I was shocked when I saw the following headline this week: “IBS Group Confirms its Leadership in the Russian Consulting Market.” [PR Newswire, Wall St Journal] I knew that IBS—Irritable Bowel Syndrome, in case you don’t have it—- is a popular disease supposedly shared by one in five people. I never realized its members had clout in international affairs. Then I saw another headline that IBS was also appointed “as an authorized distributor in Egypt.” [AME Info, the Ultimate Middle East Business resource]
I didn’t know that Egyptians now have IBS, although with their current change of leadership issues (riots, clashes, killings), they would certainly be worthy recipients of IBS. Indeed, IBS’s symptoms of abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation and diarrhea would certainly take the Egyptians’ minds off whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian army should rule.
When you have IBS, your biggest concern is not shooting someone, but where and how fast can you get to the nearest toilet. And is there enough toilet paper? What’s worse, singer Sheryl Crow insists people (including those with IBS) should use only one sheet of toilet paper in the interest of ecology. If IBS really has an “authorized distributor,” clearly someone should distribute IBS to Sheryl Crow.
Other celebrities might be useful to do that: Purportedly Tyra Banks, Jenny McCarthy, Cybill Shepherd, Camille Grammer, Cam Ron and ball player Franklin Gutierrez have IBS. Lynda (Wonder Woman) Carter is the IBS Spokesperson, though apparently it’s her mother, not Lynda, who has IBS. The late JFK and Kurt Cobain had IBS. According to a physician-researcher, so did Hitler, although that would certainly give IBS a bad name.
It’s not difficult to become a spokesperson raising awareness for a malady like IBS and its treatment. Organizations such as Premier Entertainment Consulting and Celebrity Connection in L.A. specialize in linking up Hollywood stars to pharmaceutical companies. The president of Celebrity Connection insists “…celebrities will do anything if the price is right….,” but laments “I don’t think we’ll see [a spokesperson for] genital warts in my lifetime.”
People with IBS usually need more than a spokesperson. Medications are so-so useful, especially since one size does not fit all: people with constipation-type IBS (referred to as IBS-C) require one type of drug, while the IBS-D (diarrhea) people require an entirely different drug.
One of my physicians accidentally mixed up the two drugs although I didn’t realize that immediately. I rarely read patient package inserts any more since they all sound the same (“…may end in death”), but on this occasion I spotted an ant walking across the insert that was written as usual in 3-point font (the ant was larger). When the ant crawled away toward chocolate brownie crumbs, I read that this drug could cause diarrhea, bloating, gas and flatulence—the exact symptoms I was complaining about. I did not need a pill to do for me what I can do much more cost-effectively for myself.
I’ve dealt with IBS symptoms since I was young. Apparently an IBS distributor visited my parents’ house as soon as I was born. By the time I was in grade school, I’d become aware not everyone walked around with a belly attractive for an eighth-month pregnancy. Years later, when I had a colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist using the scope found my large intestine a trifle tense. On the doctor’s video screen, the large intestine was seen grabbing onto the scope in a playful tug-of-war. As a result, for my next colonoscopy at its GI department, Kaiser Permanente (aka McKaiser HMO: “Ten Minute Express Care, In-and-Out!”) has suggested a non-invasive though equally effective procedure in which the physician will scrutinize my colon through an extra large (12x) magnification mirror with the view captured by a nurse’s cell phone camera.
One of the worst things about IBS is telling doctors or friends that we have “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Who decided on that gorgeous name? If we have to have an illness, it should at least sound pleasant to the ear as well as earn sympathy. “Mononucleosis,” for example, is a pretty word. So is “Fibromyalgia.” A disease named for a color always sounds more cheerful: Yellow Fever, Pinkeye, Black Plague, Gangrene.
“IBS” itself is an over-used acronym—just ask organizations like the International Bible Society, the Institute of Buddhist Studies, and the Indian Basketball Society. The “authorized IBS distributor” in Egypt turns out to be International Business Systems, which had the audacity to name their website www.ibs.net.
If that isn’t sufficient chutzpah, another IBS company—-Interactive Business Systems—–stole the other website address that would’ve been more appropriate for IBS patients—- www.ibs.com. But Interactive’s hijacking of this coveted website address has led to startling and unwelcome incidents like this company press release: IBS Brings Cheer to Families at Ronald McDonald House. Speaking from experience, I doubt that was the case.
The only justice for IBS victims is to re-name the condition. “Syndrome” sounds too clinical—why not a “Problem”? “Irritable” sounds like it relates to PMS, so why not “Testy?” Then there’s “bowel” as in “bowel movement.” I have never said to a friend, “May I use your bowel room?” or asked a restaurant waiter, “Can you show me where the bowel room is?” At least “colon” wouldn’t be ridiculed, not after “Colin Powell,” who would’ve had more difficulty growing up as “Bowel Powell.”
But rather than discard “bowel,” a messy prospect, we can substitute the Latin derived Old French word from which “bowel” evolved—-“botellus,” that means ”little sausage.” Etymologists (word origin junkies) believe “sausage” was evocative of one’s intestines.
Indeed, I am comfortable with this newer medical term. And I’m certain any man, plagued by the well-known abdominal symptoms, can comfortably tell his primary care physician, “Doctor, I’m here to see you because I have a Testy Little Sausage Problem.”