Abi Lauder developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome in her teens. Now 23 and forging a career as a lawyer, she is living proof that IBS can be managed successfully.

Living with IBS

The first indicator that something wasn’t right was when I was about 18 and started to lose weight (about three stone). I remember thinking as I sat on the toilet one afternoon at school: ‘Does everyone poop this much?’

“From there, life became slightly difficult as I was faced with food intolerance problems which got gradually worse. I began to eliminate some foods like wheat and dairy with the help of my doctor but things didn’t get better.

“Then I started to have accidents with my bowels. I got really nauseous and felt bloated much of the time. I didn’t go out much. I was always tired and I missed quite a lot of class.”

Abi was finally diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome whilst at University in Manchester.

“It helped me to understand what it is and how it is. I was okay with that,” she recalled.

She has since learned to manage the incurable condition and is resolute that IBS will not rule her life or crush her determination to get the most out of it.

“Some days are better than others, but I’m in a better place than I have been for years. I have changed my mindset and how I think about it.

“When you have IBS your bowel movements are never predictable, so I always plan ahead. I get up early in the morning so I have extra time to go to the toilet. I always have spare underwear in the car.

Stress and diet are both contributing factors so I am careful about what I eat and make sure I’m no more stressed than anyone else.

“There have been some dark moments, but I have never felt like giving up. I put all my energy in to the things I’ve achieved: I went to university, got through law school. I’ve taken no time out.

“The fact that I am working is really helping. I don’t have time to think about it.”

Her hopes for the future are bright. “The fact that I have a job and that nothing has stopped me getting where I want to be gives me confidence. I’m fortunate that I have supportive people around me – that’s a massive thing.”

One of the ways in which Abi channels her energy is fundraising for Bowel & Cancer Research.

She and her friends have raised more than £20,000 with two charity discos and a club night. Their Kiss 4 Bowel Care campaign at Christmas 2014 notched up more than £2,400.

Abi's message to others is to speak up if they have a problem and get themselves checked out

taboo busting

“It’s okay to have problems with your bottom – you can still be attractive, you can still work, you can still be a good person. There are swings and roundabouts to everything.

“We’re not taught about bowel problems at school. We know we must check ourselves for breast cancer, but no one ever tells us to get our bottoms checked. It’s a massive taboo.

Communication is key: if we can all get talking about it then even something that little can make a big difference.

“It may seem difficult to mention but it’s only embarrassing if you allow yourself to be embarrassed. Doctors are used to dealing with this kind of thing.

“Everyone goes to the toilet and everyone experiences poop. So it is essential that we are able to discuss it without fear of embarrassment because stigma can affect people living with bowel problems, causing anxiety and panic attacks.

“I hope that by sharing my embarrassing experiences, I can turn a negative experience into something positive.

“I want others, especially females and young people struggling to come to terms with bowel problems, to know that they’re not alone. Please accept that you can still be interesting and funny and sexy, it simply depends on the way in which you approach the issue and talk about it.

Let’s create an environment where people who are suffering from bowel conditions can talk openly, rather than feeling ashamed and lost. Let’s talk about our bottom experiences and learn to laugh, rather than closing ourselves off and becoming isolated.

“Shit happens in life – and in the case of people with IBS, it literally does. But sitting at home all day and feel sorry for ourselves doesn’t do any good.”