If you’re a sufferer of Inflammatory bowel disease, there’s no doubt that at one point in your illness you’ve been told ‘I have that’ – before realising that what they are in fact talking about is Irritable bowel syndrome.
Which, while of course, is not at all nice – it’s not Inflammatory bowel disease.
They are two very different things that, except from the cramping of the stomach, affect a person in very different ways.
IBS is a syndrome. It causes cramping, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation. That sucks. But it’s not life threatening.
Alongside all of the symptoms above, IBD comes with fatigue, joint pain, bleeding, and often results in surgery among having other, more varied symptoms. Sometimes it can even result in death.
I get it, IBD is a toilet-based illness. Much like IBS.
And nobody’s saying you it isn’t seriously crappy (excuse the pun).
But a syndrome and a disease are two very different things.
Nobody likes talking about their time on the toilet, and therefore the two aren’t really talked about outside of your friends and family.
It’s not like other, better-known illnesses that people find easier to distinguish.
But if you have IBS, at least do a little more research into it – about what it is and what it’s not.
We understand that you can have a rough time, but it’s incredibly hard to raise awareness of an illness when misconceptions that can easily be avoided are pulling us two steps back.
Because so many people confuse IBD with IBS, it makes it harder to talk about.
It even makes it harder to open up to your GP, simply because the first thing they assume is that you are suffering with IBS even though the problem is far, far worse.
But it’s not just that. You could be confiding in someone you thought understood you – yet you realise midway through the conversation that they are simply nodding their head along because they have to.
They’re not genuinely concerned for you, because they don’t realise the seriousness of the disease. They don’t see it as much more than a regular bad stomach.
So, when you can see that I’ve clearly had two major surgeries because of my IBD, please don’t liken it to that curry that ‘really started off’ your IBS the other day.
Please research what you do and don’t have.
Because while it will definitely help you understand your own body in the long-run – it’ll also give those fighting IBD the five minutes back that they’d usually spend having to explain the differences.
Words by Hattie Gladwell