Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Everyone goes to the bathroom. It’s a part of life. But when you have to go multiple times a day and it seems like your life revolves around it, something might be off. This was my life earlier this year. Every time I ate something, I found myself having painful cramps and spending lots of time on the toilet. My life got to the point where I had stomach aches and cramping every day. So, I made an appointment with my doctor.


She confirmed that I shouldn’t be going to the bathroom every time I eat and that something was definitely off with my digestive system. Since she was my Primary Care Physician, she couldn’t exactly diagnose me with anything but said that I probably had IBS. 


IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s a chronic condition in which your intestines have a hard time processing food. This results in bloating, cramping, nausea, diarrhea and other things. These symptoms vary from person to person and someone can experience one or many of them. According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, IBS affects around 7-21% of the U.S. population. 


But after that doctor’s appointment, I had a lead on what could be making me feel sick and no definite answers. For most IBS cases, there needs to be lots of tests done to make sure that the symptoms aren’t a result of a food intolerance or other disease. It usually takes lots of trial and error before someone gets an official IBS diagnosis. This is the process that began after I visited my doctor. 


The next four months were filled with blood tests, diet changes, a trip to see a gastroenterologist and a colonoscopy. In August this year, I was finally diagnosed with IBS-C. IBS-C is a version of IBS that has constipation associated with it. There is also a version that’s diarrhea specific and one where a person experiences both. 


Now that I actually knew what was happening to me, I thought that all the trouble was behind me. But I soon found out that a lifestyle adjusted to IBS was not an easy one. To help my cramping, my gastroenterologist prescribed me some medicine made specifically for my condition. 


My insurance immediately rejected covering it and soon I had to pay over $1000 dollars for a monthly prescription. I’d never had medication denied before, especially medicine that my doctor said would be good for me and would help me feel better. I was in limbo for a while, running to my doctor’s office to get free weekly samples of various meds and hoping my insurance would cover one of them. Finally in late October, my insurance approved one of the medicines. 


I’d never been so frustrated in all of my life. How could I be denied something that would help me feel better? It also made me realize how messed up the healthcare system is in the U.S. but that’s another story.   


Besides my medications, I had to adapt my diet to my chronic condition. Most IBS sufferers follow a Low FODMAP diet. FODMAPS are different elements in foods that are hard to digest, especially for people with IBS. I soon found myself on a gluten-free, lactose-free diet. I also couldn’t eat certain fruits and most processed foods. It was really rough at the beginning and honestly sometimes I have days where I do eat bread or have cookies. 


My gastroenterologist also recommended that I have a diary where I track what I eat and when I go to the bathroom. This seemed really daunting at first but now I’ve been doing it long enough that it’s become a habit. I use the Monash University app to track all of that and it’s convenient since it’s right on my phone. 


Having IBS is no walk in the park and I still have bad days where I get terrible cramps. I think the one thing that’s so tricky about IBS is that you don’t notice it until it gets really bad. As a college student, when you’re working on assignments and going to class all day it can be easy to not notice your health.

So, what I’d say is be more aware of your health and take five minutes in your day to be in tune with your body. Also, if you have to rush to the bathroom soon after eating on a regular basis, maybe you should look into it. I am by no means a doctor but I do know how I felt before I was diagnosed with IBS. 


Stay happy, stay healthy collegiettes. 

Hannah Nelson is a senior at Penn State University, double majoring in Print/Digital Journalism and History. She enjoys Marvel movies, anything Harry Potter, books, quoting Vines and watching Tik Toks. In her free time, she is probably watching Try Guys videos on YouTube. She is passionate about mental health, women's rights and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Arden Ericson will graduate Penn State in May of 2023. As one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus at PSU, she is a double-major in Public Relations and French Language. After graduation, she will pursue a career that combines her passion for educational equity, social justice and French.