Ciara McLaughlin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2018.

Lifting the lid on poo taboo

“There's so much more to IBD than just going to the toilet.”

Those were the words of Crohn’s disease sufferer Ciara McLaughlin from Cork who is promoting the ‘Poo Taboo’ campaign helping to raise awareness around inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The campaign was launched by Crohn’s and Colitis Ireland ahead of World IBD Day which falls tomorrow, Friday.

As part of the campaign, the charity has launched a new online symptom checker designed to help lift the lid on some of the stigma around IBD symptoms and the importance of people not being too shy to get checked out.

IBD includes both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis which are characterised by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Ciara McLaughlin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2018 after suffering symptoms for over a year. Her symptoms included weight loss, pain in her abdomen, pain in her bones, as well as migraines and vomiting.

“A lot of people who are experiencing symptoms don't go to the doctor about it or they delay it,” she told the Cork Independent.

“I think we were taught to be embarrassed about our bowel movements and going to the toilet. This campaign is to try and flip that around and say no, it's okay to talk about your bowel movements, everyone does it,” Ciara added.

Like Ciara, a lot of people with IBD delay having their symptoms checked by a doctor until it gets to a point at which they have no choice.

“There's a certain stage of your disease where it could become life threatening. It was definitely to a point where I couldn't ignore it anymore. I was admitted through A&E and that's how most people that ignore their symptoms are diagnosed,” she said.

Since her diagnosis, Ciara has had to make many lifestyle changes, including changing her career and giving up chocolate, and said the disease still affects her daily life.

She said: “It's by no means perfect, it still definitely has its days. The most difficult thing for me is the fatigue. It's a killer. It's not really fun to be 30 years of age and wanting to do all these things and you're experiencing this extreme fatigue.”

In Ciara’s experience, there are still a lot of misconceptions around IBD, something she hopes the ‘Poo Taboo’ campaign will help to change: “For a lot of people, when they think of Crohn's disease, they think this person is on the toilet all the time. That's not always the case. I would have had abnormal bowel movements when I first got diagnosed, but I wasn't on the toilet all the time, I didn't have the watery bowel movements that people think you would have with Crohn's disease.”

She continued: “I think a lot of people don't see what else IBD can bring on, it can affect your mental health, it can cause fatigue, you can be in pain without having bowel movements, your joints can come at you, your skin can come at you.”

For anyone who has recently been diagnosed with IBD, Ciara says it’s important to take enough time to get used to the condition and to never shy away from seeking help.

“I would say take your time. It's going to take time to get used to it. There are aspects that I'm still getting used to,” said Ciara.

She added: “I found social media, and I know it can have its dark side as well, but the good thing about social media is there's a lot of people from all over the world who have IBD too and they put out a lot of information.

“I can't recommend a therapist enough, just going to someone and talking about it.”

It is thought at least 40,000 people are living with IBD in Ireland, however, Crohn’s and Colitis Ireland believes many more people remain undiagnosed. For more information or to use the symptom checker, visit