Wednesday, 27 December 2017

My name is John and I have IBS

I have pondered about writing this blog post for some time, but the time has never seemed right, until today. I hope that perhaps it will help someone understand or deal with IBS

"Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the name given to a longstanding illness consisting of frequent abdominal discomfort and bowel symptoms that cannot be explained by any other disease."
[source IBS]

There are many triggers for IBS episodes and although some are common to all people, others are very specific to individuals. I believe that after receiving a diagnosis, the most important thing you can do, is identify your triggers.

Although I have considered myself as having a sensitive stomach for most of my life, I was not diagnosed with IBS until about 5 years ago. Finding and avoiding triggers has been a part of my life for each day of those 5 years.


IBS suffers can experience a range of symptoms. The condition can be broken into subsets of IBS-C or IBS-D, the suffix letter being constipation or diarrhea. Very lucky people like me have IBS C&D.
Along with sudden onset bowel movements, most sufferers have abdominal pain of a similar intensity to a stitch, generally in the left side just behind the belt line. This stitch like pain can last all day.

What's happening inside

The last section of the intestines. the colon, is a muscle tube that pulsates in a wave like fashion. Initially it is easy to think that eating a trigger food, such as raw onion, results in an urgent visit to the toilet, because the food is going "straight through the system" In reality the onion entering the stomach triggers a spasm affect lower in the colon, which can make it move previous meals rapidly, diarrhea, or cause the colon to freeze, again painful but resulting in constipation. The sigmoid colon is where most pain occurs.


The process of diagnosis is actually more ruling out other potential problems. For me the final indicator was a colonoscopy. The nurse who did my prep, reassuringly told me that most people don't need a sedative for the procedure as it doesn't hurt, then tagged on "unless you have IBS and then you may feel significant discomfort". I remembered those words during the procedure, as I was bent double in pain, begging for a bowl as I felt sick and with a nurse pinning me down to stop me moving. The procedure was cut short with the doctor saying "It's IBS"


As I wrote earlier the daily life of a sufferer is finding and avoiding, or at least coping with, triggers. Medication available is in the form of antispasmodic tablets. I now resort to taking the tablets only when I have sustained painful episodes.
My eating habits are now very predictable. Those that know me well think I am really boring, always ordering the same meals in restaurants. The reality is, it's safer to stick to what you know than risk the effects whilst out.


Different for everyone, but here are some of mine

Onions especially, raw on a salad, or fried onion rings.
Spicy food, hot curries and seasonings.
Too much bread.
Non soluble roughage such as bran and rye.
Excessive amounts of red meat.
Too many vegetables.
Green leaf salads, rocket, kale etc.
Just eating a meal prepared in a different way than I am use to.


In addition to food triggers, stress can cause episodes too, including.
Confrontational situations.
Interviews, tests, worrying about other illness's, doctors appointments.
Public speaking or standing in front of people to teach.
The worst and most ironic situation is fear of not being neat a toilet. This last trigger can be debilitating and self fulfilling if you let it!

The IBS network produces cards you can keep in your wallet for emergencies. IBS sufferers also qualify for a RADAR key to access locked toilets.

Good food and habits.

Soluble roughage such as porridge and boiled rice.
Eating porridge every morning changed my life for the better.
Swapping battered fish and chips for pan fried fish fillet and rice also had a great affect.
Stick to foods you know and trust, unless you feel the enjoyment of a meal outweighs the consequences.

Regular exercise such as running helps digestion.

The stress related triggers are harder to manage. These are best done with relaxation and breathing techniques or if all else fails, go to the toilet twice before the event starts !!

If you or someone you know has IBS its not something that is easy to speak about, but that is just because we don't speak about it enough.

More information can be found on the website of the IBS Network

Friday, 22 July 2016

Running Man

In April 2016 my life changed, hopefully forever. How you may ask? 
Well I didn't change a personal relationship or take a new job. I didn't find religion, I already found that a long time ago. The change came in understanding I needed to look after me. Not in an emotional sense, rather my body was beginning to show signs of getting old and I came to realise I didn't like that feeling.

To be fair, my beautiful wife was my inspiration, not that she told me to get to and fix things, rather she decided she wanted to be healthier and fitter and chose to take up running. 

Between us, like any couple rapidly approaching 50, we have our fair share of medical challenges. For me I have a chronic condition known as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) sometimes I would have it under control , sometimes I just lived with pain, and on rare occasions it took control of me. 
I could easily use it for an excuse not to exercise. 

Neither of us have really been involved in any sport since we were much younger. My last sustained athletics attempts were High School. We both have physically demanding jobs, Joanne is a physiotherapist and I do construction work, and finding motivation to get fit was a low priority. Our main exercise for the past 3 years had been dog walking, couple of miles on a weekend and round the block on weekdays.

So with a wife motivated and determined to run a full mile, without stopping, I could either support with applause or go run with her. Thankfully my desire to protect her from unsavoury characters and wild bears prompted me to run at her side. 

It was hard! 
But of all the things Joanne could have chosen , running suited me best. 
We are both tall , long legged so surely covering ground should be easy !?!

Early on we determined we had to be sensible and invested in appropriate equipment, even though we felt a little fake, returning home dressed like professional runners, but out of breath after just a mile !!
We bought decent running shoes, we couldn't risk unnecessary injuries. we bought GPS watches that monitor heart rate , we didn't want to run ourselves into hospital! 
And of course we now both own various colourful items of clothing that contain Lycra. 

Having the correct equipment does three things:

It makes you feel the part
It aids your performance
It motivates you to continue so you haven't wasted your money !

In quite a short time the single mile goal became a couple of miles. The once a week workouts became three of four times a week. The apps on our phones began to highlight improvements. We began to change our diet to suit our new life. Not only did my fitness improve but I found my general health did too. Finally taking an interest in diet and researching what I should eat became interesting. 

I began to control my IBS rather than it control me. 

We signed up for Parkrun events. Free 5k (3.1miles) held in local parks on Saturday mornings. Our first park run was a push, but we achieved a finish, only because we had built up our distance on every run prior to it. Yes there were a couple of times in that first event that we walked a short distance, But we completed. 

So where are we now, nearly 4 months on.  

I'm nearly a stone lighter. 
My posture has improved , I stand a little taller. 
I can feel every muscle under my flesh. 
I eat a lot healthier, I haven't visited McDonald's for over 6 weeks. 
From day to day I forget I have IBS. 
My clothes are too big. 
I feel 10 years younger. 
My body no longer craves junk food.
I have more energy and stamina 
I've lost my sweet tooth. I can eat two digestives if I want, but without wanting to finish the packet. 
What I do crave is the chemical rush that comes from exercise and the sense of achievement from improvement.

So how far have we come with the running? 
Since I started recording running sessions via an phone app called mapmyrun, my accumulative distance to-date  is over 120 miles.
We now routinely run distances of 5k or more, around three times a week. 

Joanne has entered us for a 10k (6.2 mile) race in Blackpool at the end of August. At first I thought it was a run too far, an un-achievable goal. But last night we completed out first ever 10k training run. We weren't quick, logging a time of 1 hour 12 mins . But we were alive, and impressed we can now run for 72 mins non stop, 

It's fair to say we won't be going to the Rio Olympics this year. However we just may have improved our health enough to live a little longer and be fit and active enough to enjoy it more. 

Anyone can get fit, running a 30 min mile or a 4 min mile is still running a mile. 

So stop reading and go do some exercise!!!!

. Run . Walk . Cycle . Swim . Tennis . Football .

Saturday, 17 January 2015

24 Weeks in Greece

In my last post I talked about our son leaving home, to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, in Greece.. He has now been gone for 24 weeks, reads writes and speaks fluent Greek and does his own Washing !

Its a strange experience when a child goes from being dependent to being independent. We look forward to regular emails and pictures every Monday. The picture above is of him standing on Mars Hill in Athens, famed for being the place Paul the apostle preached. He has also spent several weeks living in Thessaloniki, which again may sound familiar if you know the names of the New Testament books. Below was taken on the waterfront at Thessaloniki.

We have been compiling his weekly emails into a blog.. which can be found HERE

Friday, 1 August 2014

Saying goodbye is the hardest thing...

Yesterday we said goodbye to our 18 year old son, for 2 years...

Having just completed A levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry he has a place at Manchester University studying for a Masters degree in Aeronautical Engineering.
However he has chosen to defer his place for 2 years, the reason? 
He has opted to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He applied for his missionary service around Christmas time not knowing where in the world he would be sent. The application process involves interviews, medicals and more interviews. In April he received his assignment to serve in Greece and Cyprus. He instantly felt it was the "right place for him" and in between studying for A levels has been getting to grips with basic Greek and reading things like
The Iliad and Odyssey.

So yesterday we dropped him at the Missionary Training Centre where he will be spending 9 weeks to learn Greek and missionary skills, then flying to Athens. Once in Athens he will be paired with a more experienced missionary and live among the Greek people.

As members of the Church ourselves we always knew Jacob would probably decide to serve a mission, I did myself 25 years ago. But nothing prepares you for the day you wave goodbye. We know he will be safe, we know we will exchange emails every week, but we will miss him being around. 
I will miss my "best mate" but at the same time I am so proud of the man he has become.

If you would like a peek into the life of a "Mormon" missionary, that is a little less weirdly edited than Chanel 4s "Meet the Mormons" documentary. Please pop over and take a look at the blog we will be keeping of his preparation and adventures.. 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

I married the girl of my dreams TWICE

My Princess

This weekend we celebrate our wedding anniversary.. We have enjoyed 22 years of married life and I think part of the reason for our success is that we got married TWICE.. Yes you read that correctly we had two wedding ceremonies.

On the 23rd of May 1992, Joanne and I married in a civil ceremony at our local chapel in Oldham. It was a regular wedding, we had a best man, bridesmaids a walk up the isle and a reception in the church hall. It was a wonderful day, with all our family and friends around us

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a problem with a regular church wedding, even our own. Every wedding service I have been too included the phrase "For the period of this mortal life" or "Til death do us part" Think about that for a minute. 

We were and are, madly and passionately in love, we didn't want a built in cancellation to our commitment. We believe in a life after death, but as the song by Queen asks "Who wants to live forever, if love must die"

Fortunately death, however far away it may seem, does not have to be an end. There is a place you can go to be sealed for "Time and all Eternity"  Love does not have to die, we can be families forever.
That place is a Temple.

In our case, in 1992 the only temple in the UK was in London and it was closed for an extended period to be refurbished. We didn't want to wait for its opening, so as part of our wedding plans we had organised to have our honeymoon in Franfurt Germany, where the next nearest Temple could be found.
(There is now a second UK temple in Preston)

After our civil Wedding on the Saturday we went home to the house we had bought in Ashton-under-Lyne. Then on the Saturday we drove to London, stayed over night and took a flight to Germany.

On the 26th of May 1992 we entered the Frankfurt Temple and in a room not dissimilar to the one below we knelt facing each other at the alter and were married a second time, by someone holding the authority to seal us together for Eternity.

It was a complete contrast to our civil wedding, we traveled to Germany without our family,
there were no bridesmaids or receptions, just us, a couple of witnesses and our beliefs.

Outside the Frankfurt Temple
This short video with comments from living apostles explains more and shows the sealing rooms better than a photograph can.. Please take a couple of minutes to enjoy it.

Of course being sealed doesn't mean you face no problems, you still have to work at a relationship, you still have trials. However I think having a LONG term ETERNAL plan makes your realise what matters most and gives you a different perspective and perhaps a greater desire to make it work.
Do I love Joanne as much as I did, no.. I love her much more.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Garden Railway

It was a Saturday, the sun was out, the dogs had been walked, the errands run... 
So why not run some trains in the garden

March the 1st 2014... Has Spring Sprung ?

Monday, 3 February 2014

Eighteenth Birthday

No not my 18th Birthday!! (I just think I'm 18)
 Today our boy became a man and turned 18.

Land mark birthdays in the life of your children make you pause for thought, hence the video. Jacob is not our eldest, our daughter Rachel will be 21 this year. It doesn't seem like five minutes have passed since some of the pictures were taken.

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