Living With IBS A Chronic Condition
Living with IBS can be distressing, awkward and very stressful. Abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea and/or constipation. These symptoms, in turn, knock our self-esteem, and we want only to stay at home until we feel better. We run the risk of becoming increasingly isolated from our friends and our family, which can bring on depression and worsen our IBS Symptoms. We do not want to socialize and may find it at best a trial and at worse, impossible.
A qualified medical practitioner should diagnose IBS, and once diagnosed people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome often find food is a significant trigger for worsening symptoms.
As a fellow IBS sufferer for the last 20 years it is very easy for your medical team to say “your IBS may be triggered by food!”; Identifying what kind of food ais a challenging task.
I have personally found that although the task of identifying what has a negative impact on your IBS symptoms is daunting, it is a task that is well worth doing. If you are successful to any extent with this, then you may find anything from slight relief from your symptoms to complete eradication of the major symptoms.
Many people think that there will be a magic trigger to their IBS, often it is not one type of food that causes the issues. In some instances, it can be something as simple as the speed you eat or the times of the day you eat, or even the activity you are doing around the times you eat.
For many people suffering from IBS, food and drink does cause a worsening in their IBS symptoms.
The following are often flagged as exacerbating constipation symptoms in IBS-C Sufferers
- Slices of bread and cereals made with refined (not whole) grains
- Processed foods such as chips and cookies
- Coffee, carbonated drinks, and alcohol
- High-protein diets
- Dairy products, especially cheese
The list of foods below can exacerbate Diarrhea symptoms in IBS-D sufferers
- Large meals
- Fizzy (Carbonated) drinks
- Food with high fibre, especially the kind you get in the skin of fruits and vegetables
- Anything with chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, fructose, or sorbitol
- Fried and/or fatty foods
- Dairy products, especially in lactose intolerance people
- Wheat-based products for people who are gluten intolerant
ne of my first tips is to find out what if any eating habits you have maybe making your IBS symptoms worse.
I found out what was making my IBS worse by first seeing my Doctor and getting diagnosed as having IBS. I then got referred to a Registered Dietitian. The dietitian encouraged me to start and keep a detailed food diary.
I have detailed below what I did when starting my food diary.
- I recorded everything that I put into my mouth.
- I recorded a description of what activities I had done before eating or drinking
- What the time of the day was and how I felt before I had eaten or drunk and afterwards.
I made a mistake initially of not recording things in enough detail, so for example, I would write down that I had eaten chicken and salad. As I progressed, I realized the data I had recorded was not detailed enough. The chicken and salad description became more detail and looked something like this.
Monday at 13.00 I ate 500g skinless roasted chicken with 50g iceberg lettuce, two small red peppers, and one roasted beetroot, drizzled in a lemon and olive oil dressing and accompanied by 500ml of fizzy water. I had taken my dog for a walk for about 2 miles an hour before eating.
It was not until I got to this level of detail that I could start to see a trend appearing.
I also recorded a thing I called a symptoms key.
The symptoms key I added when a symptom arose, for example, if I got severe bloating feeling I would write in my diary at the time the symptom came on “Bloating” and give it a number from one to ten, one being the mildest and ten being the most severe.
I religiously recorded this data for a month. I made the mistake of trying to find conclusions too early. I was so desperate for answers after day two. I was looking to find a solution in the data I had recorded. I would strongly suggest you document this data for at least a month then look through your diary to try and find patterns.
When I analyzed my diary, I found some patterns of food and eating behaviours that seemed to cause bloating, followed by severe constipation. I will not share which foods these were or which eating habits these were, as these were particular to my circumstances. Please record your own data and look for your own trends, as this will be most beneficial to you. Your IBS is personal to YOU; the things that aggravated me may not be the same things that cause you issues.
Once I had found these trends, I set about excluding the food groups one by one to see which had of the most effects on my symptoms. I also tried eating these foods at different times of the day. I eventually found that eating certain foods late in the day caused me issues and eating other foods at any time caused me issues.
I made some changes and my symptoms improved and became more comfortable to live with.
One point I made earlier about living with IBS is you have to live with it. It is your IBS, and you have to take ownership of it, do not clutch at fad diets, pills or potions, put in the groundwork and work out what makes your IBS symptoms worse or better.
As well as the physical side effects of IBS, I also suffered psychological side effects, these included stress anxiety and depression. I personally found that getting help from a psychologist helped me better understand and deal with my feelings. I got to the stage where I thought my condition made life not worth living and got very close to the edge before seeking help.
I had never even contemplated seeing a psychologist before and in fact, saw it as a sign of emotional weakness. It was not until a friend of mine said “what do you do if you have a broken leg, or have a dodgy-looking lump”, I replied go and see a Doctor, and they stated “Your mind is telling you you do not want to go on living what do you think you should do?”, that I realized I needed help.
My psychologist helped me to understand that although I had a life long medical condition, I also had a great deal of good in my life. I had to identify and then focus on doing the things I could do that I enjoyed, being with the people I loved and control my life and not letting IBS control me and my life. Realizing I could once again take control of my life was not an overnight epiphany; it took many hours of talking and small steps.
I eventually started to exercise a little more, taking my dog out on the daily walks I loved so much before IBS overtook my life. I began to see and then believe that the limits I thought IBS had imposed on me were limits I had let my mind impose on myself, and I identified coping strategies and mechanisms to deal with these.
I went from wingeing daily on the IBS forum and desperately looking for that magic bullet cure to offering advice and support to others, particularly new sufferers.
The overriding thing my continuing IBS journey has taught me is Living with IBS is like being on the worse rollercoaster in the world, but despite this, you are never alone, and you can live a very full, complete and satisfying life whilst still having the chronic condition the world badges IBS.