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Coming Clean on a Dirty Secret: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  [ 34 votes ]   [ 3 Comments ]
By Celeste Cooper, RN • • September 7, 2013

Reprinted with the kind permission of Celeste Cooper, RN.

Why a dirty secret?

If you are reading this and you have IBS, you know why IBS is a dirty secret. Irritable bowel syndrome can be an unwanted and frequent visitor to migraine, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, TMJ, chronic pelvic pain, menstruation, or even panic disorder. We are about to get to know each other up close and personal – very personal.

The effects of having an irritable bowel (spastic colon) are things we don’t want to talk about. Those of us with it know there is a great deal more to it than pain, abdominal cramping, gas, and water loss diarrhea. We can be awakened from a dead sleep, spend hours (literally) sitting on a toilet, or we can simply be riding in a car when out of the blue, our bowels move faster than the speed of light, severely limiting the necessary amount of time for our intestines to extract nutrients. Then as the attack intensifies, an explosion occurs with the force of an atomic bomb, or so it seems to us.

What should be staying in the small bowel to help with digestion makes its way out of our body, causing our surrounding area to become inundated with gases that would have animals scurrying for cover. Yes, that is where the foul odor, and I mean foul, comes from. It comes from the small intestine, which is rich with important enzymes to aid in digestion. It is NOT supposed to leave the area but in IBS, it does. Next comes the after effects.

Digestive enzymes extract nutrients for cellular strength, and our electrolytes, which are necessary for maintaining physical balance in the body are gone too. All the friendly stuff that keeps us out of harm’s way is suddenly in the wrong place at the wrong time. We are without sleep, disrupted from a normal life, drained (quite literally), and embarrassed. We are robbed of healing capabilities and our social life is affected.  

Coming clean

Accidents are embarrassing and are probably our best kept secret. After all, who wants to talk about losing control of your bowels in a public place? For those without IBS, they would only think that is accidently having a normally formed stool in their underwear that can be dumped in a toilet, evidence thrown in the trash, and no one knows. For those of us with severe IBS, it is much different. I won’t go into extreme details, but I think the first part of this blog pretty much spells, and smells, out what it would be like to be in a public place when this happens. I think most people would be embarrassed to have to tell a friend or relative driving somewhere that you must stop at the gas station on the corner NOW!

Those of us with irritable bowel syndrome have learned to accommodate the unwanted nature of such an important body part. We always know where the bathroom is when we enter any building.   I carry a coffee can and roll of toilet paper in my car and have for years. I have used that coffee can many times, but other than my husband, no one knew until now – not even my co-workers, not even my doctor. After all, who would really want to hear such a story?

I suppose I should have been this graphic with my doctors, because they really don’t seem to understand the implications of this “functional” bowel disorder. It’s not a disease so it can’t be that bad, right? WRONG!

So, to all my fellow IBS friends, when you tell me you have irritable bowel syndrome, I know exactly what that means. After two recent embarrassing episodes, and many years down the road, with symptoms now exacerbated by diverticulosis, I decided it was time to come clean on this dirty little secret.  

Learn more about coping with IBS here.

Source:, Blog posted August 28, 2013.

About the author: Celeste Cooper is a retired RN, educator, fibromyalgia patient, and lead author of the Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain, Fall Devotions devotional series (coauthor, Jeff Miller PhD), and Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain: The Mind-Body Connection (coauthor, Jeff Miller PhD) She is a fibromyalgia expert for Dr. Oz, et al., at, and she advocates for all chronic pain patients as a participant in the Pain Action Alliance to Implement a National Strategy. You can read more educational information and about her books on her website,

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Posted by: rskra
Sep 8, 2013
I also endured IBS-D for at least 40 years,. It was embarrassing, and nothing really helped except Cholestryamine and Immodium. Last year, however, I saw a specialist about an unrelated issue, and after reading my history said, "why are you putting up with this?" I told him I wasn't there for IBS - I was used to it, but he continued. He checked my blood, found I was severely malnourished ( though I eat a healthy, balanced diet) because of my IBS- D. He said, "No gluten, no dairy"......within days things began to change. He gave me supplements to heal my gut (for about 3 months). Within 6 months, I can confidently say I am free of IBS-D, I did not believe this was possible. It is, for me, a small price to pay for not worrying about bathrooms after every meal.
Reply Reply

thanks for coming clean!
Posted by: sPeeDeeBee
Sep 9, 2013
Thanks for taking on what is likely to be appreciated by only a select few. For those of use who share the trials of IBS, especially in the context of FM or CFS, thanks. It's something we just have to talk about.
Reply Reply

No One Told You About Low Dose Naltrexone?
Posted by: panet
Sep 25, 2013
IBS is often cured - gone forever with 4.5mg of low dose naltrexone. Might not work for everyone but there have been enough success stories that it is worth trying. I use the word cure - not afraid to do so when something is gone for years even when not taking the LDN.

I strongly urge everyone to research ldn and IBS. You can get naltrexone online yourself if you can't find an MD that is knowledgeable enough to help.
Reply Reply

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