Living with a digestive disorder can be difficult, in part because they are difficult to talk about.
“Patients are often reluctant to discuss most of what occurs in the bathroom,” says Dr. Barrett Levesque, who specializes in inflammatory bowel disease at Scripps Clinic in San Diego, California. “Although it’s a universal human experience, most people don’t want to discuss their bowel habits.”
But it’s important to get support for digestive disorders. For one thing, talking to a doctor about your digestive troubles can help them identify – or rule out – serious illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis or even colorectal cancer.
Support Groups – In Person and Online
And no one should have to suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor about support groups in your community. You might even find some listed on the bulletin board at your local hospital.
If you can’t get to a meeting, or aren’t ready to discuss your condition in public, support for digestive disorders can also be found online:
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation features an online community that provides round-the-clock support for dealing with those conditions, as well as links to local groups, and information on living with the two illnesses.
You can get answers about digestive disorders by visiting the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. In addition to information about nutrition and digestive health, the NDDIC will also help direct you to local support groups and digestive health specialists.
The Celiac Disease Foundation devotes itself to raising awareness for this digestive illness and advocating for more gluten free products. Visitors can find information on living with the disease, including tips for adopting a gluten free diet.
The IBS Network also allows you to set up your own online Support Group, after completing a one-day free Group Leader Training Course.
How to Talk to Your Loved Ones
Support for digestive disorders can come from other people with your condition, and from family and friends. Here are a few tips from the IBS support website Ask Libby for helping your friends and family understand your condition.
1. Be open
Get people to understand what you deal with by being open about your condition. It may be embarrassing to talk about, but ultimately, it will allow them to understand and to sympathize. People are more understanding than you might think. If there’s someone in your life who you think might react badly to your condition, ask yourself if they’re truly worth the trouble of confiding in.
2. It’s ok to say “No”
If you don’t feel like dining out, or going to a certain restaurant because you’re worried about how the menu will affect you, that’s OK. Let people know. It’s not worth being uncomfortable to maintain the fiction that everything is fine.
3. Confide in your partner
If you talk to no one else, confide in your partner. Letting go will make you feel better. Stress only exacerbates the symptoms of disorders such as IBS.
As Ask Libby puts it: “Don’t be embarrassed about your bodily functions. Everyone has them, yours are just a little different – not something to be afraid of.”
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