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My IBS was so bad I couldn’t leave the house

Liz Long, 57, a packaging artworker from Buckinghamshire, had bouts of IBS so bad that she had to be close to a toilet at all times and couldn’t go out. Then she finally got the treatment she needed, started the Fast 800 diet and everything changed.

Liz Long, pictured before and after going on the diet that helped her manage her IBS symptoms and lose a stone and half. (Supplied)
Liz Long, pictured before and after going on the diet that helped her manage her IBS symptoms and lose a stone and half. (Supplied)

Since I was a child I’ve always suffered with my stomach. For a long time, I just accepted it. Other people got headaches when they were stressed or run down and I got the squits! But as I got older it got worse.

Stress was a definite trigger. In my 20s, I had a really full on job as a designer with a multi-media agency and we’d often have to pull all-nighters to meet deadlines.

I’d tolerate it for a while then it was like my body just said 'no' and I’d have 24 hours of feeling like I had a stomach bug. I’d be bloated and queasy and it would wipe me out for a whole day.

In my 30s, it became more like what I now know to be classic IBS – watery diarrhoea, cramps, bloated-ness, a gurgling stomach. Awful.

The symptoms became more frequent but I had a couple of really bad bouts. One of them was when I was away in Stockholm for a work conference. I woke up, on the first morning we were there and literally had to run to the toilet. I didn’t quite make it in time. Luckily, that is the only accident I have ever had but it was horrible and embarrassing.

My boss called a doctor out because I couldn’t leave my room. He came to the hotel, felt my stomach and said immediately that it was my gut and that I needed to take probiotics.

This was quite advanced considering it was the mid-nineties and from then on, I’d take probiotics to calm my stomach down, or after a night out drinking.

I’d get bouts every few months when life got stressful. I’d describe it like a queasy, fluttery feeling in my stomach and just inside the anus. I’d feel generally delicate and like I might need 'to go' all the time. Then when I did go, I didn’t feel like I properly emptied my bowels.

Liz Long says her IBS symptoms were so extreme it was difficult to concentrate on work. (Pictured on holiday before treatment). (Supplied)
Liz Long says her IBS symptoms were so extreme it was difficult to concentrate on work. (Pictured on holiday before treatment). (Supplied)

Uncontrollable symptoms

I just felt very uncomfortable and drained, and needed to be near a toilet at all times in case I was suddenly caught short. One time I was. I went for a walk around a lake with a friend and had to dash behind a bush mid-walk – it was like my guts just exploded.

It was exhausting and really got me down because I couldn’t concentrate on work or be productive because I was constantly distracted.

During Covid when everyone was working from home but we were being told to go for a walk at lunchtime, I’d get ready to go out then I’d get that fluttery feeling so be unable to leave the house in case I needed the toilet. I started to feel quite isolated.

I’d get ready to go out then I’d get that fluttery feeling so be unable to leave the house in case I needed the toilet.

As well as my symptoms getting worse, I also started to gain weight. I couldn’t understand it because I’d always been slim and I’ve always enjoyed exercise.

I tried all sorts of diets including Slimming World and WeightWatchers, and I’d stick religiously to it but not lose a pound. I worked out that part of the problem was that some of these diets let me eat as much fruit as I wanted.

I thought fruit was healthy and therefore a safe food for IBS sufferers, so I’d buy those tubs of prepared fruit. It turns out though, that that is one of the worst things I could have eaten, as it’s full of fructose – sugar, basically – and sugar is very inflammatory.

Liz Long cured her symptoms through IBS medication and following a special Mediterranean-based diet. (Supplied)
Liz Long cured her symptoms through IBS medication and following a special Mediterranean-based diet. (Supplied)

Investigating the problem

You’d think that someone with IBS would be skinny, as everything is passing through but I read that it’s because everything passes through you, that your body holds onto every calorie it can which explained my weight gain. At my heaviest, I was nearly 18 stone (114kg).

Desperate for some answers, I went to see a gastroenterologist when I was 50. I had a colonoscopy which showed some dark staining on my colon – I asked if this meant I had IBS, but the consultant just said they 'don’t like to label it', and I was basically dismissed.

They even said the dark staining must be from all the laxatives I took, which was a surprise since I’d never taken a laxative.

At the end of 2021, my mum fractured her back and the stress of caring for her as well as working full-time, brought on the worst bout of IBS I’ve ever had. I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t function.

Liz Long rarely needs her IBS medication now as her symptoms have virtually gone. (Supplied)
Liz Long rarely needs her IBS medication now as her symptoms have virtually gone. (Supplied)

Life-changing treatment

It went on for months, with things reaching a head at Easter 2022 when I spent the whole weekend on my sofa, near the toilet.

I finally went to the GP. She took one look at my notes, diagnosed IBS and for the first time in my life, I was given medication called Colofac.

My stomach calmed down immediately after I started taking the tablets. I was like, this is a game-changer. I’m not running to the loo anymore and I can go out at lunchtime.

I hadn’t realised how bad my stomach was until I got the diagnosis and IBS medication. I can’t describe how lovely it was for my bowels to feel calm!

The intermittent fasting means I started to only have two meals a day – a brunch of something like broccoli and eggs at 11am and then, dinner.

I really wanted to do something about the weight, however, and so in January 2023, I signed up to do the Fast 800 diet. The main idea behind it is that it’s low in carbohydrates and you do intermittent fasting to encourage fat-burning.

It’s a Mediterranean diet so lots of gut-friendly clean foods – lots of olive oil and vegetables. There’s nothing processed, which is great for my IBS and because it’s more nutritious, it helps you to feel fuller for longer.

The intermittent fasting means I started to only have two meals a day, too – a brunch of something like broccoli and eggs at 11am and then, dinner. You can eat fruit but only low-sugar fruit, so apples, pears and berries.

There are no bananas or fruit juice. I used to drink a lot of fruit juice thinking that was healthy.

One of the approaches that helped Liz Long with her IBS was intermittent fasting. (Supplied)
One of the approaches that helped Liz Long with her IBS was intermittent fasting. (Supplied)

A new lease of life

Within a couple of months of being on the Fast 800, I’d lost a stone and a half (9.5kg). Plus, my stomach was so calm. I didn’t feel bloated and sluggish.

Last year I only had one attack of IBS and by last February, I was feeling so well that I stopped taking my IBS medication.

I'm so much more productive at work because I’m not distracted by the gurgling stomach. I also train with a personal trainer – I haven’t felt so good in years.

These days, I only occasionally take a tablet if I’ve had alcohol or am particularly stressed. Apart from that, I have no IBS symptoms and have so much more energy.

I am also so much more productive at work because I’m not distracted by the gurgling stomach. I often go for a walk at lunchtime and I also train with a personal trainer – two things I’d never have done before.

I haven’t felt so good in years.

For further information see The Fast 800 Diet.

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