Ellis Cochrane: breaking down the taboo of IBS symptomsEllis Cochrane is a freelance writer and blogger, who you’ll find over at www.ellistuesday.com.  Based in Scotland, she writes about beauty, fashion, travel and lifestyle. Here she discusses a topic close to her heart and digestive system and why she is particularly interested in breaking the taboo of the chronic and hidden illness; IBS.


Ah IBS (or irritable bowel syndrome), possibly one of the last true taboos that continues to be present today. Think about it, you’re more likely to discuss politics (thanks Brexit!) or religion at work, a coffee date with friends or a dinner party, yet we often shy away from talking about what’s really going on beneath the surface. Or should I say, beneath our midsections.

I first started experiencing symptoms in my late teens but each and every trip to my GP resulted in me being told that I had a stomach bug and to give it 48 hours. It took years of having practically every test under the sun done (I’m talking colonoscopies, MRIs, ultrasounds, stool samples and blood tests) to finally be given a diagnosis. And even then, I was only told that it was most likely IBS, as there is no test to definitively confirm that you have the condition, only ones to rule out more sinister ailments.

It’s not gross, or TMI or something to be kept behind closed toilet doors, it’s a condition that affects millions of people in the UK alone.

Despite years hoping and praying for some kind of diagnosis, in able to start treating what was wrong with me, I had no idea where to turn when I was actually met with those three little letters. I hadn’t seen or heard anyone talk about living with the condition either in real life or on TV, online or in magazines.

But once I started talking openly about what I was going through and sharing this online, either on my blog or social media, the amount of people who sent emails, left comments and revealed that they too were living with it as well, truly surprised me. I wasn’t on my own anymore. This is why I’m so keen to discuss the issue of IBS and everything that comes along with it. I now feel almost completely immune to any sort of embarrassment or anxiety when it comes to the topic. Breaking the stigma of talking about something that each and every one of us does, is really important to me, particularly as the condition can also have a serious effect on people’s mental health. 

It’s not gross, or TMI or something to be kept behind closed toilet doors, it’s a condition that affects millions of people in the UK alone.

You wouldn’t think twice about discussing your broken arm, for example, with colleagues, friends or family but as soon as that ailment in any way relates to the notion of our gut or toilet habits, some of us just don’t feel confident or open to sharing how it’s really affecting us.

I’m now completely open when it comes to discussing exactly what’s going on with my body, because I’ve had to be. When my symptoms were particularly bad, I had to keep my parents up to speed on exactly what was going on so that they knew when I needed an emergency trip to the doctors or help doing the simplest of tasks whilst I was doubled over in pain. After just one conversation we knew that we had to utter words like diarrhea or constipation without feeling silly or awkward.

When I first found out that I had IBS I felt uncomfortable telling people exactly why I had been off work or had to cancel plans last minute. I was afraid of going out anywhere new for food or drink, would get seriously stressed out about taking a long train or bus journey and essentially let it dictate what I could and couldn’t do. Basically, I let it affect every part of my life, in silence, whilst my mind and body struggled to cope.

Thankfully I now no longer feel embarrassed about my symptoms or allow them to hold me back as much as they used to. I embrace life with a love for elasticated waistbands (perfect for days when I’m bloated), know my limits when it comes to certain foods and practice proper self care, the best that I can. 

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