23 April 2018
From having ‘squiffy tummy’ as a primary school child to being a virtual prisoner in her own home, Victoria Carter has fought a lifelong battle against IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). But as part of IBS awareness month which runs throughout April, mum-of-one Victoria is telling other sufferers “you’re not alone”.
“At their peak my symptoms actually stopped me from leaving the house! Even a simple trip to the shops was a nightmare as I always had to make sure a toilet was nearby wherever I went and, on top of that, my weight plummeted as I tried to cut out foods I thought might be causing the problem,” she said.
Victoria, who lives in Moulton with husband Steven and 18-month-old son Jake, tried special diets, over-the-counter remedies and underwent several tests following frequent visits to her GP.
Following the death of her dad when she was just 20, along with the constant pain and tiredness brought on by IBS, Victoria was diagnosed as suffering from depression.
“I felt there was no support at all and was just expected to 'get on with it',” she said.
But it was when she met with Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Subramaniam Ramakrishnan (Dr Ram) at Spire Cheshire Hospital that Victoria began to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“From the start I felt he listened and sympathised. He took me seriously and cannot express how much that meant and still means! You’re batted off so much when you have tummy issues if no one can find anything more serious in there. You get labelled with 'IBS' and that's it, you're left to your own devices. Dr Ram reassured me if there was anything to find he would find it. From our first meeting I really felt like I was going to get better.” Victoria explained.
Initial investigations showed possibility of inflammation and increased blood flow on scans which could explain the cause of a lot of the symptoms and Dr Ram suspected that she may have Crohn’s disease.
However this was not the case and once tests eliminated conditions like inflammatory bowel problem or coeliac disease - which can cause symptoms similar to IBS - Dr Ram referred Victoria to a dietician so a food plan to control symptoms could be drawn up along with the use of medication.
“This might sound cheesy but this man has changed my life,” said Victoria. “I am 16 years on from when I was at my peak symptoms and I am now much more relaxed about normal daily things because my symptoms have eased more than I could ever have imagined. Things that would have once caused a great deal of worry and discomfort are in the past – I really do feel much more normal and able to enjoy life.
“You might need to keep pushing at your GP to get a referral but once your meet the right consultant like Dr Ram things can really change for the better. And, she stressed “Don’t suffer in silence! I bet if you started talking about the issues to some people they would join in and say yes they suffer at times too or know someone close who does. Being as open as you can about it actually really helps.”