IBS affecting my doctoral work


Sorry if this is tmi, but I don't know what to do. I have 'attacks' of IBS that are largely stress related and I've basically spent the last two weeks having to run to the loo (and not being able to go on a trip that's more than 20minutes away from a toilet.
It's making me really depressed and I'm often too uncomfortable to concentrate on work :(
It's so embarrassing, how on earth do I begin to tell people the reason for my absences/ slow work rate ?!


Sorry to state the obvious if you have already done so but, have you seen a doctor about your IBS? Increasing the fibre and water content of your diet can also help control IBS more...

Hope you're able to concentrate on work soon. Don't stress over needing to tell people if you don't want too - two weeks isn't that long to have had disrupted work, but if it carries on long term just approach your supervisor - you could always allude to "medical problems" if you didn't want to be specific....


Have you considered doing something about the stress - why not join some meditation class, or a group counselling thing, or have a shiatsu massage or anything else that helps you deal with stressful situations (from sport to tai chi to yoga...)?

And yes, if someone asks and you do not want to say you have IBS, then just allude to some "medical issues".. all the best, ..


It may be embarrassing to talk about but IBS is very common and people will understand if you feel you have to tell them. One other way is to say you have 'a stomach infection' or something non-specific from which people will understand that you need to be near a bathroom a lot. Have you tried Bio-Acidophilus or similar? They're not cheap but you can get them from a health food shop and they have revolutionized many people's lives who have IBS. Also certain foods will usually make things worse, even with the clear links to stress, so might be worth going on to a restrictive diet then reintroducing foods slowly. I don't get your symptoms but used to suffer extreme stomach pain from IBS and couldn't really move around when it was bad. For me cutting out starchy carbs, rich foods and alcohol for a while made a difference, and now I only get infrequent attacks which I can usually control. Good luck - it's a horrible condition but there is lots that can be done for it so I hope you find a solution soon.


Thank you everyone.
I'm going to book (another!) appointment at the Drs....
And yes it is food-aggravated too, but I'm vegetarian and given the number of foods that potentially aggravate it (anything with caffeine, fat, pulses, wheat products, alcohol) I end up with a ridiculously restricted diet :s.....
Anyway, thanks again!xxx


Scarlett, try googling "vegan IBS" and lots of possible foods to help vary a diet a bit come up on discussion boards already, as well as technqiues for controlling IBS. I'm actually vegan and have come accross these sorts of discussions on vegan/vegetarian boards before whilst trawling the internet.


Hi Scarlett - sorry to hear of your distressing situation. Fybogel seems to help me, but I presume you've tried that as I think that is the first thing recommended these days when you see the doc about IBS. My doc also told me to keep a food diary so that I can spot triggers but NOT to practice an exclusion diet. i.e. if a breakfast cereal makes things worse do stop eating that particular breakfast cereal but don't start cutting out all wheat or gluten or whatever. The doc suggested that this blanket exclusion can upset your body more and increase stress, although obviously if a clear pattern emerges linking difficulties to a food group then mention this to your doctor.
Seems to me like the key thing for you would be to cut down on the stress and I second the posts here which suggest you try some ways to cope with that. You could even try a short session of counselling - from what I've read online about IBS this is often a recognised part of treatment for the condition where stress is a major factor. I really do think you should take this as a sign from your body that you need some down time.
The other thing would be to rule out other factors. I assume you've had a blood test to check for any other health problems? How are your hormones (assuming that you are a female Scarlett!)? My doc also said that troublesome menstrual cycles can be a factor (again increasing stress) and potentially sorting out that could help.
Best of luck with it.
(PS - from the number of responses on here, it almost seems like we could start an IBS support group! Or perhaps someone should do research into the correlation between doing a PHD and developing the condition!);-)


Hi Scarlett, IBS is so very very common and I really feel for you, it sounds as though you're having a really bad time of it - I have it too (yes, we should have an IBS board) and although I'm rarely as severe as you sound atm I know that feeling all too well.

I can't really add much to what's been said here, you've had some fantastic advice, just wanted to offer some moral support to you. I'd also agree with trying (if you have enough time - what's spare time anyway when doing a Phd???) to find some kind of relaxation techniques, maybe classes of some description to help you to deal with the stress, and keepign an eye on what you're eating, although I'd agree being a vegetarian it could be tricky and to cut out food groups isn't good for you and could lead to even more stress!

Take care and I hope that your doctor can help you out a bit more - you most certainly aren't alone, and although it is an embarrassing condition to discuss, its so very common you'll probably find that many people you know, poss even your supervisor, have experienced it and will be able to support you.


Hi Scarlett . I don't know if you have already tried this but I improved a lot when I cut out milk (to drink - I still eat dairy products). Good luck - I know it is horrible so you have my sympathy.


Thanks again for all of the very useful advice.
I actually post regularly on this bored under another username, but was so embarrassed that I didn't want to use it!
I'm definitely going to try some of the relaxation tips (yoga!) after I get my next studentship payment.
Thanks again xxxxx


Sorry to hear you are having problems with IBS. My research group's interest is gut microbiology and various people are researching things to do with stress, IBS etc etc. Stress is a major contributor to gut problems as certain bacteria (like E.coli) grow like crazy in the presence of stress hormones that are released into the gut. It's a vicious circle as you get stressed cos you have IBS then get IBS cos you are stressed! So if you can find a way of winding down then it could help alot.

I don't know whether you take any food supplements as some research has shown that some poly unsaturated fatty acids such as omega 3, 6 and 9 can have beneficial effects on gut bacteria and gut function. The best option would be fish oils however this is probably out of the question for you as you are a vegetarian! But I think there are some vegetarian alternatives available. I am not sure whether the same benefits have been seen in IBS sufferers so I don't want to say that it will definitely work as it might not!

Having a probiotic yoghurt might help but certain strains of probiotic bacteria don't suit some people and can have a negative effect on some IBS sufferers (which is probably an immune linked issue) so I would recommend going for a good quality live yoghurt with a variety of bacteria in them rather than things like Yakult or actimel where they are overloaded with a specifc bacterial strain which could aggrevate the condition. I buy the Yeo Valley ones when i feel the need for a probiotic boost as they seem to have a good mix of various probiotic bacteria.


Good plant sources of Omega oils are walnuts, flax oil or seeds, rapeseed oil, and good old tofu -

"Omega 3 fatty acids in foods such as: flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and grape seeds. Food sources of Omega 6 fatty acids include pistachios, olive oil, chestnut oil and olives. "

"Other foods rich in Omega 9 fatty acids are: olives, avocados and nuts: macadamia, pistachio, peanuts, almonds, sesame, cashew, pecan and hazelnuts."

If these sorts of foods play havoc with your IBS, then there are many vegetaria/vegan supplements on the market:

You could also try a supplement: http://www.v-pure.com/


Thanks guys, especially chrisrolinski for the veggie-friendly tips!!!