Coping with IBS during a pandemic
Have you found it harder to cope with your digestive symptoms since the pandemic? Are you worried you are at greater risk of COVID-19? Here's what you need to know, and where you can get help.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or live with a medical condition like ulcerative colitis, you may be worried about the impact the pandemic is having on your health. From lockdowns to home schooling your kids, COVID-19 is making daily life difficult - and your gut will likely be feeling the strain. Be kind to yourself. It's common for stress and anxiety to trigger digestive symptoms or make them worse, and it's not your fault.
However you may be worried that your digestive symptoms are actually signs of COVID-19. COVID-19 most commonly presents with respiratory symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath and sore throat. Digestive symptoms such as nausea and diarrhoea may also occur, as well as loss of appetite or sense of taste. If you have new digestive symptoms, always go and see your GP for medical diagnosis and advice.
It's important to be informed about coronavirus and its potential impacts, but it can be difficult to find evidence-based advice among all the noise. So I've rounded up the best resources for you from trusted sources of health information, along with tips for managing stress and looking after your overall health. Links in the headings.
The IBS Network is a (UK) charity which supports people with IBS, and is staffed and governed by a team of clinical experts. Here, they answer all your questions including:
"Does having IBS put me at increased risk from coronavirus?" (Answer: no, although if you have other health conditions you might be at higher risk)
The team of researchers at Monash University responsible for developing the low FODMAP diet for IBS have a short blog series on coping with IBS during the pandemic. The first (link in the heading) has some simple tips on hygiene. Blog post #2 has advice for IBS self-care; and blog #3 is about optimising nutrition, to ensure your body is working optimally to fight off disease causing viruses or bacteria.
Crohn’s & Colitis Australia is the support organisation for people with inflammatory bowel disease. If you have Crohn's Disease or ulcerative colitis, including if you are taking immunosuppressive medication, you can find the latest information about COVID-19 (including vaccination) on its website. Always contact your GP for advice if you have Crohn's Disease or ulcerative colitis.
Telehealth appointments with your GP and nutritionist
You can access bulk-billed telehealth consultations with your doctor and many other health professionals — meaning you won't have to pay any out-of-pocket costs. Telehealth consultations are virtual appointments conducted over the phone or video conferencing services like FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp. If you have private health insurance, check directly with your provider about rebates for nutrition consultations, including those via telehealth. You may be able to claim under “dietary” extras or “healthy lifestyle”, depending on your level of cover.
Continue keeping yourself and others safe by:
maintaining physical distance
wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
cover your mouth with a tissue or bent elbow when sneezing or coughing; dispose of the tissue immediately
avoid touching your face