Do you suffer from
uncomfortable & embarrassing bloating that makes people think you’ve swallowed a football
painful cramping that sometimes feels like back or period pain
Is knowing what to eat a CONSTANT concern?
If so, you are in good company! Digestive complaints and IBS are incredibly common: IBS affects anything from 10%-20% of the population and it’s more common for ladies!
Below I explore what IBS is, why digestive complaints such as bloating, cramping, wind and IBS might happen & what you can do to start finding relief from those relentless symptoms.
What actually is IBS?
A doctor or GP may diagnose you with IBS if you have had:
– abdominal pain or discomfort OR bloating
– a change in bowel habit
for AT LEAST 6 months.
But what does that look like in reality? You might have:
– abdominal pain/uncomfortable tummy/back pain
– abdominal cramping
– gas, wind
– constipation or diarrhoea (or both)
– nausea, heartburn, indigestion
– mucus or jelly in your poo
– tired all the time
– worried about what to eat/when
AND any of these can come and go – they don’t have to be constant!
Whether you have an IBS diagnosis or are suffering with digestive discomfort, any of these symptoms may also give you:
– problems sleeping
– mood swings, anxiety and, unsurprisingly, generally make you feel fed up.
It is important to discuss these symptoms with your GP or doctor, particularly if you have blood in your poo, black or “tarry” stools, persistent diarrhoea or a recent change in bowel habits: during my personalised consultations with clients, these are always aspects I ask clients to check with their GP straight away. Having done so, we look at what might be causing their embarrassing bloating, wind, diarrhoea or constipation.
But what causes the bloating, wind, diarrhoea or constipation?
Just as IBS, bloating, cramping, diarrhoea and constipation (or both) feel different for each person, your triggers (i.e. what sets off each other those things) are likely to be different to your friend’s. However, it’s clear that:
– women are more likely to suffer than men (or maybe women are more determined to get better?)
– stress & worry make your symptoms worse – whether that’s worrying about your children or wider family, job, financial uncertainty, the virus, your friend’s illness or divorce
– food poisoning can trigger symptoms – this could be something you eat at home, a takeaway or, now we can finally travel again, a holiday or business trip abroad
– an imbalance in your gut bacteria (from following a particular diet), a course of antibiotics, a yeast infection (such as candida) in your mouth or vagina can all cause bloating, cramping and diarrhoea or constipation
– hormones can often play a part – many women suffer more around their periods than at other times of the month
– some people are sensitive or intolerant to certain foods – that could be wheat or dairy (but, crucially, not always!) and
– some people have an extra (or hyper) sensitive nervous system in their gut, meaning that you notice the pain and respond to pain triggers more than you would otherwise.
For others, however, there might be totally different reasons. That is what makes you and your body work in the way it does.
So, what do you do FIRST to tackle your bloating, cramping, constipation or diarrhoea? Here are my top 4 tips to get you started:
1. KEEP A FOOD, SYMPTOM & MOOD DIARY
Write down the days & times you notice your symptoms, together with any foods you have eaten in the previous 24 hours. Doing this will help you understand what might be causing you to feel uncomfortable, windy or your poo to switch from constipation to diarrhoea.
Include a note about your mood too – maybe you felt stressed about work or your children’s school day? Maybe you felt totally fine but actually slept really badly the night before? Whatever you feel, note it down.
How you write the information down and the format of the diary doesn’t matter – you may want to record the information electronically, for example using an app such as Endive IBS Food Diary or Bowelle – the IBS tracker: search in your app store and you will find one! If you find it easier to write down your food in a visual template message me and I’ll send you one!
2. CHEW your food more & chew it slowly
It might sound a little crazy, but thinking about, sensing, smelling & chewing your food helps improve your gut’s digestive process, giving you the necessary components to help digest your food as well as making the gut muscles work in the way they need to.
Always sit at a table for meals (don’t eat at your desk), as this will help you focus on chewing & stop you from mindlessly gobbling down your food & gulping in extra air at the same time.
No more TV dinners….
3: EAT YOUR VEGGIES – ALL COLOURS
Look out for and make a conscious effort to reduce the sugary foods you eat (think biscuits & sweet snacks but also “healthier” sugary foods such as dried apricots, raisins or snacks with honey in) which your gut bacteria thrive on – especially the gut bacteria you want to have less of!
Replace these foods with colourful vegetables (think chard, squash, kale, courgette, sweet potato) & fruits that are lower in sugar (think apples, blueberries, pears, raspberries). Eating more vegetables and lower sugar fruit also helps feed the gut bacteria you want to have MORE of, enabling them to thrive, which then helps crowd out the less friendly microbes.
If you are bored of thinking what different vegetables you can eat, why not download a copy of my Rainbow Vegetable & Fruit tracker by subscribing to my newsletter to help you come up with some ideas?
4: DRINK PLENTY OF WATER 1.5-2 LITRES A DAY FOR ADULTS
I know it seems simple, but here’s the last of my 4 top tips for starting to solve your bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation or diarrhoea – and that’s to DRINK WATER.
Your gut needs plenty of water to process the increased fibre from the extra vegetables & fruit you are eating, keep your food moving along your bowel, your intestines moving in the way they should AND remaining hydrated (particularly if you are suffering from diarrhoea). Staying hydrated also helps clear your mind (less brain fog) and gives you more energy.
Grab yourself a water bottle, fill it up in the morning when you first put the kettle on or when you fill up the rest of your family’s water bottles and keep it on hand throughout the day.
If you’d like to find out more about getting to grips with your gut symptoms, why not book a free 30 minute call with me to explore how I can help you? This link gives you direct access to my calendar, there’s no obligation to book a consultation with me afterwards and I’d be delighted to help! Alternatively email me and we can find a suitable time.