IBS flare up/Virus or pancreatic issue?

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I've been suffering from a basic IBS-D since last aummer: a rapid transit, mucus and soft stools which were fixed using a clay-based drug (very popular for diarrhea in my country). I also have flares from time to time, usually some kind of virus that people around me usually suffer from at the same time except I'm the one who suffers the most. These flares are atomic diarrhea without much pain that last for a day or two. My stools have been looser for a couple months now as well.

Thing is, I had a weird flare up a couple of weeks ago... I'm not the one who calls that a flare but the 3 or 4 doctors I've inquired...

It all started on a Monday evening. I hadn't felt that well all day long. A slight discomfort in my stomach and excessive belching that smelt like sulfur.

After a late dinner the discomfort turned into severe pain and diarrhea within a couple of hours. I spent the night like this, and basic drugs for stomach pain reliefs wouldn't do anything. The pain eventually calmed down in the early morning and I spent a regular Tuesday. I did still suffered but it was a lot more manageable. I could even eat some cookies without any problem.

The evening I decided to eat a regular meal and the pain struck back even stronger. I tried a paracetamol 1000mg and it worked somewhat. The pain eventually came back and I spent a dreadful, painful night. The diarrhea had calmed down a bit but was still very much there.

In the morning (Wednesday) I felt kind of better. I tried to walk to the drugstore but I was in so much pain... But I felt a lot better on my way back to my surprise. As I was still in a bit of pain I took another paracetamol and I was... Okay.

Except that meanwhile I had called the E.R., went there and was sent back home as I now felt totally fine. They told me it was my IBS and no way it could be my pancreas.

I've asked 3 other physicians since and all said it was my IBS. I've been tols a pancreatic pain doesnt have ups and downs or disappear in such a short amount of time.

The pain was quite intense and hard to subside with drugs, and even though I had ups and down and a spontaneous recovery, I can't believe it was something as simple as IBS and not the first attack of a pancreas cancer. I've read dreadful stories about how it could start with a very painful flare-up, then nothing, and eventually a dreadful diagnosis.

I suffer from anxiety A LOT and when it comes to health I really can't think for myself, I'm too hypochondriac for that.

Does it really sound like an IBS flare up or a bug and not something pancreas-related?

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7 Replies

  • Posted

    Yes it does. I’ve had IBS for 20 yrs.  your symptoms sound exactly like mine.  
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    • Posted

      Thank you for your answer!

      You mean to tell me that such a pain can be brought on by IBS? The pain was focused in the stomach but really my colon was pretty painful too.

      The thing is that I actually had two painful nights brought on by meals and calmer days. The whole thing also stopped on its own and paracetamol did help with the pain.

      Couldn't a pancreatic issue do that or this really sounds like your IBS (or you don't have any idea)?

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  • Posted

    HI Marynou, first off IBS is not simple and your symptoms could be as a result of that.  Is your doc a gastroenterologist?  If not get a referral to one and discuss your symptoms and request tests for pancreatitis.

    Health anxiety is not uncommon and we seem to attract many here who suffer from it.  We are not doctors, we cannot diagnose, we can't definitively state that your symptoms are to do with the pancreas even if they seem to be, you need tests to determine the cause of your issues.  Even if someone says "yes I have those symptoms too and have pancreatic cancer" it doesn't mean you do.  You cannot take onboard the opinions of strangers no matter they're only trying to help because you know it feeds your anxiety.

    Your symptoms could be as a result of your anxiety, they fit that profile too.  You have to learn the difference.

    You absolutely should request tests to rule out pancreas or other issues and a gastroenterologist who specialises in the pancreas is key to managing that if you do have pancreatitis.

    You should also seek support from an anxiety specialist.  There are tools they can teach you to help you manage that.  All of your symptoms could be as a result of anxiety, if so you have to learn how to control it. 

    You mention you ate cookies, well straight up I wonder about your normal diet, low fat is the way forward and don't drink any alcohol or smoke either.  You may find your digestion is easier resulting in more normal stools.

    The anxiety specialist can help you with the physical diagnostic process, keep you centred, teach you ways to overcome the anxiety, so get a referral to a good one now too. Good luck.


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    • Posted

      Thank you for your answer!

      The doctors I've talked with were not gastroenterologists. Yes, my diet can be kind of whacky sometimes. My goal with the cookie part was to show that I could actually eat food in small quantities without problems. Thing is my body is VERY quickly triggered by fibers, I have to be very careful with that. Even a small quantity can trigger a flare up.

      I also know that nobody could give me a definitive answer. I am not relying on your answers for a proper diagnostic. If I were, I wouldn't have inquired 4 physicians before coming here. I'm seeing a fifth soon actually.

      When I think about it, my question was rather why I've been diagnosed a IBS flare up by four doctors when the said flare up was way more painful than you usual IBS crisis.

      Although it last 48h, the pain was really focused on the nights. I must have really suffered for 4 or 5 hours the first night before everything settled, then a sleepy day with diarrhea and not much pain, and the second night... I think the pain was triggered by eating an actual meal (eggs and vegetables). It last longer but I did get some sleep after several hours before waking up and being in pain again... Except it stopped quite quickly. Maybe a couple of hours. The morning really wasn't that bad. And the diarrhea had subsided.

      So yeah, my question was rather if a pancreatic issue could follow that trail, as in two relatively short attacks and an automatic end within two days. I was told No by four doctors, pancreatic problems are constant and do not disappear in such a short amount of time... I don't know...

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    • Posted

      Oh, and "we can't definitively state that your symptoms are to do with the pancreas even if they seem to be"

      "even they seem to be" ? You mean as in "in the case that it looked linked to the pancreas we couldn't state anything" or "it does look like that but I don't know" ?

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  • Posted

    Sorry I thought I was clear Marynou.  The symptoms you exhibit might be pancreatitis however you have been diagnosed with IBS which has similar symptoms and health anxiety as well which can also produce your symptoms.

    You haven't brought up your thoughts about having pancreas issues with your personal doctors either from my understanding of your post and therefore haven't been referred to a gastroenterologist or been tested.  You didn't have pancreatitis like symptoms when you presented at the hospital and were told your pancreas was fine at that time.  Therefore the idea of pancreatitis comes from you without verification.

    If you had presented at the hospital with severe acute pancreatitis symptoms you'd have most likely been admitted and had tests.  That can depend where you are actually, some countries leap to the conclusion that all who present with severe pain are drug seekers.  I'll assume for this exercise that you'd have been admitted and a diagnosis sought.  

    The difference with IBS is that a damaged pancreas doesn't necessarily follow.  You have to have tests to confirm your pancreas is damaged.  It may well be but how could I or anyone possibly know that given we aren't doctors?

    I have a family member with Health Anxiety and have read up on it a bit and know how that can play out too.  Whilst accepting of information regarding particular physical ills, whether confirmed by medicos or not (mostly), it is extremely difficult (impossible?) for people with health anxiety to accept that their anxiety might be the root cause.  People with health anxiety need specialist health professionals who teach methods to manage it.  From what I've read health anxiety can be present throughout life and requires ongoing professional help.  

    You should get a referral to a gastroenterologist and present your symptoms including your thoughts about possibly having pancreatitis.  I do think you need clarification of your physical state of health.  I also think you need to address your health anxiety.  The answer you seek is within Marynou.  Good luck.


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    • Posted

      Thank you! I understand better your point of view now.

      This mean that something like pancreatitis can last only for a few hours before resolving itself? And reappear a few hours later (after a meal) for another somewhat quick burst? Not to mention painkillers do have an effect on... I see...

      As for my anxiety I am being followed by a therapist so... Yeah, not very successful but I'm doing progress I guess.

      And the pancreas idea does come from me, yeah...

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