Gut issues that do not have a clear organic cause are widespread, but are not always adequately treated. The diagnostic term for such conditions is functional gastrointestinal disorder (or FGID), and the most common FGID is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People with such conditions experience symptoms despite returning ‘normal’ results from blood tests and endoscopy/gastroscopy.
According to gastroenterologist Dr Chamara Basnayake, medicine currently fails in treatment of these conditions because it treats brain, gut and behaviour separately. He describes people being sent on a ‘do it yourself’ journey where they must join the dots between expertise provided by psychologists, dietitians and gastroenterologists. Meanwhile, alternative health practices such as natural medicine, probiotics and DIY fecal transplants are becoming popular as people take an active role in their own gut health, creating new challenges for how we understand medical equity, ethics and care.
Stomach Ache responds to this DIY approach to gut health and the potential insights and ethical challenges implied in reframing it as a space of creative practice and experimentation. Our interviews and workshops with people with gut issues have explored how they are forced to adopt creative and experimental ways of living and coping, including finding alternative sources of information and support.
We began the project in 2021 focusing on undiagnosed gut issues or FGIDs. However participants with other conditions such as Crohn’s disease described returning to their GP repeatedly for up to ten years before they received appropriate care. This informs our view that the social and medical factors that precipitate self-management apply to guts more broadly.
Trounson A (2020) How Treating Gut Disorders Needs to Be a Team Effort. In: Pursuit, 15 July, 2020.