Since it’s IBS Awareness Month, I thought I’d share my top tips with you for living with IBS.
- Find a way to destress. Whether it’s yoga, meditation (try the free app Headspace – it’s not as woo-woo as you’d think!), writing in a journal, going for a walk in nature, putting your legs up the wall, or even just taking 5 deep breaths, find something that works for you. Personally, as soon as I’d learnt to manage my stress (mainly from university work), I had much fewer IBS symptoms. Stress is a known culprit of IBS symptoms.
- Learn to love cooking with herbs and spices. Cooking from scratch is your ticket to knowing exactly what’s in your food and not getting any hidden surprises while you’re eating. Your food may be lacking in onions and garlic, but it doesn’t need to be lacking in flavour! Cumin, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger are some of my favourite spices that I use almost everyday. Lemon juice also instantly brightens up any meal.
- Download the Monash University Low FODMAP App. If you haven’t already, this is a game changer. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve pulled my phone out of my pocket at the supermarket to find out whether a certain fruit or vegetable is low FODMAP.
- Create a low FODMAP pantry. Stocking up your pantry with low FODMAP ingredients (see here) will make your life so much easier. Cooking a delicious balanced meal (i.e. protein + plants + complex carbohydrate + flavour) will become more of a case of ‘meal assembly’ if you already have some staples. You don’t have to be hungry or deprived and not know what to eat so live off 5 carrots a day (FYI I wouldn’t recommend it as you start to resemble a mild Oompa Loompa!).
- Find a healthy night-time drink. I love trying new flavours of tea and at the moment my favourite is ginger white tea. Staying hydrated throughout the day is a key part of reducing your IBS symptoms. Peppermint tea is really soothing if you have an irritated gut and I can’t go past a cup of boiling water with a slice of lemon. Bliss!
- Be wary of ‘raw’ and/or ‘paleo’ recipes. The same applies for café food as they tend to contain massive amounts of dates, cashews, ground nuts and cauliflower which are all very high in FODMAPs so are likely to give you a very sore stomach.
- Heal your gut. Focus on repopulating your good gut bacteria by incorporating bone broths (I have an easy recipe here), kombucha and red cabbage sauerkraut into your diet where you can. Check out Ben Warren‘s blog as he is a master of all things gut-related.
- Keep testing your tolerance to FODMAPs. After a period of time retry some FODMAP foods, as you may find you can tolerate them. This will give you a wider range of foods to choose from and will make your diet more interesting.
- Eat in a calm state. This also means eating without distractions (i.e. no devices!). Chewing your food well is crucial to good digestion as your oesophagus doesn’t have any teeth! I find the best way to avoid eating in a hurry or while I’m stressed is to eat regularly and to carry snacks so that I’m not overly hungry or eating in a rush.
- Change your perspective. Find something good about having IBS. For me, it’s made me become more passionate about wanting to specialise in the area of gut health and allergies as a qualified dietitian. Other positives may include cooking from scratch more, eliminating fizzy drinks from your diet, finding an underlying nutrient deficiency e.g. iron, or simply getting you more interested in nutrition.
Disclaimer: the information above is for informational purposes only and shouldn’t replace advice from a health professional. You shouldn’t use the given information to diagnose or treat a health problem/ disease.