How many of you get that churning in your stomach right before a first date or a job interview? This is normal, but for some of us it is a nightmare world nobody talks about. Before ever heading out the door we are equipped with an emergency kit. Anti diarrhea medication, baby wipes (no I am not kidding) and extra clothes. We always know exactly where every bathroom is within a fifty mile radius.
Everybody does it, yet nobody likes to talk about it. It took me five years before I was able to poop in the same house as my new husband. Let me tell you that each Monday morning as my bowels heard his car leave the driveway for work, they knew! I would emerge from that bathroom with a euphoric smile pasted across my face and I swore doves flew out behind me. A holiday Monday confused the entire process.
There is no denying what stress does to our bodies. The direct link that it plays has been proven for decades in one medical journal after another. If you live in a constant state of stress it will take a toll. The human gut and the brain are in constant communication.
This served us well in prehistoric times. A dinosaur would chase us and our brains would say, “Hey you better run!” Your gut would either empty for flight purposes or, if the predator was smaller in nature you would stay and fight and your brain would tell your gut to remain full and fuel you.
The same premise works today. Our predators are no longer carnivores, but are in fact looming job deadlines, raising children and financial pressure. We find ourselves in situations when our brains decide if we are going to “fight or flight” and our gut decides to empty or remain full to fuel. Bottom line, the constant stress plays havoc on your gut.
I was diagnosed at age twenty-two with irritable bowel syndrome. Four short years later I faced my first crisis regarding poop. I was all dressed and on my way to my first day at a new job. It was about a thirty minute drive and the roads were a little slick with fresh morning snow. All it takes is one time to have an attack to become familiar with the signs. In a flash I was breathing heavy as the sweat started to bead on my face. Let me just clarify one thing here. In these moments you literally have seconds…not minutes, to conjure up a plan of action and avoid disaster. All I was thinking was, I am driving down a country road at six am. This is going to be the first time I ever S@IT my pants. My next thought was, I cannot miss my first day.
What happened next can be described by some as resourceful, creative, hilarious, awful, or OMG YOU DID NOT!!!!! We cannot always explain how our brains work. All I can tell you is that I was not about to miss my first day of work, and I REALLY was missing my lunch that day. 🙂 New containers are cheap right?
Since that time in my life my poop stories, along with other members of my family who shall remain nameless, right MOM 🙂 are common. We laugh about them, because S@IT happens. No it is not a pleasant way to live, but there are things you can do.
Once you’ve had a bad IBS attack, it’s very common to be worried about having another one. Unfortunately, anxiety about future attacks may actually increase your chances of having one. To deal with this:
- Remain calm in the face of early symptoms. Try different coping techniques until you find what is most effective for you.
- Keep a symptom diary. This can help you identify possible patterns related to your attacks. For example, if you know you’re more likely to experience attacks in the morning, you can plan your day accordingly (e.g., ensuring you know where the nearest bathroom is).
- Practice regular stress management activities.
- Be wise about what you eat. It’s important to be aware of dietary sensitivities that may trigger an attack. Common trigger foods include dairy, gluten, and caffeine. Know your triggers, and avoid or reduce your intake accordingly.
- Keep your emergency kit in the car. This peace of mind really is an assurance that will keep you calm in those moments you need it most.
While the relationship between stress and gastrointestinal issues is still unclear, understanding how stress affects you can help you be prepared by developing a variety of coping strategies.
I have a few great poop stories that I can joke about now, but at the time they are truly humbling. You are a grown adult not able to control the basics of your body. I will tell you that I made a huge life change six years ago and it has made all difference. Stress was a large part of my life and reducing it was key.
Listen to your body. Be gentle on yourselves. We all poop, and not always in the best of places!
Much love ❤