So what exactly is IBS?
It is thought that 10-20% of people in Britain will experience IBS at some point of their life. Unfortunately for me, I am one of them.
“Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.”
That’s the basic description of what IBS is. Everyone suffers differently, so it is impossible for me to tell you exactly what happens and why. Personally, my symptoms come and go in bouts, usually in times of stress or after eating certain foods.
IBS and Me
For six months, I found IBS really hard to deal with. For someone who used to eat everything, suddenly having to restrict food was really tough. I lost a lot of weight because almost everything I ate made me sick. Actually, I was really unhappy. After reading up on it, I found out that an estimated 3 out of 4 people with IBS will have at least one bout of depression, and just over half will develop an anxiety disorder. It can seriously impact your life.
It got to a point where I realised that living like this wasn’t healthy, and was probably making my IBS worse. So I started researching. I became engrossed in recipe books and health websites. I visited dieticians and started devising eating plans. Through trial and error, I am now at a stage where I can manage my IBS and can avoid flare ups. And actually, part of me believe dealing with IBS has been a blessing in disguise – I am in the best shape on my life, I am incredibly healthy and in a much better mental state than I was before I was diagnosed. My tips for managing IBS actuallu apply to everybody that wants to lose weight, get fit, or just wants to live life a little healthier. They’re so simple and easy and most of the time, effort and cost free.
Tips for IBS that everyone should follow.
1. Drink water. LOTS OF IT.
I always have a bottle of water to hand; whether at work, in the car, at home, or when I‘m out. Water will help with all aspects of the digestive processes. We need 2.5 litres a day for the body to function properly. IBS sufferers should be drinking extra water to balance our systems. I make sure that I drink a bottle of water first thing in the morning and before every meal. But everyone should be drinking water; it’s natures biggest secret, and it comes straight from a tap – no excuse! (For the appearance conscious, water also helps with your skin, eye brightness, hair, nails and is the best weight loss aid.)
2. Cut down/off sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
Sugar really messes me up, so I’ve tried to cut it out in food as best I could (obviously natural sugar isn’t as bad). I do not drink anything other than water or green tea – honestly! Everything else should be avoided, or taken in moderation. Sugary drinks are full of air bubbles will add more gas to your digestive system. They are also either laden with calories are artificial sweeteners which are awful for your insides, your teeth and your skin. Caffeine and alcohol are also both stimulants to the digestive system and can increase IBS symptoms.
3. Have an eating schedule to train your body and mind.
I have breakfast within the first hour of your day. It starts your metabolism and gets your body into gear. Don’t skip meals because the digestive system fills up with extra air when it’s empty, which causes cramping and bloating. The best way for me is to eat three meals a day at regular times, usually 8 – 2 – 7. If you install times for eating mentally, you’ll feel less inclined to become ‘emotionally hungry’ (comfort eat) or snack. No mammoth portions – overloading on food which will shock your body. And eat slowly! You need to give your body time to digest food and feel full.
4. Banish junk.
Whether you suffer from IBS or not, junk food is a huge no-no. Your body needs nutritious, fresh food. Not only for the digestive system, but for overall fitness and health. There are many ways to make healthy food interesting and tasty. And once you change your ways, the sight of greasy kebabs and pizza will turn your stomach. JUST DO IT.
5. Get moving!
Without counting weight loss, fitness, muscle building and fun, exercise is great for two main reasons: One: exercise is a brilliant stress reliever. Countless studies have shown that regular exercise can help relieve stress. Two: exercise is critical for the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal system. If your body is sluggish, your stomach will be too; if your body is fit and active, your stomach will be healthier and better regulated.
I try my best to exercise everyday. If I am busy with studying or work and can’t get to the gym, I walk or jump rope – both simple and easy for anyone, anywhere. If you can’t get to the gym today, even walking at a moderate pace for 30 minutes will help!
6. Work out your individual food triggers.
IBS has given me intolerances to wheat, lactose and eggs. Some days, I can eat these things and be fine. But around 70% of the time, they make me ill. A lot of people gamble with food and continue to eat them. But I found that it was easier to cut them out completely, as, for me, the taste is not worth the pain. But even in non-IBS sufferers, certain foods can cause discomfort, bloating (a lot of people say this about wheat) and lack of energy. Starting a diet diary is a good way to work these out – monitor what you eat, what times, how you feel afterwards, and if you really want to get into it, your ‘bowel movements’. And if it means cutting out certain foods, do some research to find out what you can replace them with. For example, cutting out wheat meant cutting wheat bread, but I replaced it with Rye bread. Soya milk is also a nutritious replacement for cows milk.
7. AAAAAND RELAX.
Bubble baths, calm dog walks, yoga, reading and of course, sleeping are my favourite ways to de-stress and relax the body. In many people the main cause of IBS is stress; The body and mind are linked very tightly. Your body works very hard, so be kind and give it the down time it deserves. Your gut will thank you!