So you got the dreaded IBS diagnosis. The cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn and gas finally have a name and its Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So now what? Now that your doctor officially classed your stomach as “irritated” what are the next steps you can take to start feeling better? Just because your condition now has a name doesn’t mean you can load up on prescription meds and pop pills until it goes away. IBS is incredibly personal and you hear the phrase “everyone’s body is different” but in the case of digestion it is extraordinarily unique, with even specialists having difficulty identifying triggers simply because so many aspects are involved.
While IBS has no known cure, stifling the symptoms is possible with diet, lifestyle changes, managing stress and some medications (both conventional and holistic). Even if your stomach issues haven’t officially been labeled ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome’ by a health professional, and you still experience those uncomfortable and debilitating symptoms you should check out the tips we’ve compiled below for anyone dealing with a rogue set of bowels.
Start Keeping A Food Diary
While it’s important to note that food itself doesn’t cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome but they do trigger episodes of discomfort. Keeping a diary of daily foods and beverages down to ingredients is a key step in reducing symptoms. It’s also important to write down which foods cause which symptoms and on days you don’t experience any discomfort what was on your menu. Roughly about a month after you start your food diary you can start linking patterns together to see if there are any notable recurrences. There are also numerous apps for smart phones if you want to keep your food diary digital.
Keep A “Safe” Snack On You At All Times
An empty stomach is never a good sign for sufferers of IBS, which is a catch-22 since you probably are fearful of accidentally ingesting a trigger food and setting the whole off the whole piñata. Letting your stomach get completely empty actually increases the chance of your colon spasming and creating an even worse episode. It’s advised to carry a small simple snack such as peanut butter or saltines so you can eat it without issue.
Try to take a good 20 minutes to relax after meals
Stress is a major player in IBS and the immediate few minutes post-meal are make it or break it. Taking it easy, lying down or just stretching your torso and relieving tension is crucial and very effective at avoiding symptoms.
Try cutting down on processed foods, refined sugars, and alcohol
While this might seem like a no brainer, you’d be surprised at how destructive GMO’s and other chemicals found in food can be on your fragile digestive system. Cutting down on carbs and sugar helps immensely however, when you do have to indulge in a treat the symptoms become worse as your body grows unaccustomed to the harsh synthetics.
Make a game plan whenever eating out
Restaurants pretty difficult to maneuver with IBS so its important to research the restaurant ahead of time, eat light and make use of take home boxes just in case there’s an unknown nutrient that slipped the menu-writer’s mind. It’s also smart to map out an escape route to the nearest bathroom just in case things get a little out of control.
Try not to feel ashamed about your symptoms and talk to family and friends, it might make things easier for you
A lot of times, embarrassment overwhelms us when it comes to being upfront about IBS. Who really wants to be the one bringing up diarrhea all the time? But keeping that stress and anxiety locked away in an internal tornado of stress can make it even worse and drive you up the wall. Telling those closest around you lets them in on what you’re going through and most of the time they are supportive and able to take some of the load off. Talking about it makes it easier for people to be understanding and care for you in moments of need. Letting friends know can be a huge relief just so they know why you’re always late or cancelling last minute or disappear to the bathroom all the time and adjust plans accordingly.
Accept that you will have incidents in public
You have IBS and you are going to be in public. It’s only natural that you will have an episode here or there when you’re out and about and that’s completely okay. Just be prepared, aware and let your body do it’s thing. If you are still uncomfortable with the idea of letting loose in a public toilet, try products like Poo-Pourri, air fresheners designed to mask pretty brutal odors or play a song on your phone while you’re unleashing. An important aspect of IBS is often the shame and embarrassment we feel. Try your hardest to let go of these emotions (easier said than done) and until then use products or tactics that help reduce stress.
Be aware of your mental health
IBS is nothing to laugh about. It can make you feel frustrated, anxious and lonely so make sure you really reflect on how your condition affects you mentally. Some IBS sufferers have turned to low-dose anti-depressants during times of intense emotional disarray and found their flare-ups were reduced from weekly to monthly. If something as simple as this can help your symptoms, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy that same relief as well. Anti-depressants might seem extreme, so just be mindful of the toll it takes on your mind. Meditating, positive self-talk, calming music, and exercise are all really great ways of taking a moment to reflect and be kind to the best person in the world: you. Take care of your mind and your body will follow and remember, we at the Digestive Center are here for you cheering you on!