Tag Archives: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What Would It Take for Me to Be in Optimal Physical Health?

Yesterday marked one year since the start of my weight loss journey. At the time, I’d set myself a goal of having a BMI under 30 in a year, which would mean I’d lost approximately 10kg. Well, I reached that goal last January, maintained it for a few months and gained weight again this past month. I’m now almost where I was last December. I need to lose 2kg to be at a BMI under 30.

I originally intended to write a post about my weight loss attempts and how I’d been doing. That got rather boring. I didn’t reach my goal, but I got close. As my husband says, I got an 80% on my weight loss exam.

Rather than boring you with my weight loss stats, I want to write about my physical health as a whole. I picked up the 24-day whole health journaling challenge from Mari L. McCarthy again. I started this challenge several years ago, but never finished it. One of the exercises at the beginning of the challenge is to write out what comes to mind when you think of your ideal physical well-being or balance. Here goes.

If I’m in optimal physical health, I’ll wake up rested each morning after sleeping eight to nine hours a night. This means I’ll have a good quality of sleep, which also hopefully means I won’t snore anymore. I won’t sleep during the day and will not sleep more than ten hours on the week-end.

I’ll eat a balanced diet. I am allowed to enjoy salty snacks or sweets once in a while, but mostly will snack on vegetables and fruits. I will drink at least two liters of water each day. If needed, I’ll take my Metamucil for constipation, but I hope to manage that with diet and exercise. I will find out what foods trigger my irritable bowel syndrome. As a result, I’ll not feel bloated or get bowel cramsp anymore. I will also not get acid reflux anymore. I can manage this with medication, but I’ll also practise slower eating.

Once in optimal health, I am able to walk for 5km without getting exhausted. I will reach my Fitbit’s recommended daily step goal (10,000 steps) a few times a week through regular walks and other exercise. I will go on the elliptical for at least 25 minutes five days a week. I’ll also do weight lifting exercises three days a week. I’ll steadily increase my weight bearing ability.

In summary, to reach optimal physical health, I’ll eat healthfully, exercise regularly and practise good sleep habits. This will help me feel energized and fit and lessen my physical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and reflux.

My #InvisibleFight: Fighting for Recognition of Chronic Illness

This year, Invisible Illness Awareness Week, which takes place from September 28 to October 4, has as its theme “My invisible fght”. I wrote for INvisible Illness Awarness Week in 2013, but skipped it in 2014, believing I didn’t qualify as someone with an invisible illness. Of course, I have a mental illness, but in my twisted mind I thought that didn’t count.

Over the years, I have been fighting to get a proper diagnosis and treatment for my chronic fatigue, irritable bowel symptoms and other random fun. Until early 2015, my syptoms were dismissed as being behavioral. What I mean by this is what I wrote yesterday: I was doing too little so I was fatigued. Never mind the other symptoms.

In February of this year, I was diagnosed with vitamin D, B12 and iron deficiencies. All were treated for some time, but eventually I was taken off all but vitamin D. This is a bit ironic, since vitamin D is the most potentially harmful of these three supplements and I have not had my vitamin D levels tested since April.

My doctor also didn’t follow the protocl for treating vitamin B12 deficiency. I had to insist on getting subcutaneous shots insead of tablets. The B12 research group in the Netherlands recommends shots, reasoning that, unless you’re strictly vegan,, you probably have a problem with absorption of vitamin B12 or you wouldn’t be deficient in it. The research group recommends starting with twice-weekly injections for five weeks followed by tapering based on symptoms, not serum B12 levels. I got the recommended five weeks of injections but they were discontinued after that.

I happen to be the odd one out where it comes to B12 deficiency, not having had a return in symptoms for about a month after the injections were stopped and having normal serum B12 levels even four months after my last shot. Though my symptoms returned, my B12 levels were normal about a month ago and the research group does not support supplementing without testing low in B12. Apparently, or so I assume, B12 deficiency wasn’t the root of my symptoms.

Does it matter what the root is? If there’s a targeted treatment, of course it does. If a simple pill or shot could help me live a normal life again, thee’s no reason not to fight for that. But I’ve now had these symptoms for so long. I’ve been on iron and B12 and now vitamin D for so long on and off with little long-term improvement. I’ve had so many blood tests and other tests that came back normal. And yet I’m still sick.

What am I fighting for, I wonder. If no treatment can cure my symptoms, isn’t it just the diagnosis, the recognition that something is wrong, that I fight for? In all honesty, I have to answer this question affirmatively. It’s not that I don’t also want treatment, but I also want to be validated. Is this normal?

in a way, it is. Most people with chronic physical health symptoms fight to be recognized as physically ill. They obviously also fight for treatment, but they also fight the stigma that is associated with the notion that they are psychologically ill. The problem is that, by wanting to be recognized as physically ill even if there is no known cause or treatment for our illness, we add to the stigma of mental illness.

Don’t get me wrong: physical symptoms need to be treated as they are, physical. Every possibility needs to be exhausted to find a cause and treatment for the symptoms. If there is none, that also doesn’t mean the cause is psychological or that psychological intervention will help. But it just might. Let’s fight for proper treatment of chronic illnesses and health problems, no matter their (presumed) roots.

Everyday Gyaan

Also linking up with #InvisibleFight at Invisible Illness Awareness Week. I will probably be writing another post on September 28 to honor the start of Invisible illness Week 2015.

Gratitude List: Week Starting September 14, 2015

Like I said on Tuesday, I returned from my parents’ having caught a cold. My irritable bowel syndrome is also out of control rihgt now and I’m very tired. We had to cancel my sleeping over at my husband’s this week-end because he too caught a cold. That being said, there’s still a lot to be grateful about. Time for another gratitude list!


  1. This one is cheating a bit, as it’s about last week. I had a good stay at my parents’ last week-end. On Saturday, we went to an album presentation and on Sunday, we went to a performance by a poet and a singer-songwriter.

  2. The journey home by train on Monday was uneventful. I actually was on time to catch my train at Zwolle, where you only have about six minutes to transfer and the station is undergoing reconstruction. The railway service personnel were great.

  3. I did an okay job at the gym on Tuesday. I actually learned some new exercises on a balancing ball. I still need to blow up my own balancing ball so that I can do the exercises while not at the gym.

  4. I bought some deliciously-smelling coconut shampoo at the town store on Wednesday. My husband says the smell doesn’t last as long as that of the sunflower shampoo I bought at the supermarket a while back, but oh, it’s so gorgeous! I am now looking to buy some coconut-scented shower gel too.

  5. Speaking of scents, the vanilla scent I put in my AromaStream® a few weeks ago still lasts. I have had my AromaStream® on almost everyday this week.

  6. I found out about the book Suffering the Silence by Allie Cashel in a woman’s magazine that I read on Friday. Decided to buy the book and am totally sucked in. It’s not a light read (the book is about chronic Lyme disease) but it’s fascinating. I will post a review once I finish the book.

  7. So far, I’m liking the fall/winter menu at the institution somewhat. There are still meals I don’t like, but I enjoyed the couscous and noodles we had earlier this week. Nobody else liked the couscous, so I fear it will be off the menu soon.

  8. It was my and my husband’s fourth wedding anniversary yesterday. I liked all the E-mails and messages I received acknowledging it.

  9. Though I am not a big fan of chocolate, I liked the creamy chocolate my husband gave me for our anniversary. Its taste went well together with the vanilla scent I mentioned above.

  10. My husband and I went to Domino’s, a pizza place not too far from our apartment, to order takeout. I had a delicious but very spicey chicken pizza. My husband had a slice and found it extremely spicey, so spicey that I won’t repeat the cuss words he used to describe it. 😉 While I did notice there was some spiciness to it, I found it mostly delicious. We also ordered a box of chicken wings and other deliciousness. Can you tell by now I’m a huge fan of chicken?

  11. I have been looking at various online drug stores, originally for the coconut-scented shower gel I mentioned, but I’ve been oohing and aahing at all the goodies they have on offer. I think I’m going to treat myself to a nice facial someday soon. I tried some facial masks at day activities a while back when someone visited there to help us with makeup and such. The experience was weird but good. I’ve also been reading a lot of goodness about facials on beauty blogs and so want to try it for myself.

  12. Speaking of beauty products, I’ve been trying to apply the lipgloss my sister gave me for my birthday. It smells great. I am not yet good at applying it, but will ask one of the nurses to help me someday soon.


What have you been grateful for this week?

Ojo's World
What Katy Said

Common Myths About Irritable Bowel Syndrome

In 2013, I was provisionally diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after no other cause for my chronic abdominal pain and alternating diarrhea and constipation had been found. I don’t have a severe case of it, having mild to moderate abdominal pain a few times a week but rarely severe pain. I am usually not significantly disabled by my symptoms either. I also happen to respond quite well to mebeverine (Colofab), an antispasmodic that relaxes the bowel muscles. Nonetheless, it is frustrating that there are still many common misconceptions about IBS. Here, I will share some of these.

1. IBS is just a fancy way of saying abdominal pain. It is true that the diagnosis of IBS is commonly based on symptom assessments and exclusion of other disorders, since there is no laboratory test to prove someone has IBS. However, IBS has many symptoms other than abdominal pain, and besides, the abdominal pain suffered by IBS patients is chronic and can be severe. It is not like, if you have bowel cramps for a day, you have IBS. Other core symptoms of IBS are diarrhea and/or constipation, feeling bloated, straining or urgency to defecate. Many sufferers have additional fatigue, acid reflux, etc.

2. IBS is all in the head. It is unclear what causes IBS, and stress could be a factor. That doesn’t mean it’s all in the head though. Stress can cause physical symptoms that are no less real just because stress causes them. It is also correct that IBS is associated with problems in the communication between the brain and the gut, but that could be both a brain and a gut problem. For example, people with IBS may be hypersensitive to abdominal discomfort. This however does not mean they choose to be in pain or are overreacting. It is an interplay between biological and psychosocial factors that cause people to experience the symptoms of IBS.

3. There is no clear definition of iBS. Like I said, there is no test for IBS, but there is a definition. For several decades, the Rome criteria have been in use for determining who has IBS. These criteria require that patients have had recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort at least three days per month during the previous three months that is associated with two
or more of the following:


  • Relieved by defecation.

  • Onset associated with a change in stool frequency.

  • Onset associated with a change in stool form or appearance.


When these criteria are met, only limited tests are recommended based on the individual’s situation. In my own case, it was hard to determine whether I met these criteria, as my pain certainly wasn’t relieved by defecation and I wasn’t sure of the other two.

4. IBS is caused by poor diet and lifestyle. Just [insert lifestyle habit or diet here] and you’ll be fine. While some people have food sensitivities that contribute to their abdominal discomfort, others do not. Also, indeed, some people find that exercisng more, not drinking alcohol, not smoking, etc. helps them. Others do not. Besides, even for those who do find that their diet or lifestyle contributes to their IBS symptoms, it may not be easy or may even be extremely hard to adjust their lifestyle or diet. I for one seem to be sensitive to sugary foods, but, as regular readers of my blog will know, I cannot seem to stop eating too much candy.

5. My [family member’s, friend’s, …] IBS was cured by [intervention], so yours can be cured too. Every person with IBS is different, and because many things contribute to IBS symptoms, there are many possible treatments. Mebeverine, the antispasmodic I use on occasion, has few side effects, but also is not very effective with most people. I am lucky that it helps me somewhat, but others wll not find relief from their symptoms with it. Same for diet, lifestyle changes, other medications (eg. antidepressants), psychological interventions, etc. They work for some but not othes.

6. IBS is the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Inflammatory bowel disease refers to Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. These are diseases which cause chronic inflammation to the digestive tract. Though some IBS sufferers have minor inflammation, especially if their symptoms set on after infection, it is not nearly as bad as with IBD. I for one had elevated calprotectin, an inflammation marker, when I was first tested for this. This led the doctor to think I might have IBD and get me a colonoscopy. Turns out I didn’t have IBD and on later tests, my calprotectin was normal again. It could’ve been I had an infection contributing to my symptoms.

7. IBS increases the risk of colon cancer. This is another difference between IBS and IBD: while IBD patients have a markedly increased risk of developing colon cancer, IBS patients do not.

8. IBS is not a serious concern. It is true, like I said above, that IBS does not cause cancer or suchlike. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not serious. Many people with irritable bowel syndrome find their symptoms to be severe and disabling. Besides, because IBS is so often misunderstood, many people experience social stigma. This can lead to further suffering. Get educated and stop stigmatizing people who have IBS.

Everyday Gyaan
Mums' Days

Mental Illness Is Real Illness Too #BADD2014

When I signed up to participate in Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014, I originally intended to write a semi-academic post on what it means ot be disabled and who can identify as such. Then I read Kees Kooman’s Dutch book on chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), which is aimed at advocating the idea that ME/CFS is a physical rather than psychological illness. Fine with me – there is a lot of evidence that ME/CFS is a physical illness. What bothers me, however, is the idea, propagated throughout the book and in many other places within the chronic illness community, that a physical illness is somehow more real than a mental illness.

I have a mental illness. I also have largely unexplained physical symptoms, which the doctors for now call probable irritable bowel syndrome. IBS, like ME/CFS, is an illness with clear physical symptoms which however have not yet been explained. This doesn’t mean no explanation will be found – many cases of “hysteria” in Freud’s era were later found to be brain tumors, after all.

However, what if IBS and ME/CFS are actually psychological? Does this mean that we don’t want to get better, as Kooman continually suggests. In my experience, living with a diagnosed mental illness, it doesn’t.

I see this kind of ableism towards the mentally ill everywhere. I have met many autistics who resist the idea of autism as a psychiatric diagnosis. While again I am on their side, their arguments discriminate against the mentally ill. It isn’t like mentally ill people always need to be pushed into independence, while autistics and others with neurodevelopmental conditions need lifelong support.

In case you’re wondering why I care, here’s why. The Dutch Long-Term Care Act, which is due to take effect next year, originally excluded those with psychiatric conditions (which I’m assuming includes autism without intellectual disability) from care. People with mental illness needed to get care and treatment through health insurance and locally-funded social support. The mental health platform, supported housing alliance and some other stakeholders fought this exclusion and it seems now that those who’ve been in residential treatment for at least three years on end, will qualify for long-term supported housing. I would qualify under this condition, but the large number of revolving-door patients, who are constantly being admitted, discharged and readmitted, wouldn’t.

The mental illness means not wanting to get better idea also has practical implications for treatment. People with certain mental illnessses, like personality disorders, are already stigmatized for being just a pain in the butt. I have been told many times that I’m manipulative, attention-seeking, and just having behaivor problems that I need to overcome. Of course it is wrong to assume the same of ME/CFS and IBS patients, but why in the world do they need a physical cause for their illness to claim they’re truly suffering?

Let me make it very clear that I’m not saying that ME/CFS is all in your head. I’m saying that if it were, that still didn’t mean you don’t want to get better. Symptoms are real, whether they’re psychological or physical and, if physical, whether a medical cause can be found or not. As a person who has been accused of imagining a mental illness, I want to say that, unless someone is malingering (ie. faking for external gain), it doesn’t matter what the cause of the illness or disability is in terms of whether it is a real illness or disability. Whether you strive for the illness or disability to be cured, by the way, doesn’t determine whether you’re ill or disabled eihter, but that is beyond the scope of this post.

No Need for Permission to Voice Your Pain

I went to the gastroenterologist last Wednesday, who said I may have irritable bowel syndrome. This diagnosis used to be pretty controversial. It ws only years ago that I heard a doctor on TV say that we used to sit through abdominal pain without complaining and now we take meds for our irritable bowels.

I thought of this when I read a post by Dawn Santos on needing permission to voice our pain. Dawn said she’d tell every normal person who’d complain like she wanted to, to seek counseling. Her post is meant to validate those with chronic pain conditions that they have the right to complain, but as a person who’s suffered from abdominal pain and other symptoms for years without having a diagnosis or often being visibly in pain, I want to say it doesn’t matter whether you are or appear normal.

I am not saying that chrnic pain is not worse than being in pain only every once in a while. What I do say is that the dichotomous line between healthy and ill is arbitrary. I recently read an interview with another doctor, who said he has some form of arthritis but considers himself pretty healthy. I on the other hand have considered myself somewhat ill for some years now, despite not having a diagnosis. I can see why my attitude is not as upbeat as his, and there are many factors to this. Pain levels may be one (I have no clue in how much pain this doctor is on a regular basis). Psychological factors like coping mechanisms, attribution style etc. contribute too.

You may not be able to see whether someone has a chronic pain condition or not. Besides, mental health problems are real problems, too, and Dawn’s comment about counseling made me feel that it’s merely a bad attitude. I want to say that no-one needs permission to voice their pain. Of course, it’s best if you stay somewhat positive and don’t complain all the time, but as an onlooker, you can’t see how much effort someone puts into getting through the day with some level of positivity. Therefore, this should not be a reason to judge someone’s complaining. Getting fed up with it sometimes is okay, but that’s true whether the other person has a (known) chronic pain condition or not.

Undiagnosed Symptoms Are Just as Real #IIWK13

Just a few weeks ago, I found out about this year’s Invisible Illness Week, which starts today. I already heard of it years ago, but never quite took the time to write for it. Until now. Today, I want to share my experience to get awareness of what invisible illness is like, and especially, how it can take years to get a proper diagnosis (and hopefully treatment).

I have suffered from my symptoms, which include fatigue, random aches and gastrointestinal symptoms since 2007. I went to my doctor for the first time in late 2007, having had diarrhea on and off for half a year. She chalked it up to a stomach bug. Then, when I got it through to her that it’d been going on for months, I was examined and the doctor found I was actually constipated. Well, nice. Drink lots of fluids, eat lots of fiber, but the symptoms did not go away. I was eventually put on a laxative, which worked to some extent but gave me bad cramps.

For the fatigue, I got various blood tests and these revealed iron deficiency, then B12 deficiency, then nothing. I was told that the random aches were just stress. Not that this makes them go away, but oh well.

My symptoms are still there, and I don’t have a diagnosis, although I self-diagnose as having irritable bowel syndrome, because I honestly don’t buy into the constipation theory. I feel out of place in the chronic illness community not having a diagnosis, and of course I want my symptoms to be something simple that isn’t a chronic illness. Then again, it’s not like symptoms are less real just because they don’t have a label to them. Many people, like myself, take months to years to go see doctor, longer to see the right doctor, and maybe I’ll never find out what’s really going on with me or get adequate treatment. Maybe I will at some point. I hope so.