Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Take. These. Drugs.

A friend of mine has a family member who was recently diagnosed with IBS.  Upon hearing this story, I felt slightly shocked, disappointed and outraged about the treatment this person received. Is it not common practice to talk about treatment and coping options before writing a prescription? Apparently not, and even worse, this was the first and only option offered to this patient.  No referral to a dietitian, no suggestion to food journal, no reference to common trigger foods and no recommended literature.  Just: Take. These. Drugs.


Is this really the first course of treatment for a digestive disorder that is closely linked to what, when and how we eat?  What about a referral to the Nutrition Education Clinic's IBS program offered by two hospitals within the Capital District Health Authority?  What about emphasizing the importance of stress management and the role it plays in our lives?  What about telling the patient that they can regain some control, and indeed should take control, by determining trigger foods, by finding an outlet, by exercising and by getting enough sleep.  Patients will still experience episodes and have times where they feel helpless, but the first option should not be medication. Can this really be considered a long-term solution if other avenues have not been explored?  If so, what does this say about the Canadian health care system?  Why don't we mask the symptoms without trying to find out what is exacerbating the problem?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

IBS Awareness Month

Last week I participated in the Forum for Young Canadians for a second year in a row.  As I learned last year, it is an awesome program where Canada's brightest students gather to learn about politics and government.  One could say that I learned a lot about these topics throughout my week, but some of my personal lessons-learned were from one-on-one interaction with my students.

There is one moment that stands out for me both as an IBS sufferer, advocate and blogger and I feel compelled to share it with you.  A student came up to me one morning just prior to the start of our jam-packed day.  She was very upset and visibly stressed - the reason?  She has IBS and was worried that walking to the day's activities would trigger an unwelcome washroom visit.  We were able to find a solution for her through a taxi, which allowed her to attend the sessions but not have the additional worry about whether or not she could make it without visiting the loo.  The problem was, I automatically asked the following question: "would you like me to tell the group that you are running behind and will meet us there"?  Her response was to let the group know what was happening.

Shame on me.  As soon as she responded I felt both ashamed of myself and overwhelmingly proud of her.  For all my talk about being honest and not hiding my illness, my automatic response was to create a lie so that everyone would think she was tardy instead.  At almost half my age, my student did not feel the need to hide behind excuses, she recognizes that this is her reality and she faces it head-on.  I found her to be extremely inspiring.  She has achieved at a very young age what I can only hope to accomplish through working diligently via this blog and through my social interactions, the difference being that the truth came naturally to her and I have learned over the years that this condition is something to hide.

Given that this is IBS Awareness Month, for those of you who suffer with IBS, learn from her example by exuding confidence and not apologizing or making excuses for something you cannot control.