Once again, I was left to deal with the pain all alone and try to find the answers to my questions, blindly hoping that if I just searched long and hard enough I would be able to successfully overcome the disorder through my own attempts. Though it was difficult and at times extremely frustrating, over the course of many years that's exactly what happened.

The answers to my questions eventually came from twenty years of first-hand experience with countless trial-and-error discoveries, equally lengthy and ongoing research into applicable health and lifestyle issues, and extensive tracking of current scientific IBS findings. The answers I found form the chapters of this book.

My primary goal in writing The First Year: Irritable Bowel Syndrome has been to imagine the possibility of being transported back in time, so that I could give my younger self a guidebook for living with the disorder. What advice would have helped me then? What information and support did I need most? What exactly would I tell my 9 year old self if I really could go back in time?

The result is a sort of "survivor's manual" that details the strategies needed to control IBS on both a short and long term basis – and I can't tell you how much I wish I really could send this book through a time machine to make it available to me back when I so urgently needed it.

Dietary guidelines, strategies, and recipes are covered, and some of this information overlaps that in Eating for IBS as diet is truly a crucial means for managing IBS. But there is also comprehensive and empathetic information about stress management, suggestions for dealing with friends and family members, advice to enable you to work around the illness while learning to overcome it, and detailed coverage of alternative therapies that may well help more than prescription medications. There are also special sections throughout the book just for children with IBS and their parents, as they have unique concerns to be dealt with. These sub-chapters draw extensively from my own perspectives, experiences, and memories from childhood, and the issues they address remain very close to my heart.

Medical information is also given in detail, though in general physicians have had a poor track record when it comes to researching IBS (particularly in comparison to other chronic illnesses), and in fact very few studies were conducted until quite recently. As a result, there is much to be desired in how some medical professionals deal with this problem, and what they have to offer their IBS patients. Things are finally, fortunately, changing in this area, but it sure has been a long time coming. We're still nowhere near where we need to be in terms of medical solutions to what is indisputably a physical problem.

Personally, I simply couldn't wait for my doctors to get their acts together – I had to get mine together without them. IBS would have seriously compromised every single area of my life otherwise. So gradually, painfully, I did just that. And so can you-- I promise. One of the most difficult aspects for me was feeling like I was all alone in the world with this problem, but you should never feel the same way. You are most definitely not alone. I realize now with hindsight that I actually had the power to successfully deal with IBS when I was nine - I just didn't have the information and knowledge required to do so. It took almost twenty years of learning and living to acquire that ability. Although I can't really send this book into the past to help myself, I am truly grateful that I can share what I've learned with the people who, unbeknownst to me until quite recently, have been struggling alongside me the whole time.

One of the fundamental tenets of this book, from day one through the end of your first year and beyond, is the idea that from this point forward you and your health must be a priority. You're worth it, so don't let anyone suggest otherwise. You will have to make time in your life to eat properly, exercise, manage your stress, try alternative therapies, and generally adjust your lifestyle to accommodate IBS by preventing the symptoms. There's something very important to note here – you're probably already living your life around IBS, but in terms of dealing with the symptoms. Planning extra time in the bathroom, driving an inconvenient route that allows quick access to restrooms along the way, avoiding restaurants and travel, minimizing social occasions where you have to eat – all of these restrictions and deprivations should end. You will still spend time planning, but to prevent problems, not accommodate them. The hours you've been wasting worrying about an attack, living in fear of one, or enduring one, will now be free. You will simply have to spend some of that time instead on a little daily lifestyle management to prevent the onset of attacks. This involves not just the avoidance of triggers, but taking active steps to maintain stable health on a continuous basis.

Click here to continue reading First Year: IBS.

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