Navigating sex with IBS

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

Experiencing this 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 that I may have the condition. But I always put off getting checked out 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.

Bearing in mind, everyone’s IBS and sex life works differently. I’m talking about my own experience and also going from general knowledge from research. As well as certain foods that trigger symptoms for me, my IBS is primarily stress-induced. And with my dissertation deadline a little over a month away, flare-ups have been near constant of late. They can be very painful, leaving me exhausted if it’s particularly bad.

So, when it comes to navigating sex around IBS? There are certain things I’ve just had to accept and not beat myself up about. For instance, its 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, IBS is not a condition that’s taken as seriously as it should be, despite it being a chronic condition that needs lifelong management and can affect overall quality of life. Reactions can vary from sympathetic (thankfully), being accused of exaggeration for effect (we’re really not), to the classic ‘it’s just all in your head’ approach.

Being a bowel condition affecting everyday life in varying degrees, naturally that can (but not always) affect sex too.

Needless to say, when you’ve got a wild night of passion planned, and then having to go: ‘Sorry, not tonight. My guts are wreaking havoc again.’,  it can leave you wanting the ground to swallow you whole. Lately, with uni work and my iron tablets still kicking in (I was also diagnosed with an iron deficiency) I’ve been very tired. I’ve not had the energy for much else that isn’t work-related. So, I’ve not had much, if any, energy for sex lately, despite really wanting to. I can’t say feeling like your intestines are being rung out like a dishcloth and hung out to dry is a powerful aphrodisiac.

Generally speaking, sex for me is as normal as anyone else’s experiences. I just have to be more mindful about what acts I can do. For example, anal sex. I’ve only had full anal sex a handful of times. While I’ve enjoyed these experiences, it can be difficult (perhaps ill-advised) for me to do 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 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 it does make me feel like crap. Feeling like I can’t do something I have an interest in, and also, some internalised societal pressure I put on myself to ‘let the guy do anal on you.’ I expressed these feelings with my boyfriend, who also enjoys anal sex. That sometimes, I feel bad because I can’t be ready for anal like someone without IBS might be able to. Being the lovely man he is, he reassured me that my health is more important to him and if I can’t, 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 my boyfriend sustained in his arm years ago. I may not be able to do the tie, but his wellbeing is much more important.  Safety first. Vaginal sex-wise, it’s pretty straightforward. But on those days where I’ve got a bad bloat that makes me look five months pregnant (no word of exaggeration there) and just need it, slow doggy style is the way to go.

So while it can be a literal pain, I’ve got to take it in my stride and face it head-on, taking as good care of myself as I can.

All my love,

Violet xx

*Picture – Pinterest

22 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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