ARTICLE: THE TIMES
This article is taken from The times - you can read it here - as it's behind a paywall, we've shared clips from the article so everyone can enjoy
How I built a business from my chronic IBS
Gemma Stuart reveals how her chronic stomach troubles led the founding of Gut Wealth
Gemma Stuart is a case study in making lemonade when life hands you lemons.
The 39-year-old has experienced such chronic irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that she has been hospitalised after being unable to use the loo for 20 days.
It is a condition that has dominated her life, a deeply held secret she was originally too embarrassed to share.
However, the Edinburgh-based entrepreneur has now built a career talking about her deposits — or lack of.
Her company Gut Wealth — which offers a digestive health supplement and IBS guidance — has been backed by a Scottish enterprise project aimed at supporting businesswomen.
Speaking about her condition, Stuart said the symptoms were so severe that she had cancelled holidays and often avoided parties. “Sometimes I couldn’t go to the toilet for ten days and other times I couldn’t leave the house because I couldn’t stop going,” she said.
“When you have a digestive issue other people feel embarrassed when you mention it. It made me feel like I should be ashamed so I always kept it to myself.” She began to experience bloating so severe that people around her became concerned.
“I was slim but had a permanently bloated belly — my work colleagues would always ask if I was pregnant,” she said. “I travelled around Europe a lot to speak with big corporate companies. I was in a lot of high stress environments that made my IBS so much worse but I never wanted to bring it up.
I didn’t want to be that awkward person at a meal with clients telling them we could only go somewhere that had gluten-free options, so most of the time I would grin and bear it.
I kept my IBS a secret from my managers — there were many times I’d be sweating in a big meeting because I was desperate to go to the toilet.”
“It was a full-time job managing my IBS; I couldn’t keep travelling all the time. Leaving my career ended up being a no-brainer.
Stuart eventually left her career to manage her symptoms, which are shared by about one in five UK adults. “I was put on so many different medications and none of them helped — they just gave me horrible side-effects,” she said.
The more I talked about my issues the more I realised they’re actually incredibly common. We have this whole nation of people ashamed of their gut health when we could all be helping each other out.”
After finding no lasting improvements from seeing doctors, Stuart spent years researching gut health and meeting experts, eventually creating her own solution Gut Wealth that alleviated all IBS symptoms she said “I’ve improved to the point where it feels like I don’t even have IBS any more — I’ve taken back control of my body,”