Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms include pain, gas, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. Every case of IBS is different, but symptoms are thought to be triggered by certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, or medications. Treatments include dietary and lifestyle changes, stress-management techniques, and—if those aren’t enough—medicine for pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
IBS affects twice as many women as it does men, and most people who suffer from it don’t see a doctor for their symptoms. But it is a common problem affecting between 7% and 10% of the world’s population—including these familiar faces.
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Famous People With IBS
While the model and talk-show host quizzed guest Janet Jackson with embarrassing questions on her show, Tyra, in 2006, Banks revealed a private fact of her own.
“I’m very gassy,” she told Jackson and the audience, explaining that she has irritable bowel syndrome.
This Real Housewives of Beverly Hillsstar (and ex-wife of Kelsey Grammer) was diagnosed with IBS in 1996, and she and her then-husband became spokespeople for the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.
“I am always fearful that my IBS symptoms will return at any moment, so I always have to know where the nearest restroom is,” Grammer said in a statement. “I’m afraid that eating will result in stomach pain. Traveling is difficult. And IBS often makes even a simple evening out with my husband, to enjoy a concert or movie, seem impossible.”
This rapper and actor, whose real name is Cameron Giles, spent much of his early career in the hospital due to an ulcer, a hernia, and irritable bowel syndrome. In 2002, the New York Daily News reported he gave up drinking, which helped alleviate some symptoms.
Cam’Ron felt so strongly about his gastrointestinal problems that he wrote a song called “I.B.S.,” released in 2006. It includes the lyrics: I got stomach pain / Don’t matter sun or rain / Thought that it went away / Uh-oh, here it come again.
The Grey’s Anatomy star, 29, has been acting since childhood. In 2008, she told People that being young and rich in Hollywood led her down a path of drinking and drug use.
In 2001, on the set of Not Another Teen Movie, Leigh’s director pulled her aside to express his concern over her recent weight loss. “Barely eating because of her drug use, Leigh was becoming malnourished and coping with irritable bowel syndrome,” People reported. Leigh learned to take back her health, and take care of her body, with the support of her church and longtime boyfriend, Nathan West, who is now her husband.
The former Playboy Playmate and host of MTV’s Singled Out wrote in her 1997 autobiography, Jen-X: Jenny McCarthy’s Open Book, that she doesn’t need to diet and exercise to stay thin—she’s such a nervous wreck living in Hollywood that she has chronic diarrhea.
The outspoken actress and mom has also talked openly about her IBS symptoms (mainly gas and diarrhea) on The Howard Stern Show and in Arena magazine.
In 2004, the actress and former Moonlighting star revealed that she had suffered from chronic constipation, bloating, and abdominal discomfort for more than 20 years. “I kept it a secret because I didn’t want it to interfere with my work,” she said in a statement.
Shepherd said fiber supplements and over-the-counter laxatives were no help, and doctors told her it was all in her head. Finally, she was diagnosed with IBS and became a spokesperson for Novartis and their IBS drug Zelnorm. (Zelnorm was removed from the market in 2007 after the FDA found it increased the risk of heart attacks and stroke.)
The Seattle Mariners’ center fielder was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in April 2011, after undergoing tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Mysterious stomach pains had landed him on the team’s disabled list at the start of the season.
Gutierrez was prescribed medication to take before meals, and was able to get back on the field about six weeks later. “Knowing now this is what I have [and] can be treatable makes me feel better mentally and now I want to feel better physically, too, to get ready and be here again,” he told the Seattle Timesafter his diagnosis.
“Thank you all from the pit of my burning nauseous stomach,” the Nirvana front man wrote in his 1994 suicide note. For years, Cobain had talked openly and written in his journal about a painful stomach ailment that doctors had been unable to diagnose.
The 2007 biography Kurt Cobain: Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermindclaims that this pain was partially what drove the rocker to self-medicate with, and eventually become addicted to, heroin. In 2004, The Guardian wrote that Cobain’s IBS-like symptoms were likely exacerbated by his poor diet, which consisted mainly of Kraft macaroni and cheese and Strawberry Quik, and contained few, if any, fruits or vegetables.
She’s most well known for playing the part of Wonder Woman in the 1970s, but in the past decade, Lynda Carter took on another role that’s near and dear to her heart: In 2002, the actress became a spokeswoman for IBS awareness, speaking to women about the debilitating condition from which her mother suffered for more than 30 years. (Carter didn’t have it herself.)
“IBS has been so shrouded in darkness,” Carter said in a 2003 statement. “I know the truth about how people suffer. It is just one more closeted condition that we need to shine some light on because it is a very real medical condition and you’re not crazy.”
John F. Kennedy
When a presidential historian and medical consultant examined the late president’s medical records in 2002, it was discovered that Kennedy suffered from many painful and potentially debilitating ailments that he hid from the public—including severe bouts of diarrhea, which doctors suspected might have been ulcerative colitis.
“Repeated examinations did not confirm that,” reported The New York Times. “Their ultimate diagnosis was spastic colitis, which today would be described as irritable bowel syndrome.” Kennedy took antidiarrheal drugs for relief, and was given supplemental testosterone to help him regain weight and strength.