Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders.
IT’S one of the things many take for granted - normal daily bowel movements - but for Masego (not her real name), an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferer, passing stools has become an obsession.

This week, she “was lucky”, she said, almost dejectedly - she had two bowel movements. Not only does she have IBS - her main cause of pain and discomfort - but also piles (haemorrhoids) and constipation.

“In my house, you will find liquid paraffin, Movicol, Fybogel, different kinds of Anusol - anything and everything to help my bowel movements”, the 36 year-old Joburg resident and journalist said.

But not passing stools is not the worst of it - for Masego, the worst part is the pain. The excruciating pain of constant bloating, cramping and constipation, a struggle she has had to contend with since she was 20.

IBS is a chronic condition and one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders.

According to Professor Leon Dicks, head of the probiotic and antimicrobial peptide laboratory in the Department of Microbiology at Stellenbosch University, it is a condition that is rarely cured completely.

The symptoms include abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and flatulence - symptoms Masego knows all too well.

“Sometimes the pain gets so bad that I lie down with my tummy on the cold tile floor of my living room to relieve the pain.

"And the older I get, the more intense the pain gets. The pain could happen at any time of the day, but occurs mostly at night - and after everything I eat, I get bloated.”

A few years ago Masego thought she might be lactose intolerant, and switched her diet, adding high fibre cereals to aid the digestive process. But that didn’t work.

“I tried everything, but there’s only so much you can do in changing a diet.

"People used to say I was boring because I didn’t like going out at night for dinners but they just didn’t know my IBS limited my movements. I wouldn’t want to be in pain.”