I think I have IBS, and I have the courage to try seeing a GI againdiagnosis IBS diarrhea doctor gastroenterologist stress urgency cramping bloating exercise
Posted 06 November 2012 - 01:09 PM
In the fall of 2007, I began noticing persistent diarrhea and stomach cramping. Most problematic, though, was the urgency to go to the bathroom. I am a musician, and I was in a doctoral program. Rehearsals typically lasted 2 ½ hours with no break. I play a heavy, awkward instrument, and my stand is almost as heavy and awkward. I had always considered it too cumbersome to bring to rehearsals, but I found that I needed to so that I could safely put my instrument down and run to the bathroom. I got weird looks from conductors. Classes were two hours long, usually at an oversized conference table in an undersized room; kind of like trying to navigate church pews. I found myself trying to sit in the back next to the door, which made required class participation a bit difficult.
I saw my doctor, and she ordered a stool sample to make sure I didn’t have a parasite. I didn’t, so she referred me to a gastroenterologist. Over the next six months, I saw Dr. F. He did another stool test and tests for lactose intolerance and celiac, and finally a colonoscopy. They found nothing, and sent me on my way, saying I could take as much Pepto Bismol as I wanted. I found it very unsatisfying and discouraging.
I haven’t seen a doctor about it since; I found the whole experience so unpleasant. Dr. F always asked me leading questions, trying to get me to say I was stressed. Well, being a grad student and a musician is stressful, but I’ve always been a musician, and this was my 5th year of grad school; I had a strong, solid faith in God that grounded me, a wonderfully supportive group of family and friends, and just didn’t perceive that the current stress level was significant. I can say those things now too, except that now I’ve graduated and married.
My husband sees my trips to the bathroom as excessive, and has been encouraging me to see a doctor for quite some time. It bothers both of us that I have to get up and leave during meals, often in a big hurry. It’s not very relaxing. I exercise less, and have gained weight, despite my frequent watery stools. My favorite exercise is cycling, but I find the pressure on my stomach to be impossible—pressure from the waistband of bike shorts and/or the bent over posture, I not sure. I frequently abandon my workouts to get to the bathroom.
I kept a food diary when I went to see Dr. F, but he was not interested. I haven’t kept one regularly since. But I think the experience was a positive one. I was busy, single, not interested in cooking; I ate a lot of Lean Cuisine and other frozen boxed dinners. When I started the food journal, I realized that list of ingredients was way too long for me to ever learn anything, so I started eating a lot more simply. I know I improved my health by eating less processed food. However, the food journal was a ton of work and I wasn’t seeing any patterns. I decided to try a diet. I tried South Beach. I lost 7 pounds, which was nice, but I still had diarrhea.
o I’ve always suspected I might have a problem with milk and/or wheat, but Dr. F’s tests didn’t support either.
o I’ve tried increasing fiber in the morning (eating oatmeal or oat bran) and also probiotic yogurt—I think these things help marginally.
o I have noticed that salad seems to go straight through me. Very unpleasant.
o The only thing I do know is that I almost always have to go to the bathroom during or soon after eating, especially breakfast. When asked what seems to trigger the urgency, I’m not being facetious when I say “eating.”
Because I spend most of my time at home now, the diarrhea and urgency bother me less. But the stomach cramping and bloating are rotten. And when I am traveling/working, all of these things wreak havok.
After a particularly nasty episode last week, I’ve decided to try seeing a gastroenterologist again. I was greatly encouraged by a video I found on the GI.org page on IBS. I’ve believed for a long time that I have IBS. I really hope a doctor can diagnose me and help me better manage my bathroom issues.
I welcome your thoughts and responses, and I'm reading through some of the material on this site with cautious optimism and hope.
Posted 06 November 2012 - 03:32 PM
Posted 06 November 2012 - 11:46 PM
I have only had PI IBS-d for three months now, since having a terrible stomach flu in early August. However, I have had Interstitial Cystitis for several years so I am not a stranger to problematic diagnoses, auto-immune issues, serious bathroom inconveniences and learning to control symptoms by diet, stress reduction and just plain perseverance. I share your frustration. One thing I learned during my search for a good urologist is that patience and trial and error is the name of the game. One very big hurdle is finding a doctor that is a good fit for you: one who is sympathetic and wants to learn along with you how to develop a treatment plan. You may have to go through several before you come up with one you like and who likes you back. More than ever we all need to be our own best advocates. Do as much research as you can; the more you know the better you will be able to evaluate a doctor and the more you will get out of every visit.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for doctors to treat people with these "spectrum" auto-immune diseases; the symptoms often seem so recalcitrant and often respond to a subtle combination of diet, meds, etc. Finding a doctor you want to work with can be a huge psychological boost, so it's worth it to search one out.
Check out the low fodmaps diet and see what you think. It is possible to be sensitive to certain foods without testing allergic to them. Also everyone is different, so some people are more responsive to diet than others. One thing about diet is that it is non-invasive and does not cost any more than your food budget. But it isn't always a quick fix, nor is it always easy to find out which foods help you and which foods don't. Same with meds, of course. I had to deal with depression when I was trying to diagnose and find a treatment plan for IC, so that became a part of my treatment. Take care, and try not to get discouraged--it really takes some patience.
Here's a final thought. Diseases like IC or IBS are diagnosed by exclusion, which is why it can take so long. However they are often diet sensitive to one degree or another. Diet can actually be used as a diagnostic tool. If you are careful and do your research and follow the scientific method of an elimination diet AND make sure you are eating a healthy variety of foods you may find that your response to diet can help your doc diagnose you. But it ain't simple, that's for sure.