Diarrhoea, bloating, constipation – it's never nice. Luckily for most of us, these issues are an every-now-and-again thing. An annoyance to be grumbled about, medicated and forgotten.
But what if your condition were chronic? What if your bowel troubles were so bad that they affected the rest of your wellbeing, happened on a regular basis and posed serious health risks for the future?
Sophie, 24, from London suffers from Crohn's disease, which is one of the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (the other is called Colitis). She tells us that the best way she's heard a doctor describe it is like having "eczema of the inside".
Yeah. Sounds rough, right?
Essentially, Crohn's disease means that the digestive system will become inflamed – sometimes all the way from the mouth to the anus. When Sophie's disease flares up, she is left with mouth ulcers, fatigue, an upset stomach and abdominal pain. She can lose weight (IBD prevents her from being able to absorb the nutrients from food), she can develop fistulas or abscesses, which is where the digestive system creates an abnormal tract between different sections of the bowel or the bowel and skin. It can lead to problems with the joints, eyes and skin. "It really is more than just an upset stomach!" she says.
Crohn's is relatively rare. It's estimated that 157 people in every 100,000 in the UK suffer and the figures for Colitis are even lower (10/100,000), although it is clearly on the increase – especially among young people. Because of this, there are plenty of misconceptions about it that need clearing up. Like the fact that it's not Irritable Bowel Syndrome – something experienced by around 17% of the UK population.