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It’s IBS awareness month this April and it got me thinking about my journey with IBS and how I tackled it back in the day when it was at its worst.  I would average that 70% of my clients have an IBS symptom/s when they walk through my clinic door. IBS is widely known as a term but just because you have bloating for example, doesn't necessarily mean you have IBS - the symptoms themselves are extremely diverse in severity. The good news is by making some simple changes to your diet you can help to manage the condition.

Having IBS caused me a lot of emotional pain and I suffered in silence for a long time. Don't make my mistake and seek help if you’re feeling unwell.

Here's my story and my top tips for managing IBS…

I suffered from an eating disorder in my teens and twenties and it was at the end of my recovery that my IBS symptoms started to manifest. I started to get very bloated after meals, I constantly felt ‘full’ and had issues with my bowel movements that became very inconsistent.  I realised that by rejecting food groups and constantly starving and bingeing, I had created a poor digestive system, which was sensitive to the food groups I had deprived it of for so long. In the main, these wheat, gluten and dairy. To say my digestive system was weak was an understatement. 

Whilst I know I treated my body badly for some time, I have no regrets.  It was these symptoms that began my journey into nutrition and the change in career has brought me more joy than anything else in my life. When I see clients with IBS who find the symptoms reduce - often within a few days - it fills me with joy. It is possible. Whilst every person has a different story and diet changes than others (with differing support needs), there are some simple tips that can help to keep symptoms at bay. 

Take a Probiotic

This was a game-changer for me when I began my journey of healing my gut and I saw a difference immediately. I’ve been taking courses of probiotics over the years since. We are made up of trillions of microorganisms — outnumbering human cells by 10 to 1 - so you could pretty much say we are bacteria. There are good and bad bacteria in our guts but too much of the bad can bring on unwanted symptoms. For a general daily dose to restore your good bacteria, I recommend Optibac Everyday for on-the-go or Symprove for something to keep at home.

Write a Food Diary

It’s so easy to forget what we’ve eaten throughout the day and therefore what may have caused the dreaded symptoms of IBS. I ask all clients to write a food diary and most importantly, to include how they were feeling emotionally and mentally at the times of eating. Very often I find symptoms are psychosomatic and thus, their emotional state has more of an impact on their symptoms than the foods they are eating.

No Raw after 4

When my IBS was at its worst, I was a student and lived alone so salads were a regular staple in my diet. Fiber can be helpful for IBS, but too much - especially insoluble fiber in the skin of fruits and vegetables - can also make symptoms worse as they are harder to break down, causing pain and bloating.  Save salads for lunch and turn up the heat at dinner by gently cooking your vegetables or opting for hearty soups and stews. Whilst there is no clinical evidence on this subject, I personally found it helpful for my recovery. 

Chew your Food

In my Intuitive Eating and Living Programme, one of the tasks is to chew each mouthful of a meal 50 times in a quiet room with no other distractions. Why? Because we could all learn to be more mindful when it comes to meal times. Digestion starts in the mouth, so the more chewing you do, the less work your digestive system has to do. Slow down and saviour your meals.

Magical Magnesium

Magnesium supports around 300 mechanisms in the body so is a mineral we shouldn't under-estimate; it’s so important for our bodies. I call magnesium the chill out mineral because it relaxes us - from tight muscles to the GI tract. For those who suffer from constipation (likes i used to), magnesium acts as a gentle laxative.  Better You is my preferred choice as it goes directly onto the skin where we can absorb it better. 

Note: If you are diarrhea predominant then the calcium supplement Calcium Caltrate would be more appropriate, however I do recommend that you see a nutritionist before taking any supplements.

The 3 S’s: Soup, Smoothies and Simplify

Foods that make IBS symptoms worse tend to be the usual suspects: wheat, gluten, sugar and dairy, however many patients find there are other foods or condiments that bring on the symptoms. If you’re unsure what it is that is causing the symptoms, do as above and keep a food diary. You can also try simplifying your diet for a few days. The aim is to ease your symptoms. I find protein and vegetables or carbohydrates and vegetables is generally easier to digest. Stay away from condiments and packaged foods that have hidden ingredients and cook lightly, allowing the food in its natural form to bring the flavour. Fresh herbs are great to mix things up a bit. When symptoms strike, try a few days on soups (homemade if possible so you have control of ingredients) and smoothies (again, homemade is best), which are both easier to digest. You can pack these with fiber and other nutrients and in smoothies, add raw rolled oats for an easily digestible fiber. Throw in some ground flaxseeds if you want a little more.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to dealing with IBS because of course, each and every one of us is different; we are all unique in our make up and condition. Please use the above as a guide and if you have any questions, do get in touch via my contact form or Instagram @rootedlondon

For more info on my story, head to the IBS feature on Get the Gloss.

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