6 steps to getting rid of IBS
If you're reading this whilst clutching a boiling hot water bottle to your stomach, you have my sympathy.
I've been there.
It's not fun. And you've probably got a bright red patch on your stomach. But anything's better than the pain IBS brings, right?
When I first got IBS, I honestly didn't know what had hit me. I'd only had my coeliac diagnosis a year earlier. It didn't seem fair to be going through a load of pain again.
But then I learnt some tricks to make things better.
Notice I don't say 100% better. I'm pretty sure I'll never be 100% free from IBS. But it's verging on 98%, which is pretty good, and it's all because of the following.
The 6 steps
1. Track what you're eating
Forget pen and paper: your smart phone can do all the hard work for you. Just install an app (like MyFitnessPal, which is free) and enter everything you're consuming (and I mean everything - even a teaspoon of icecream or a taste of someone else's wine). You'll need a pair of electronic scales, too. And if you're scoffing at this, just remember that unless you know exactly what's going into your body and what proportion, you're going to be doing a fair amount of guesswork. And like all bad detectives, it'll only lead you to Inspector Japp conclusions. And the food app is Poirot.
Once you know exactly what you're consuming, you can go to a nutritional therapist, dietitian or doctor and ask for their help. Plus they'll find it a lot easier to help you with the information you've already gleaned.
2. Put your jeans away (especially the skinny ones)
Putting pressure on your tummy is about as wise as shaking a fizzy drink and stamping on it. It won't end well (and you'd better have a loo nearby - preferably one no-one else is going to use for the next five days). So save your jeans for a time when your IBS has eased and opt for a floaty top or dress, oversized shirt or jumper, and underneath roll either leggings, tights or a skirt down to hip height. It can feel weird at first but you'll get used to it.
3. Don't bolt your food
If you're distracted by the TV, you've left it too long since your last meal or table etiquette was never your strong point, you may find yourself shovelling down your grub as though the harvest's in and won't come round again.
Put your fork down. Take a breath. Have a sip of water. Cut up your food. Take smaller bites. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happens to food that's not properly chewed. Give your tummy a break and take your time to savour your meal. Your fellow diners will thank you for it, too.
4. Cut down on your pork life
Been slobbing out? It was pretty easy to do in lockdown. But now most of us can get out of the house, it's time to ditch the excuses. It's easier to sit on the couch, admittedly, but it's also not good for your digestion. The NHS tells IBS sufferers to "get plenty of exercise".
If you're not sure where to start, walking's a great option (and no specialist equipment needed). Stretching is one of my favourite things to do, although I wouldn't do it without a bit of warm up first, especially on a cold day. Yoga and pilates can be wonderful, especially if you try a supine twist (look it up - it's pretty straightforward as long as you tighten your core).
5. Ease up on things that make you stressed
Easier said than done, you might think, but there are stresses we can all ease in our lives. Are you trying to do too much and always late to everything as a result? Do you prioritise screen time and then find yourself doing the washing at midnight? Have you set up a lifestyle where you're needed for everything? Making small changes can make a difference over time. Fix coat hooks at your child's height so they can hang up their own coat and bag. Take yourself off social media one day a week. Make time to phone a good friend. Having a good natter can take the edge off a truly trying day. Plus it'll make your bestie feel special. After all, how many of us pick up the phone these days to make an actual phone call?
6. Cut out caffeine
And not just in coffee. Caffeine pops up everywhere - in cola, tea...even chocolate! It's one of the major factors in my getting IBS. I drank way too much diet coke and suddenly found I couldn't wear my Levi's for more than two minutes without dashing to a porcelain god.
Finally, remember that very few things work instantaneously. If you've been trying these tips for a week and nothing's happened, be patient. Small positive actions over time can be really beneficial. Until then, there's always your hot water bottle.
Have you got an IBS tips you could add? Do share them below!