Navigating sex with IBS

So as of a few days ago, I got diagnosed by a specialist bowel surgeon, after a series of tests, with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as IBS.

Experiencing it for a number of years (starting after my maternal grandmother passed away from lung cancer) it’s been speculated by myself, my nearest and dearest and even my therapist at the time two years ago that I may have it, but I always put off going to see someone with the ‘it will go away on its own’ notion. Nope!

Anyway, when it comes to sex, IBS can be a deciding factor in what you can and perhaps-be-advised-against, doing.

Baring in mind here, everyone’s IBS and sex life works differently. I’m talking about my own here and also going from general knowledge from research.

As well as certain food intolerances that trigger symptoms for me, mine is primarily stress induced. And with my dissertation deadline little over a month away, the flare ups have been near constant of late. They can be very painful, leaving you absolutely exhausted if it’s particularly bad.

So when it comes to navigating sex around IBS, there are certain things I have had to accept and not beat myself up about.

For example, it’s unpredictability. Even without triggers and measures to keep your bowels as calm as possible, sometimes it can just play up just because.

In everyday life, sadly it’s not a condition many take seriously, despite it being a chronic condition that needs lifelong management and can really affect work life and overall quality of life. Reactions can vary from be accused of exaggeration for effect (we’re really not) to the classic ‘it’s just all in your head’ approach.

With it being a bowel condition affecting everyday life to whatever varying degree, naturally that can (but not always) affect sex too.

Suffice to say, it can leave you wanting the ground to swallow you whole when you’ve got a wild night of passion planned ahead of you, and then having to go: ‘Sorry, not tonight. My guts are wreaking havoc again.’

Lately with uni work and my iron tablets still kicking in (I was also diagnosed with an iron deficiency) I’ve been very tired and not had the energy for much else that isn’t work related. So as you can imagine, I’ve not had much, if any, energy for sex lately, despite by really wanting to.

Especially when feeling like one’s intestines are being rung out like a dish cloth and hung out to dry, definitely not.

Generally speaking, sex is as normal as anyone’s else’s experiences. I just have to be more mindful about what acts I can do. For example, anal sex is one of those things.

I have only had full anal sex a handful of times. While I have enjoyed these experiences, without going into too much detail, it can be difficult and perhaps ill-advised for me to do any kind of anal play regularly. Or even semi-regularly for that matter.

If I do, I’d have to stick with very small butt plugs and only during times when I’ve not had a flare up for a while. Even then, take it very slow and play it by ear.

I have to admit sometimes that it does make me feel like crap. Feeling like I can’t do something I have either particular interest in and also some internalised societal pressure I put on myself to ‘let the guy do anal on you.’

My boyfriend has really enjoyed the times we have, as have I. Because I know he enjoys it so much, sometimes I feel bad because I can’t do it as much as someone else might. But being the lovely man he is, has reassured me that my health is more important to him and if I can’t, I can’t and that’s perfectly ok.

He is absolutely right. Health is more important than any sex act. It’s like me avoiding a certain kind of bondage tie because of an injury he sustained in his arm. Safety first.

Vaginal sex wise, it’s pretty straightforward. But on those days where despite a bad bloat that makes me look around 5 months pregnant (no word of exaggeration there) and just need it, slow doggy style is always my best bet.

So while it can be a literal pain, it’s just one of things you’ve got to take in your stride and face head on, taking as good a care of yourself as you can.

All my love,

Violet xx

*Picture – Pinterest

20 thoughts on “Navigating sex with IBS

    1. Thank you sweet 😊 Keeping to as healthy a diet as possible (Also been looking at FODMAPs to get a clearer idea of potential triggers) definitely helps and doing self care to make sure I don’t get overstressed helps 😊 It’s caused quite an impact in the past with work and what not but hopefully with better insight I can manage it better 😊

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    1. Thank you Nora xx It’s been a bit of an eventful fortnight to say the least, before IBD was mentioned to be tested for and a faulty blood sample (could only get a small amount because of my stubborn veins) had the hospital rushing me in thinking I hate acute leukaemia! Thankfully they tested a full sample (managed to get it out of my foot) and was ruled out. Even with a the rationalising in the world, needless to say that was bloody scary. So while it’s not ideal I’ll happily take an IBS diagnosis over that any day of the week!
      It’s my final write up for creative writing MA, so it’s like our version of a dissertation 😊 It’s around 13,500 words of a larger project (basically a chunk of a novel we’re writing) along with a synopsis and reflective commentary altogether totaling 15,000 words 😊

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  1. I still think I have to get myself tested, as for some years now I think I may have IBS. I do have food intolerances and I know all about bloating and pain and upset intestines, and everything around it… and how uncomfortable sex can be… good on getting the diagnosis, and good luck on navigating it all.

    Rebel xox

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    1. I’m sorry to hear that Marie. It might be an idea to speak to your doctor about it to have better insight but just to let you know they do look at ruling every other digestive condition out before diagnosing IBS, so it can be quite unpleasant depending on what tests are done. I hope you find some peace with it as well and that it doesn’t cause you much trouble 🙂 xxx

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  2. Tom

    You have my sympathies and I hope you manage to navigate around your IBT successfully if not fully beat the beast. I don’t have it (yet?), but my bowels sometimes behave very similarly and yes, it absolutely is stress and some food stuff-triggered. Avoiding wheat (not gluten, some gluten-containing grains are fine) and cow milk products (goat milk is fine) and yeast (that unfortunately means beer too) helps to keep my problems away. Everybody is different, but maybe worth a trial. The effects kick in within a couple of days so it is not difficult to try it and you will definitely.know if it helps within a week.

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    1. Thank you Tom, that’s very kind of you. I’m ok with gluten for the most part (I stick to wholewheat stuff, white bread and pasta doesn’t agree with me at all) and was tested for Coeliac’s Disease which I was negative for thank goodness. I’ve found anything too spicy, oily or sugary can be a bit problematic so I keep an eye out for that, especially so if I’ve not had much to eat that day. I hope you find relief as well 🙂 xx

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      1. Tom

        Hi Violet. Thanks. The same to you.

        My digestive system thrives (and then I feel great) on diet with as little condensed carbohydrates as possible (sugar is out for sure). I don’t exactly buy fully into LCHF and keto “religion” that is so popular now, I think it is too extreme and definitely not sustainable in a long run, but to a significant degree it is compatible with what works for me. Unfortunately I am not disciplined enough and as soon as I am fine I start to slack. And then after a while, reset and rewind again… I think very hard disciplinary spankings whenever I start to “sin” again would keep me on my toes and in line, but I cannot persuade my dominant Wife to put it on regular menu 😋😋.

        Are you familiar with the book “Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ” by Giulia Enders? If not, I recommend it. It’s delightfully informative, written in a layman’s language but rooted strongly in modern science (the author is a Ph.D. candidate in gastroenterology from Germany, who also suffered from “our” problems).

        Best wishes, Tom

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