In part one of her two post guest post, Rebecca Fennelly shares her tips for eating well while living with IBS.
Mark Twain once said, “part of the secret to success in life is to eat what you want”. I can tell you with a fair old whack of certainty that Mr Twain probably didn’t suffer from IBS.
I adore my food, I eat a lot of it, and I don’t plan on that changing anytime soon, but as a sufferer of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), my love of food comes with a hefty portion of pain. I recently vented about my experiences as an IBSer on my baking blog, Baby Got Bake, which in fact is why I am now writing about it again here on ILoveCooking. I was very kindly asked to do a guest post for the site, which focuses on IBS and how I tackle it.
What is IBS? It is a common condition of the digestive system that essentially causes bouts of stomach cramps, horrific bloating, diarrhea and constipation. It affects at least 20% of us and is the #1 diagnosed gastrointestinal disorder. Unfortunately, it is often not taken seriously and ridiculed by many people, health professionals included. A little bit of the science for you… our guts are controlled by the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), the operation of which isn’t fully understood, which would explain why there is no specific test for it as yet, and perhaps why the aforementioned “health pros” are happy to dismiss it.
The tricky thing with IBS is that it varies a lot in terms of how it affects one person to the next. It is not always a simple case of excluding a certain food group – like dairy or wheat – to make the suffering stop. In my case for example, my belly doesn’t like wheat, it despises dairy, and too much sugar (refined or otherwise) can cause me some real agony. I could list off dozens of tips for how to deal with IBS but I think what would be most helpful is to share what I would class as my golden rules. IBSer or not, I would suggest that everyone abides by them.
- Breakfast is king: Start the day with the right meal. If you tend to suffer from constipation, be sure to have breakfast and make sure it’s a healthy option… porridge, fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, veg etc. This is the meal that is most likely to kick your colon into action for the day 😉
- Slow down!: Chew your food and take your time when you eat. I am a notoriously fast eater, as is everyone in my family, but scoffing your food is not good for you. How hard is it, really? You take smaller bites, you chew each bite slower and longer, and you enjoy your meal longer. Yes, OK… it is trickier than it sounds, but it takes a few minutes extra each meal, and it really can have profound effects, whether you suffer from IBS or not.
- Keep hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day – ideally 6 to 8 glasses. Also, try to drink water an hour before or after meals, not with meals as this can bring on bloating and make you feel full when your body actually needs food, not hydration.
- Keep a food diary: I started doing this quite recently and as a serial snacker and impulse eater it has been my saving grace. Looking back over what I have eaten really helps me to pinpoint patterns around what may be flaring me up and stops me from being too naughty. If you have IBS – and particularly if you are trying to find out what flares you up – I’d suggest giving yourself a mark out of five every day on how bloated etc you’ve been. After a couple of weeks of this you’ll start to see some patterns emerging between what you are eating and how your tum has been reacting.
- Stay away from dairy: I don’t care what anyone says – humans are simply not meant to eat dairy. It is not for us and it doesn’t do us any good, nor will it ever. Whether dairy is something you feel aggravates you or not, I’d strongly advise on removing it from your diet as much as you can. If you are worried about getting your calcium allowance, there are plenty more ways to do so.
- Eat little and often: An obvious one, but sensible portions and healthy between-meal snacking really helps to keep your metabolism ticking over at a healthy pace, which in turn lessens every single IBS symptom out there. Hurray! Goes without saying that snacking on chocolate and cake doesn’t count as being acceptable in this case, so put down the mini cupcakes and pick up an apple and a handful of almonds instead.
With all of the above in mind I thought it would be nice to share one of my recipes here on I Love Cooking. As breakfast is King in the land of IBS, I thought I’d pick one of my favourite new IBS friendly recipes – my tummy friendly Granola, which is actually oat-free, and so super light. You can find this recipe in part two of my post for I Love Cooking, tomorrow.
Thanks for reading, I hope some people find this helpful. Feel free to fire me any comments or questions via the blog BabyGotBake.com, or my Twitter @TheBabyGotBake.
Rebecca Fennelly originally hails from Malahide in County Dublin, but has lived and worked in London since 2010. She works in PR, and is the Brands Account Director for music publicity agency, DawBell. You can find more of her baking musings and yummy recipes on her blog, BabyGotBake.com. Follow Rebecca on Twitter at @TheBabyGotBake and @Becksit_.