Sophie Lee has an obsession with toilets — not because it's some kind of fetish, but because all of her adult life, she's never known when she's going to urgently need one nearby, or suffer the consequences.  It's a pretty icky topic, I know, but Sophie's new narrative describing her 20-year struggle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the best-written "empowered patient" testimonials I've read.

Sophie grew up in the UK and went to Warwick University in Coventry, studying journalism and later working in publishing.  In her book "Sophie's Story: My 20-Year Battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome," released this January, she chronicles her battle with this highly unpleasant condition, which has been systematically ignored and downplayed by the medical establishment until very recently. A key theme in the book is being told year after year that "it's all in your head" and that what she's experiencing is not a "real" medical condition.

In fact, IBS affects more than 60 million people in America alone. Those who've experienced it know that IBS is probably one of the most uncomfortable conditions to cope with on a day-to-day basis, as it disrupts every aspect of your life — from eating to work schedules to travel to social interactions.

And (surprise, surprise!) IBS is fairly common among people with diabetes. There is no physiological connection between the two, but many PWDs appear to have a "sensitive gut," and the conditions can be confounded by the fact that both can affect the nerves in that area and cause abdominal bloating and either diarrhea or constipation. Note that Diabetes Health Management published a four-part series on coping with diabetes + IBS a few years ago.

Sophie's new book "opens the kimono" on this embarrassing condition. She describes her predicaments with humor and grace — things like hiding out in her dorm to get some "alone time" with the toilets, and having to describe her painful and explosive bowel movements to yet another doctor only to have him ask, "and does that bother you?"

It's actually heart-wrenching to read how she felt compelled to keep her condition secret for years, and the toll that took on her friendships — because one day she'd be "up" and happy, and the next sullen and withdrawn, due to "the searing pain in my gut."

The book is intimate and endearing, including a number of diary entries describing her past struggles, like this one from Jan. 7, 1999:

"Went to Matt's on Tuesday. Then Wednesday had normal blocked bowel and just wanted to get home. Have to be cheerful and normal, though. That's the worst part. If I had 'proper' illness or no right arm or something I'd get sympathy. As it is, I have to act perfectly bloody chirpy while feeling, literally, like crap. Feel like a constipated hero, silent in her suffering. Just want it to stop so I can stress over something else for a change."

Sophie also tells the story of the financial burden of her condition, and the journey she embarked on with patient blogging. She started her site, IBS Tales, right around the time that DiabetesMine debuted. Today her site features more than 600 personal IBS stories (!), plus more than 1,000 reviews of IBS medications, diets, supplements and therapies.

I had a "brush" with IBS myself starting in college and culminating in graduate school — and it is miserable, I can tell you that. Nothing feels right in life when your middle section aches as if someone were stabbing you, and your need to relieve your bowels is, well... all over the map.

I have to assume that stress had a lot to do with it in my case, as things "cleared up" for me in the following years. Reading this book took me back to that time when my belly never stopped aching and the pain and ensuing worry cast a huge shadow over my life.

If you have any reason to be interested in IBS, for yourself or someone you love, you will learn a lot from this book, about:

  • treatments no one ever tells you about like fiber and magnesium, combined with Vitamin D
  • options for relief, like hypnotherapy and heating pads
  • tips for sufferers, like the best information resources and how to keep meaningful records of your own symptoms
  • changes in diet that may prove most helpful

All very useful information, and despite the topic, the book is surprisingly compelling to read.

Huge kudos to author Sophie Lee for her candor on such a touchy subject.

{Health Point press, $14.56 on}


The DMBooks Giveaway

Once again we're giving you the chance to win a free copy of our latest book reviewed, i.e. Sophie's Story: My 20-Year Battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Entering for your chance to win is as easy as leaving a comment!

Here's what to do:

1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in the comment (beginning, end, in parenthesis, in bold, whatever). That will let us know that you would like to be entered in the giveaway. You can still leave a comment without entering, but if you want to be considered to win the book, please remember to include "DMBooks."

2. This week, you have until Friday, Feb. 10, at 5pm PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.

3. The winner will be chosen using

4. The winner will be announced on Facebook and Twitter on Monday, Feb. 13, so make sure you're following us! We like to feature our winners in upcoming blog posts, too.

The contest is open to anyone, anywhere. Best of luck.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.