How The Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Affects My Budget

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I have lived with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for more than ten years.

It’s a common digestive disorder that causes gas, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation.

About 20% (15.3 million) of Americans suffer IBS. There’s no cure for it, and no one knows what causes this syndrome.

Due to IBS, I have abdominal pain more often than an average person.

My symptoms got worse about 6 years ago due to stress when I was about to drop out of a PhD program.

I went through one of the toughest times of my life both emotionally and physically.

I was in pain most of the time and just couldn’t eat pretty much anything without having to rush to the bathroom afterwards.

I would wake up at 3-4 AM every single morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep because of the pain.

At night, I couldn’t fall asleep until it was past midnight no matter how early I went to bed.

Having 3-4 hours of sleep every day was the norm. I was so sleep-deprived that I feel exhausted and nauseated all the time.

I went to see a gastroenterologist who told me there wasn’t much she could do about my health, and that IBS is not curable.

I gradually came to terms with the fact and learned to live with the syndrome. While IBS is a medical condition, it has a big impact on my budget and sometimes seems to take over my life.

The bad

1. I can’t eat oily food.

I love fried chicken, fried potatoes, fried tofu, and fried eggs. However, eating those foods is no longer possible since they will give me really bad stomach cramps.

Sometimes I just want to ignore IBS and eat oily fried chicken or fried tofu dipped in fish sauce to satisfy my craving. Needless to say, I have to pay the price a few minutes after.

2. I can’t eat fat. 

Fat is the worst IBS trigger. Sometimes the reaction is instantaneous (within 5 minutes). I can no longer eat the fatty skin from pork, chicken or any kind of meat that comes with skin since it has high fat content.

Every time I eat roasted pork, duck, or chicken, the first thing I have to do is separate the skin from the meat. For some delicacies like roasted duck where the flavor is in the skin, it means I can’t enjoy 70% of the dish.

My parents prepared this delicious goat hotpot for me when I visited them. I was the only one who got stomach cramps afterwards due to the high fat content in the goat skin. 

3. I usually don’t cook dishes that need meat/fish/seafood. 

One reason why I have decided to cut back on my meat consumption is because whenever I cook something that involves meat, chances are I will have stomach cramps.

It may have to do with my cooking skills. But as a meat lover, I find the experience pretty frustrating.

4. I waste quite a lot of food.

I had to throw this deep-fried breaded pork away because it made my stomach hurt.

On the weekends, I sometimes want to cook something different and experiment with different recipes.

However, I’ve gotten so tired of spending hours cooking a pork or chicken dish and then having stomach cramps that I have almost stopped experimenting with food.

If Mr. FAF is with me, I will try to make a new dish. If it makes my stomach hurts, he can always help me finish the rest.

But when he was in another city, I had no choice but to throw the food away.

Mr. FAF and I would eat the same thing, and I’d be the only one running to the restroom afterwards.

Sometimes I’m just really jealous of his digestive system, which seems to work well like a machine.

5. IBS makes me nervous about traveling. 

While many people get excited about a long road trip or trying delicious local cuisine, I immediately start thinking about what safe food to bring or where I can find the nearest bathroom if my IBS starts acting up.

I try not to think about it too much, but I just can’t help it since my IBS reaction to food can be instantaneous and unbearably painful.

6. I waste a lot of time in the bathroom. 

This one is probably one of the worst cons. If you ever had food poisoning and got stuck in the bathroom for at least 20-30 minutes multiple times, you will know what I mean.

I can’t picture how much time I’ve lost throughout my life being stuck in the restroom wondering when the pain is going to end.

The good

1. IBS helps me save money. 

When I decided to go on a diet, I thought long and hard about what I should eat. If I just eat only veggies and/or nuts at once, my stomach tends to get gassy and bloated. I love salad dressing with vinegar, but I can’t eat it either since vinegar irritates my digestive system.

In the end, I balanced it out with a bit of everything. Tofu, boiled eggs, and a small amount of beans seem to be the best options for me. They’re also much cheaper than nuts (i.e. pistachio, almonds).

Related: How I Lost 36 Lbs With A Cheaper Diet

Eating healthy food

2. I eat more healthy. 

Since I need to stay away from greasy, oily, and fatty food, my diet is pretty clean and healthy.

I tend to eat a lot more veggies, fruit and yogurt compared to the time before my IBS symptoms got worse.

3. I can lose weight more easily.

As my diet doesn’t usually consist of unhealthy food (i.e. fried chicken, French fries), it wasn’t too difficult for me to switch to a clean and healthy diet to lose weight.

It took me 7 months to lose 36 lbs and then only 2 weeks to lose the next 4.2 lbs. Eating less meat has also brought about some unexpected benefits for my health.


If I could choose, I would never want to have IBS despite all the potential advantages that come with it. I want to be healthy and to have the ability to choose what diet and lifestyle I like.

However, I also realized that without IBS, I would still continue to eat unhealthy food (i.e. French fries, fried chicken) and not worry about its long-term effect.

The best way to live life, I think, is to make the best of what I have. I have IBS, so I’ll just try to minimize the bad and focus on the good.


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20 thoughts on “How The Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Affects My Budget”

  • Wow, I feel fortunate that I don’t have IBS because I love food (this is why my weight loss plan always failed.). It must be terrible experience to go on vacation because you don’t know what or when your stomach will act up. I hope that some pharmaceutical companies will try to find a cure for this as there are so many people suffering from it.

    • I love food too! It’s too bad I have to watch what I eat >_< I hope they will find a cure for it too. I'll be the first in line to get the treatment! 😀

    • I’m a foodie too. But I just need to be extra careful about what I eat. I’m so jealous of Mr. FAF. He can eat whatever he wants! @_@

  • Yikes, that’s unfortunate that you suffer like that, but I like that you can see the positive. My family tries to eat healthily. One if their perks of Vietnamese food, which we totally love is all the fresh veggies. My dad makes a gregarious cm version of fish sauce with soy, sugar, and a bit of lemon or vinegar. If you’d like the recipe I can ask him for it and let you know.

    • My family eats a lot of fish sauce in Vietnam too! It’s a must-have in every meal. We mix it in different ways depending on the dish we have that day. I got your email with the recipe. Thank you so much! xoxo

  • That sucks :/ I eat pretty simple foods because I don’t like the taste of most stuff, but I’d be a lot less content and happy if it wasn’t a choice. It definitely makes it easier to make those healthy choices, having a restriction like that!

    • Thank you, Ms. Raggedly! It does make it easier for me to pick healthy choices since there will be consequences if I don’t >_<

    • Wow congrats on the weight loss! I know what you mean by having to eat more clean. I have to make that conscious decision all the time. Good thing we can turn something not so good into something positive 😀

  • I’m sorry you have to live with IBS . The suffering is as much psychological as it is physical. Did the gastroenterologist rule out inflammatory bowel disease? Glad you are able to see a positive side.

    • Thank you! I can’t remember what she said exactly, but she said I have IBS, so I guess that’s what it is >_<

  • Sorry that you have IBS, I love French Fries, fried foods so much etc. that my quality of life would really suffer if I couldn’t eat that kind of stuff. My friend has IBS as well and she has taken a medication for it (it doesn’t happen often) which decreases the spasm and seems to find that it works. She has experimented with different diets, like a vegan 100 day challenge or ‘juicing’ regularly.

  • I am so sorry that you have this! I’ve heard of IBS before but I never knew it could be so serious. Life is 20% of what happens to you and 80% how you react to it. Based on how you choose to respond, I think you are a Champ Mrs FAF!

  • Ughhh sorry to hear that, but glad that you know what your triggers are at least.

    I definitely have quite a sensitive stomach and I bloat easily. And older I get the more I notice it when I don’t eat well. Fats are problematic for me, and sometimes spiciness can be an issue too.

  • Wow I’m so sorry Mrs FAF! It is no fun to be in pain constantly, and a struggle for people with dietary needs. I’m glad society in general is getting better about offering options everywhere, so traveling becomes more manageable for you. A few years ago I was a coordinator for an IBS clinical trial, the stories the poor ladies told me… I hope more knowledge/ symptoms control / a cure is just around the corner.

  • Ooh, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with so much GI distress. But I know how it feels because I also have IBS and have suffered with it for decades before I was finally diagnosed with SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth) by a naturopathic doctor and got treatment for it. SIBO has been shown to be present in like 80% of IBS patients. In case you want to know more:

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