You had some trouble with your bowel habits and ended up going to your doctor after having some pain on and off because your relatives or colleagues suggested you should check it out. The doctor performed several tests and you felt uncomfortable, and now he says you have Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBD). Your next question after getting the diagnosis will probably be what now?
The first thought on getting this diagnosis may be the feeling of shock, and not having anyone to speak to about this may also make one feel unsupported, or outcasted from the community and especially worried about how to go about your routine.
Well, depending on the type of IBD, how this affects your day to day life, and how severe your symptoms are, the doctor may present a few alternatives for treatment options and remedies to make your symptoms less prominent. However, this is something that you need to learn to live with, and unfortunately, the one thing which most doctors fail to mention for treatment is talking. That’s right. Talking about your diagnosis will help you, both emotionally and mentally and speaking about what’s worrying you with other family members or friends, or even support groups who have the same condition, may actually make you feel more at ease. In fact, several individuals find it funny how meeting others with the same condition in the waiting room makes them feel better than when they are in the consultation room! (1). Obviously, this goes without saying, that for medical advice, it is always important to seek a professional, however sharing your feelings with others going through a similar experience will help you in accepting to live with IBD.
The next step after consulting your doctor and discussing the best treatment options, is continuing your day to day life with minimal changes. Here I have compiled a short checklist for you to think about:
- Sleep (that’s important too!)
Exercise: Definitely no running marathons or becoming an athlete, however a brisk 30 minute walk in the evening after a long day to collect your thoughts (or a morning one if you prefer) will help you decrease stress through the endorphins released, and aid your IBD.
Diet: Try and start off with keeping a food diary, where you list down your meals. This will help you find out if there are any particular foods that trigger your IBD, so in the future you would know to avoid them. Do try and limit your use of sugar and saturated fats to maintain a healthy diet.
Sleep: This is most often overlooked, however if you have trouble sleeping this will affect your attention span during the day and will make you even more tired. Consult with a doctor for sleeping aids, however if IBD pain is causing trouble sleeping, do mention this so that effective pain relief can be added to your treatment plan.
Timing: This is quite important, especially for those with a sensitive gut and IBD. Try and keep the same routine with food and time, mainly eating food at the same time every day. This can mean eating 5 small meals or 3 larger portions a day, whatever you prefer!
In the next blog, we will discuss exactly what types of foods to include in your diet and how this can be encouraged.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Catriona Cutajar is a nurse and also a Fourth year Medical student. She forms part of Willingness Team.