April is IBS Awareness Month. You might already be an outspoken advocate for IBS awareness. If this is you: great!
But if you struggle to talk about IBS because of the stigma still attached to it, you’re definitely not alone.
How to begin? We decided to ask an expert on our team. Every day, the registered dieticians at Cara Care chat with people in the Cara Care 12-week IBS program.
We asked Kora, who leads the dietician team, what kind of advice she’d give to people who want to help break the stigma of IBS.
Here are her top tips for talking about IBS with your friends and family:
1. Give context about how common IBS is.
It’s estimated that 10% of the U.S. population (11% of the global population) has IBS. Roughly the same number of people in the U.S. have diabetes. After discussing this, you can introduce the topic of stigma: why do people talk about diabetes much more than IBS?
2. Break the ice at social events by explaining your needs ahead of time.
If you’re nervous about your dietary needs not being met, or needing to excuse yourself often to use the restroom, confront the issue head on: talk to the host before the event or at the beginning of the evening. This might have the effect of making you less nervous to have a conversation about IBS in the middle of dinner.
3. Memorize some interesting IBS facts.
These are good conversation-starters: 1) International statistics show that IBS rates in women are 1.5- to 3-fold higher than in men. 2) People who see their doctors about IBS report more anxiety, more pain, and a bigger reduction of their overall quality of life, compared to people who see their doctors for other reasons.
4. Talk about other digestion-related topics.
Digestive health is really broad, but it’s not something people talk about much. If you normalize talking about digestion with friends—maybe an interesting study that was just released?—it might make it easier for you to talk to them about your IBS.
5. Be straightforward—and encourage others to approach IBS that way, too.
Think about the way that some people talk about having asthma, or migraine headaches. Most of the time, these conditions are discussed in a straightforward, casual way. If you talk in the same way about IBS, people will probably follow your lead: they’ll see it the same way, as something that’s super common and OK to talk about.