Please welcome guest blogger, Sophie Lee, to Fighting Fatigue. Sophie, who resides in England, has battled with IBS since the age of 12. Her websites and bio are below the post.
I recently stumbled upon a rather unusual website which lists the various health problems of every US president in history. Obviously the first thing I did was to look for digestive woes, and my word, did these men have some digestive woes!
I’ve chosen some of the best gastrointestinal malfunctionings and listed them below. I have to say I find it quite cheering to know that you can be the leader of the free world and still have hemorrhoids. Maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, here’s the list…
Thomas Jefferson – “life-threatening” constipation after a severe illness.
Andrew Jackson – chronic abdominal pain and diarrhea for years, possibly dating from an attack of dysentery contracted from the swamps of Florida (could this be the first ever recorded case of post-infectious IBS?!)
James Garfield – had an anal fissure which kept him in bed for several weeks and needed an operation. Had a “weak stomach” for years (another IBS candidate?). Was fed through the rectum following an assassination attempt in 1881. Don’t really want to know why.
Chester Arthur – suffered from abdominal pain and indigestion. But the most interesting fact about Arthur is that he was diagnosed with a kidney affliction called “Bright’s Disease”, which is no longer recognised in modern medicine because “it lumped too many different kidney disorders into one disease”. Perhaps the same is true for IBS, and in a hundred years we’ll no longer have IBS, but one of a handful of individual disorders?
Franklin Roosevelt – had severe iron deficiency anemia, which was ascribed to bleeding hemorrhoids.
Dwight Eisenhower – suffered from Crohn’s disease, and also had a bowel obstruction at one stage.
Jimmy Carter – was forced to leave a Christmas party in 1978 “to receive emergency treatment for a painful hemorrhoid that left him almost completely incapacitated”. Had first suffered from hemorrhoids as a young man.
Bill Clinton – had a colonoscopy for rectal bleeding (nothing found). Suffered from heartburn and reflux.
George W Bush – had a hemorrhoid while serving in the National Guard. Also had colonic polyps removed.
And finally, John F Kennedy, who I’ve saved until last because as you’ll probably know, JFK was surprisingly, almost terrifyingly unhealthy. His list of malfunctioning bits and pieces included a back problem which was so chronic he had to wear a back brace most of the time, and Addison’s disease, an endocrine disorder which almost killed him.
For us intestinally-demented folk though, JFK’s most interesting malady was a prolonged gastrointestinal problem, which was treated with steroids and at least three different anti-diarrhea medications, including Lomotil.
The first record of JFK’s digestive distress dates back to when he was just 17. Later on, when he was in the Navy, it’s fascinating to see that his disorder was described as “severe spastic colitis” – spastic colitis being, of course, the old-fashioned name for irritable bowel syndrome. Could Kennedy have been one of us?
There’s some speculation that JFK might actually have had undiagnosed celiac disease, or an inflammatory bowel disorder such as Crohn’s disease, although examinations to look for inflammation found no evidence of this. But there’s no doubt that he had some pretty nasty diarrhea attacks. And in fact, just before and just after the Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy was suffering from “constant, acute diarrhea” and was treated with anti-spasmodics, a puree diet and pencillin.
So, the next time you’ve got stress-induced diarrhea, and some clown tells you that you should relax and it would all go away, just say “Well, If President John F Kennedy can’t control his own bowel then neither can I”.
(You can view the Presidents’ complete health records on this site: http://www.doctorzebra.com/prez/g_roster.htm.)
Sophie Lee has three great websites on IBS: IBS Tales, IBS Tales Blog, and IBS Treatment. Sophie Lee has also written an e-book which journals her own struggle with IBS. You can get a copy of her e-book just by signing up for her mailing list.