Being sick is no fun for anyone. Being chronically sick is a real drag. And if you or your doctor is unsure of what’s causing you to feel blah, the whole situation can seem unbearable.

It hurts

Gastrointestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Celiac’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome can be difficult to diagnose and excruciating to endure. Every case of these conditions is unique and each patient’s journey is as individual as they are. Some people run the full gamut of symptoms, while in other cases their condition might present slowly with vague signs that are easily explained away by perhaps eating something disagreeable.

It’s embarrassing

Many digestive illnesses cause symptoms that aren’t exactly fun to talk about. A combination of embarrassment and uncertainty can lead some people to suffer in silence for much longer than necessary. The sooner you take steps to find out what’s wrong with you, the sooner you can start properly managing your condition. Even if it’s a long road of tests and doctors for some people, starting that journey now will put you on the road to remission sooner than if you put it off until tomorrow, next week or next year.

It can feel scary

In the early days of IBD presentation, a sudden onset of symptoms may cause sufferers alarm, pain, discomfort and embarrassment. You’re not alone though. In this video, a patient speaks of feeling frightened, stressed and freaked out by what was happening to her, and how she managed her condition. When you’re struck down with illness and you don’t know why, it’s natural to feel some anxiety about what is wrong with you and what that means for your future. But this fear gets you nowhere fast. In fact, stress and worry are known to trigger or exacerbate flare-ups in IBD sufferers. Seek help before you let the fear take hold. Visit your doctor and find answers. Speaking to an expert can often help allay your fears and put you on a journey towards a diagnosis and away from fear and uncertainty.

It’s frustrating

When your health is going haywire with no end in sight, it’s common to feel very isolated and frustrated by the whole experience. You might feel like you’re visiting doctor after doctor and taking test after test, only to be misdiagnosed with everything from gastroenteritis, food poisoning and parasites through to lactose intolerance and infectious diarrhoea.

When your condition is chronic and you’ve established a history of symptoms, you may get closer to a definitive diagnosis. Problem is, if youre at this point you’ve probably already experienced a great deal of pain, discomfort and frustration. Don’t give up, help it out there. Diagnosing digestive conditions is a bit like a puzzle that doctors need to assemble from your condition history and laboratory tests.

A diagnosis can be a relief

When people finally get answers to their questions and are definitively diagnosed, it’s often such a relief. The chronic nature of diseases like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis does mean that sufferers need to manage their condition for life, but once you’re aware of your condition, you and your doctor can find the right path for you through the mire of information, theories and treatments out there. It’s all about finding out what works for you – for your body, your triggers and sensitivities and your needs during flare-ups.

It can help to talk about it

Talking to friends and family about your condition can make you feel even more alone because of limited awareness and common misconceptions about IBD conditions. Also, the nature of IBD symptoms doesn’t exactly make for polite dinner conversation. Always remember that your body is nothing to be ashamed of and you can’t help it if you are experiencing a digestive health problem. Reach out to people you trust for support and they might surprise you. By talking about your condition and experience you also help to spread awareness of IBD and could even help in their quest for a diagnosis.