Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is not something a lot of people want to talk about and is not something everyone thinking about, if they don’t have to be. However, approximately 300,000 Canadians are living with the disease and that number is expected to grow in the coming years.    

33-year-old Josh Hall was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008 after experiencing intense gut pain and bathroom urgency. The local journalist has been selected as the Honorary Chair for Red Deer's Gutsy Walk being held this Sunday, June 5th. He is hoping to spread awareness about the invisible disease.

Symptoms for IBD may be different depending on a person's individual circumstances. Hall knows the challenges of what can be an unpredictable disease.

“Various things that I go through include dietary restrictions, that is a big thing. Bathroom urgency isn't something that everybody experiences. In my case, it's something I experience sometimes. You can go through flare ups or you can be in remission. I'm in remission, right now, but I still have bathroom urgency sometimes,” explained Hall.

Other people may experience weight loss and fatigue, as a result of their disease or flare-ups as well.

“I couldn't keep up a proper weight which meant I was also fatigued. I wanted to be active but I didn't have the energy to be active so I lost all my all my fitness basically. These are some of the various things that people go through day to day,” explained Hall.

A flare-up can also be so severe that those with IBD related illnesses end up in hospital for several days. Feeling sick, those who have IBD may miss out or be late for work, miss out on time with family and friends, and various other occasions.

Beyond the physical symptoms, Hall says there are some social impacts to his life too including overall anxiety about ensuring a bathroom will be available as you go about your day.

“If we need a bathroom, we usually need it now. Anxiety can also come from an incident that you've gone through where maybe you were driving or you were out somewhere and you needed a bathroom and you didn't get there on time. Something like that for a grown person can be traumatizing. It's really embarrassing and humiliating even if nobody saw you when it happened,” explained Josh.

The anxiety surrounding the disease can also just make matters worse.

“It is scientifically proven that there is a big connection between the mind and your gut. A lot of people, myself included, go through periods of major anxiety. When you have anxiety as a person with IBD, it's largely related to the bathroom because we plan out where we're going so we know where every bathroom is along the way or we hope that there's a bathroom somewhere along the way,” explained Josh.

Photo of Josh Hall. Photo taken by Paige Koster. 

One thing that has helped Josh and others who also have IBD related illnesses is the Go Here App which is a mobile app that shows a map of businesses that have partnered with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.

“If a business is a partner, that means they'll have a decal on their front entranceway. It has the Crohn's and Colitis Canada logo and it says ‘Go Here’. That means they have basically an open door policy, if you need the bathroom,” said Hall.  

Additionally, the app provides a digital bathroom card that recognizes if a person has medical condition or IBD and require the washroom immediately. However, Hall says not all businesses may understand what that means and hopes that more businesses partner with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada in the future.

As for the Gutsy Walk, Hall has been taking part in the walk for the last six years but the event has been going on nationally since 1996. This year, Red Deer’s Gutsy Walk has a goal of fundraising $19,144 for research and crucial treatments. The walk will be taking place at Red Deer’s McKenzie Trails on Sunday, June 5th. Registration begins at 10:00 AM for more information click here. 

Although donations are important, Hall encourages everyone to come take part and show their support.

“It would have an equal impact just for people to come out to the walk and show their support. That goes back to the whole part about it being embarrassing or humiliating at times. I really like the word compassionate because not everybody would necessarily react favorably to seeing somebody have a bathroom accident. If we have allies and people who are understanding and willing to show their support even if it’s not with money, just coming out to walk and showing that moral support goes a really long way,” he added.

You can support Josh Hall with a donation by clicking here and join his team, Josh’s Bowel Buddies by clicking here.