It’s predicted that between 1 in 7 and 1 in 5 people suffer from IBS. That’s a lot! About 2 thirds of these are female and the most common age to develop symptoms is in your 20s. I was diagnosed with IBS a couple of months ago and am just starting to come to terms with the life and diet changes this entails. I have done a lot of research and had long conversations with my doctor and nutritionist and am finding what works for me. I wanted to share my top tips for dealing with IBS for anyone in a similar situation.
Meg x x x
Firstly a little sub tip: get diagnosed! There are other conditions with almost identical symptoms so it is impossible to work out if you have IBS without doing the proper tests. Your doctor will also be able to guide you in what steps to take to deal with it, specially designed for you and your illness.
Find your triggers
The best way to do this is definitely to keep a food diary. I use the app Cara which is designed specially for IBS and helps you track symptoms or you may prefer to keep a paper diary. Set reminders on your phone so you remember to track every meal. You can then start to look at when your symptoms occur and find what foods they are linked to. It might not be what you’re expecting. The low FODMAP diet designed for IBS cuts out foods like onion, avocado, honey, cous cous etc. Food’s I would never have thought would be the cause of my pain and bloating!
Food or stress?
Have you ever heard of the gut referred to as the second brain? Or heard the phrase ‘gut instinct’? This is because your gut and digestion is so linked to your brain and your emotions. You will probably find that your symptoms are much worse when you’re stressed. You might even find that you can eat your trigger foods most of the time but you need to avoid them if you’re stressed. There are many ways to help with stress- yoga, meditation, sleep. I did a blog post about 6 months ago all about dealing with stress after I went to a very interesting talk about it with some experts. You can read it here. You could well find that managing your stress is the key to dealing with your IBS.
Small, regular meals
There is a lot of evidence that shows eating lots of small meals is a lot better for your digestion that 3 big meals. The ideal is about 6 meals spaced through the day but obviously this can be difficult. It might be a case of making your existing meals smaller and adding in more snacks between. It makes sense- you want your digestive system to be working consistently rather than doing nothing for hours and then having a sudden overload of food.
Taking time to eat is so important. The first step of digestion is you breaking down the food in your mouth. Aim to chew each mouthful 15 times. It is also important to leave time for your food to digest. Don’t eat in the 3 or 4 hours before going to bed and try and eat early in the morning so you have time to digest it before you go out. Time also makes me lest stressed. I’ve found that getting up early so I have time to do yoga, not rush getting ready, sit down and eat and just generally not be in a rush, helps me to stay relaxed.
I take a bit of time at the weekend to look at my week and plan everything in and then 10 minutes each evening to plan more specifically the next day. Eating those 6 small meals can be difficult so plan them into your schedule where possible. Plan in a few light workouts in the week (another thing that helps with IBS). Find when you’ll need to eat out or take a packed lunch and prep food or save leftovers- this is especially important if you have dietary restrictions and struggle to find things to eat out.