We’ve all experienced that terrible scenario of being out and about and suddenly needing the loo, right? Well, what if that were to happen to you several times during the day? And what if the urge was so desperate, you had to find one immediately? Waiting patiently for someone else to finish just wasn’t negotiable - you need it now.
For Barney, it’s a permanent way of life, although these days it’s a little easier to manage. Now on the cusp of turning 40, Barney realises the signs were there since his childhood days. It was not uncommon for stomach cramps to be so severe that he would find himself on all fours or doubled over in pain. A farm boy who was forever outside mucking about, the family was never overly concerned.
“Stop biting your dirty nails,” his mum would reprimand him.
Only, it wasn’t his nails at all. And the pain was eventually going to snowball into something so much worse.
Before his life changed forever
Over a decade ago, Barney set off for that quintessentially British rite of passage - the trip Down Under. Armed with a tent and little more, he camped his way around Australia and New Zealand. When he eventually returned to the UK, he realised campsites here were not all they could be. There was either super-lux-not-really-camping or set your tent up in the middle of nowhere and hope for the best. Barney saw an opportunity to create something in the middle ground. It took him a few years to solidify the idea. Still, eventually, he and his partner Holly repurposed five acres of his family’s farm into a superb Yorkshire glamping and camping site, Baxby Manor.
As is often the case for new business owners, the project coincided with the surprise news that Holly was pregnant. Barney recollects family folklore; a tale of Holly, six months pregnant, lying under a Baxby Manor bed and varnishing the floor. And then getting stuck. It’s a great yarn that paints Holly as a determined woman. A paramedic by trade, she was never one to sit on the sidelines. However, just a few years (and two sons under five) later, Holly would commit suicide due to mental health issues. Barney intimates the year leading up to this tragedy was incredibly challenging. A new business, two very young boys, a wife suffering from a terrible illness. No wonder Barney’s stomach issues began to “flare-up”.
Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis
Before Holly’s death, Barney was diagnosed with colitis, a long-term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that inflames the large intestine. Unbeknownst to him, Barney had experienced several of the classic colitis symptoms. The stomach pains and swelling were par for the course, something he had long learned just to tolerate. At 6’1,” Barney had never weighed more than 70kg, so he was a naturally long, lean bean. But even Barney noticed he was getting thinner and thinner. However, when he started to pass blood, he knew he could no longer turn a blind eye.
After his diagnosis, the long journey of disease management began. The process took a lot of time, in part because colitis can classically come in peaks and troughs, making it difficult to ascertain what medication or lifestyle change might be having an effect. The plan was to start him on the most innocuous medication and only escalate if symptoms worsened. Unfortunately for Barney, that didn’t take long to happen. He was soon on elephant-strength steroids (some of which are typically administered to transplant patients, which makes sense; his colon did not want to be in his body). His face went moon-like, a classic response to steroids. Before long, anything he ingested was coming out the other end almost immediately, like water. His weight loss plummeted, and he soon looked skeletal, his eyes sunken into hollow sockets. He went to the hospital. It was a good decision; doctors confirmed he wouldn’t have lived beyond a few more days at most.
An urgent colectomy
It quickly became apparent that in order to live, Barney needed to undergo a colectomy, the removal of his colon. The result would be living with a colostomy bag, essentially an external bag that collects faeces. Barney was adamant that such a solution was not acceptable. So, a decision was made to work towards a J-Pouch. This procedure involves using the end of the small intestine, known as the ileum, to form an internal pouch, commonly shaped like a J. The pouch essentially does the work of the colon. This was to occur across two procedures so that Barney’s body had time to repair and recover in-between. Therefore, he lived with a colostomy bag for six months, something he refers to as a “hideous” experience.
Life with a J-pouch
Despite a successful progression to a J-Pouch, Barney has not entirely healed. He must be careful with his diet and lifestyle choices, as they can trigger anything from sudden, terrible cramping to multiple loo dashes. He is still figuring out what foods don’t like him (note his perspective - it’s not a case of him not enjoying the food). Dairy and high-histamine foods must be approached with extreme caution. Although his system can tolerate small, occasional doses, anything too frequent or too voluminous will spell disaster. A single glass of red wine, for example, can be enjoyed one evening. Repeat this the following night, or especially three nights in a row, and it’s game over. He’ll be on the loo four, five times, six times a day. Clearly, Barney is a man who sees his glass half full (of oat milk), so it’s hardly an impossible life sentence. As Barney says, he can still enjoy a curry, although he will end up on the loo. But, doesn’t everyone…?
Stress has a big part to play in flare-ups. Like clockwork, he’ll experience bouts of agony and time on the toilet towards the end of the year. This heralds the closing of Baxby Manor’s peak season when Barney is run off his feet. His body supports him through this critical time in the family business, and then it falls in a heap.
Gut health and collagen
Barney’s gut has become his yellow canary. It communicates the early warning signs, and he knows he has to swing into action and take preventative measures. Edible Health’s Digestive Enzyme Collagen plays a big part in this. About a year ago, Barney was experiencing a bad bout of symptoms. His doctor suggested another few rounds of steroids. It was the last option he wanted to take, so he started researching alternative measures. He came across Edible Health’s Digestive Enzyme Collagen. He noted the ingredients - slippery elm, aloe vera, turmeric powder - all the good things he usually took individually, but here in the one product. He researched collagen and realised this could really help in his fight to maintain more balanced gut health.
When his tub arrived, he followed the serving instructions of 13g per day. Things started to improve. At one point, however, his stomach signalled another bout might be imminent. Barney tripled his collagen serving size*. He did this for a week and avoided a flare-up; the symptoms abated. Barney was now convinced that Digestive Enzyme Collagen was working for him. As a result, he now takes a slightly higher than recommended serve every day, taking it with lunch (which is his main meal, in an effort to keep his gut happy overnight). If he goes out during the day, he packs some into a container and takes it with him. It’s always within easy reach, just in case.
Barney’s looking forward to an easing of lockdown restrictions so Baxby Manor can once again welcome guests to this beautiful part of the world. Further down the track, he wants to return with his boys to Australia and discover even more of the country. You can’t help thinking how problematic that might have been for him once-upon-a-time, but now, Barney is back in control.
The information we have provided herewith and all linked materials are not intended, nor should they be construed as medical advice. Moreover, the information herewith should not be used as a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Please refer to our Terms and Conditions and consult your General Practitioner for advice specific for you, particularly if you believe you’re suffering from some of the symptoms outlined here.
*Edible Health recommends a daily serving of 13g of collagen.