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NHS Choices Condition

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Suffering from IBS for more than 20 years, Ansar Ahmed Ullah is finally learning to live with his condition

"I think my IBS came from too many curries!" says Ansar Ahmed Ullah. He first came to London in the early 1980s. Living in shared accommodation, he relied on spicy takeaways for his main meal in the evening. "We'd also go to the community centre at lunchtime where they served curry and rice," he remembers.

During the mid-1980s, Ansar started to suffer from frequent constipation, bloating, occasional bouts of diarrhoea and stomach pain. On one occasion, the pain was so bad that he was rushed to hospital. "I was there for a week," he remembers. "The doctors gave me all kinds of tests. They thought I might have a stomach ulcer, but they didn't find anything."

Eventually, Ansar mentioned his troubles to his GP, who diagnosed IBS. He was prescribed painkillers and a muscle relaxant drug to ease his constipation. Unfortunately, neither drug was effective. Ansar decided to try and treat himself.

He joined the IBS Network to educate himself about his condition, and underwent several food allergy tests, discovering that he was sensitive to wheat, spicy food and dairy products.

"Luckily, I'm still able to eat chicken and fish," he says. "Avoiding dairy and wheat is very difficult. I love milk in my tea. I've never been able to stand the taste of soya and I love bread and biscuits. I've found the wheat-free ranges at the supermarkets very helpful, though."

Ansar says he's tried every IBS remedy on the market. "I've more or less resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to be cured of IBS," he says. "It can be very difficult, though.

"The mornings are the worst. I'm no longer working, but when I was employed, I was constantly late because I had to spend so long in the toilet with constipation. There's not a lot of awareness of IBS, particularly among young people, and it's hard for people to understand what you're going through.”

Ansar says IBS also affects his relationship with his partner. "She does sometimes get annoyed when she needs to go somewhere in a hurry and I'm still in the toilet. It's also very awkward when you're out and about and you need to use a loo suddenly or for a long period of time. The IBS is in the back of my mind all the time. I have to consider it when I go anywhere or do anything."

However, Ansar tries not to let his IBS get him down. "I do my best to stick to my wheat-free diet and I make sure I eat plenty of fruit. I've found that really helps the constipation. I'm also planning to take more exercise. I already go to Pilates classes and I've got a bike, which I should really use more! I think I'm learning to live with my IBS."

view information about Irritable Bowel Syndrome on www.nhs.co.uk »

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