Living with IBS
My Personal Experience:
As some of you may know, I (Kelsey) have battled irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies and intolerances for the past 7 years, so I wanted to share with you all my experience and learnings of which I have had from my personal journey.
So it all began after having glandular fever, slowly food and I just did not agree with each other. One day I would be fine and the next I would be rushing to the loo multiple times before lunch with sudden stomach pains, extreme fatigue and constantly looking 6 months pregnant. It is safe to say that food became one of the most stressful things in my life and I was confused and frustrated to say the least. Along with the confusion and frustration I found myself not wanting to eat, out of fear of what symptoms I might get after eating. As a nutrition student at the time, I knew this was not a road I wanted to go down so started looking for answers.
I found that doctors didn’t take my symptoms seriously. I had been back and forth to my GP and was told that if there are foods that made me feel unwell, to just stop eating them. They refused formal testing and with a lot of back and forth, finally agreed to refer me to see a dietitian.
Going through the elimination diet really opened up my eyes as to how crap I really had been feeling for such a long time! I had no idea it was possible to have energy, a non bloated stomach, refreshing sleep and normal poo… and that was only 1 week into the elimination diet! For me, feeling so good symptom wise made the Low FODMAP elimination feel relatively achievable, although I was consistently hungry on it!
Once figuring out my triggers I found food became a lot less stressful…. well that was when I made it myself. To this day, I still find eating out and eating at other’s houses an incredibly stressful process, especially when others don’t understand that these food limitations are not by choice and that they do have a massive impact on my health and quality of life if I eat them. This has meant that there have been times where I have refused to eat out or let friends cook for me out of fear of becoming unwell because of it. I would definitely NOT recommend this, as food is such a large source of social interaction and if avoided, can increase that sense of isolation!
Over time I have found foods I can tolerate a lot more than I used to be able to. For example; I never used to tolerate anything with onion powder in it, it would upset my gut so much, but lately I have discovered that I can in fact tolerate foods with onion and garlic powder in them. This has increased the variety and flavour of foods of which I had previously been eating. I think an important lesson to be learnt here is to re-try foods!
While I am a dietitian, I still have times where I accidentally eat too many FODMAP’s and then suffer the consequences the next few days and this is something which has become less frustrating and just part of life over the years.
The times where I still struggle are when I have a flare up before attending an event where I had planned to wear a tight dress, or times where I want to wear high waisted jeans but because of the bloating I either look pregnant or my jeans just don’t do up! It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable having to worry about what I look like and whether people will make assumptions about my body.
So based on my experience and learnings from living with IBS, I thought I would share my top 5 tips for living with IBS:
- Don’t let your food restrictions stop you from enjoying life. If you’re invited to events, give them your top least tolerated foods and they will usually work around you to cater for you!
- If dining out, ring before you go to give them a heads up regarding your requirements, so they have time to prepare before you get there.
- Garlic infused olive oil is a life saver!
- Getting stressed about what you ate to cause a flare up, makes the flare up worse. Take it in your stride, always have Panadol, peppermint tea and a wheat bag close by!
- The more you talk about your experience with IBS, the less isolated you will feel. If you have friends and family who don’t have IBS, they would love to be able to understand what you are going through and how they can help.
Bonus Tip: Have a nice baggy dress and loose fitting pants for those days where you are bloated! (I often have two sizes of jeans, one for when I am bloated and one for when I am not!)
Published: 9th May 2022
Author: Kelsey Paterson, Monash FODMAP accredited Dietitian