then he felt like an ass and I felt bad. We were a pretty picture.

And S was right. Food changes by themselves will not cure (and did not cause) the IBS. In fact, they don't know really how to do either. But figuring out what food's you might be sensitive to (for me - broccoli, definitely) and avoiding that can help reduce symptoms. It also helps to reduce your stress, if you can...by pursuing therapy and hypnotherapy. Getting enough sleep. Exercising regularly...and again staying stress free (ya'll get back to me if you figure that one out).

So I'm stuck with trying to figure out a balance. I feel like I'm walking blindly not knowing if anything will really work consistently, and avoiding actually doing some of the things that I should because I know that it means giving some things up that I don't want to give up. It's frustrating, and it's frustrating to feel like S is also frustrated and doesn't know how to support me in this (and it would help if I knew what support I wanted).

Today I am feeling better. S & I did have a lovely rest of the evening watching a storyteller, then I got to listen to S tell stories. He leaves today to ship out on a tall-masted ship as it sails down to Santa Barbara for the rest of the week. And I continue on my daily journey.


Alecya Giovanni said...

Beloved has IBS a lot like yours. Hers seemed to be worse in public. We couldn't go out to eat without it acting up. It is manageable though. And you aren't nearly as high strung as she is, bless her.

I moved to an apartment this last April and I found the Christmas card and the coloring book you sent me while I was packing up my bookshelf and keepsakes. It made me smile.


hippie chick said...

Sending you healing thoughts my friend! Like you said, you have to find a balance and this will take some time - be as easy on yourself as you can.

Aravis said...

Like hippie chick said, be easy on yourself as you find the balance, and I send my healing thoughts along with hers.