Author Note: This article is part of a collection from the previously lost Bordering Bears website, and has thus been re-uploaded and archived.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition that affects your digestion, including going to the loo. Cramps, lots of gas, diarrhoea, or constipation are the norm. Generally, it sucks. Big time.
I suffer with moderate IBS. It can be a right pain in the winter. In the summer, it’s so much worse. The main problem here is a mix of heat and dehydration. Anxiety tends to spike because, in the warmer weather, I am more likely to be away from home.
I’m not alone. Many people have bathroom anxiety. Need to pee? Fine. Yeah. Sure. IBS attack? My anxiety will take over. More often than not I will drag Feena to a public bathroom with me, because if someone hears it all, they will be more likely to assume it’s the child, and she simply doesn’t care.
I’m grateful to her for that, as well as the kind, whispered words as I’m in agony. It makes it a little easier.
Most people with IBS have their triggers. For me these are:
- Spicy Food
- Greasy Food
- Hot Weather
- Stress or Anxiety
- Too Much Green Vegetables
I’m getting better with the food side of things, mostly due to being less anxious overall, yet I can’t help the ones regarding heightened stress, hot weather or menstruation.
There are things I do that can help, and I’d like to share these with you.
In really hot weather, I try to avoid the triggers where possible. Eating small portions of light food helps. I have some green veg, such as a salad, with some protein. Normally, my go-to here is fish because I’m a sucker for prawn cocktails. These small, light meals mean I have my nutrients and, hopefully, not enough in my belly to cause real issues.
Staying hydrated is vital. I should drink more water, but I am a bad human being. When my “stomach drops”, as we put it politely, I do turn to fizzy drinks. These give me a quick sugar fix, which, to be honest, I need after the hell in the bathroom.
Plan Your Toilets
When I go out, I like to know where all the loos are, particularly if there are Radar ones. I looked into it a few years ago, and IBS websites do mention using the Radar key to unlock, and use, public disabled toilets. I do this because of the privacy needed, and they are more likely to be clean.
This plan will mean that I am always aware of where I can go, and will reduce the chances of an IBS attack simply by reducing my toilet anxiety.
Mind the Sun
I try to avoid being out in the hottest part of the day, unless I’m at home. Laying in the garden in the sun is one thing, as I know I’m in the safety and privacy of my own home. Anywhere else, I try to avoid. It isn’t worth the cramps or worry. Naturally, the anxiety makes the cramps worse, and it turns into a vicious cycle. Instead, I’ll go out in the morning or evening, when it is cooler.
Have Designated Safe Spaces
I have managed to train myself to feel calm in other places too. These are places I usually frequent regularly. My Mum’s home, Ash’s Mum’s home, Ash’s Grandad’s home. Anywhere I go a lot and, more importantly, feel comfortable at, I am now able to manage an IBS attack at too.
Don’t Fight It
Once the cramps start, it’s too late. Get to a bathroom now! Trying to fight it generally only makes it worse. Normal IBS is bad enough. Trust me, don’t make it worse for yourself. Ultimately, if you need to go, you need to go. It’s probably best to get it over with.
Overall, IBS doesn’t have to ruin your summer. You can find ways to adapt and work around it while still enjoying yourself. Identifying any triggers is a great place to start with managing your condition.
You can also take medication to help with your IBS.
I have found that, for hot days, serious trigger foods, or when I’m more prone to a big IBS attack, Colpermin is my best friend. This stuff really hits the spot and does the job quickly.
For average days, or small amounts of trigger food, I rely more on Buscopan, simply because it’s cheaper. It might be psychological, but I have found it doesn’t work as well as the Colpermin.
Some people have found that peppermint tea can help, however I have noticed that herbal teas wreak havoc with my stomach, so tend to avoid these.
You can also speak to your Doctor for prescribed medication, and to check for any underlying causes such as Crohn’s Disease.
Enjoy your summer without letting your IBS get in the way.
If you have any tips or tricks for managing IBS, we would love to hear them.