'A non-dairy diet seems to help' 

Geoff Lyon has had severe IBS since early childhood. He shares his story.

"It all started when I was about eight years old. I was getting a lot of unexplained diarrhoea and feeling sick. I couldn't go anywhere without wanting to go to the toilet. My parents didn't understand what was wrong with me.

"As I grew up, it didn't get any better. I was still suffering from diarrhoea and nausea, as well as constipation, headaches and feeling tired all the time. Sometimes it would wake me up at night and I'd sit for a couple of hours on the toilet sweating, with a severe cramping pain in my gut. I wouldn't be able to go, then suddenly I'd have a gush of diarrhoea. I would be exhausted the next day.

"It wasn't until 1980, when I was 29, that I was referred to hospital to have a barium enema (when the colon is filled with a liquid that shows up on X-ray) and a blood test. They couldn't find anything seriously wrong and eventually diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis.

"I was given an antispasmodic drug to take two to three times a day, which slows the contractions in your gut. I now control my IBS with codeine phosphate, which is an antidiarrhoeal drug.

"Not only has the treatment helped, but so has cutting out dairy products from my diet. About nine years ago, my doctor suggested I try a non-dairy diet. It seems to help. I've always loved milk and cream, so it was difficult switching from them to soya products, but it's worth it. One Christmas I gave in and had some cream trifle. Within half an hour I was on the toilet, which proves it isn't good for me.

"At the moment I still get attacks quite frequently, but they're not as bad and I'm more in control of them. I know when I'm going to have an attack, as I become really lethargic and my stomach distends the night before, like I'm six months pregnant.

"I've noticed that if I'm stressed, my IBS kicks in a couple of days later, so I try to relax and remove any stress from my life.

"I run a self-help group for the IBS Network, which I'd recommend joining. You get lots of factsheets and a 'Can't Wait Card' that you can show to hotels or shops if you desperately need to use their toilet facilities."

Page last reviewed: 25/09/2014

Next review due: 25/09/2017