If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) you are NOT alone. To do our part in helping spread further awareness about IBS during April’s IBS Awareness Month, we are sharing different stories of various individuals who have IBS.
What symptoms do you experience with IBS?
I generally know I’m experiencing a bout of IBS related symptoms when my stomach is bloated and I become immensely windy – and without wanting to sound crude, I feel like I need a huge poo to get me back on track (this of course doesn’t happen for a fair few days!). This then has a knock on effect to lower back pain (literally right behind my abdomen). Then with the pain I feel irritable, which then has a knock on effect to poor mental health. These symptoms together then have the power to perpetuate and keep the cycle moving – I think it’s the stress element that kicks in, ties my tummy back in to knots and sets the whole thing off again!
What has been the hardest challenge with IBS?
Managing myself with three kids and a husband in tow. My husband travels away for work A LOT, he has done since way before kids, leaving me as the sole carer for the kids, juggling everything they do, maintaining the house and generally keeping things ticking along. I have total admiration for single parents for going it solo full time! And just when we find our chi, he comes back tipping our balance! I’ve had to learn to relax around his constant coming and goings, but it’s still hard, particularly when we have a longer stint of time living in harmony together.
What has having IBS taught you?
To slow down and be in the moment – there’s nothing more important than just enjoying life! It sounds so cliche but I spent much of my formative years working my arse off, trying to be the best, trying to earn the most – it was good to begin with but left me feeling pretty empty by the time I reached my 30’s. I’m not surprised I’m an IBS suffer, I can’t begin to imagine the damage I caused to my insides just by living my life at such a ridiculous rate.
Having my three children was the beginning to me understanding there is a different way to live, and accept my IBS diagnosis.
Life is for living and enjoying and for me that really can’t be done if you’re forever rushing around, panicking or competing. As much as I wish I didn’t have IBS, I’m also grateful for it in a small way for making me stop, reevaluate and choose a different path.
How do you manage having IBS on a daily basis?
I begin my day with Symprove, a prebiotic to help keep my bacteria balanced followed by a nice big jar of turmeric overnight soaked oats with almond milk topped with some homemade nutty granola and some fresh fruit – my current favourite is a big spoonful of rhubarb gently poached with some blood orange. I find the combination of oats with the nuts brilliant for my digestive system and it gives me bundles of slow releasing energy to keep me going throughout the morning.
I generally do some kind of exercise post dropping the kids off at school – whether that be a gentle cycle in to town, a swim, a run along the beach or a spin class at the gym. It helps me feel alive and keeps my wandering mind in check!
Then back home to get creative in the kitchen – I love food and despite my looong list of dietary requirements, I’m discovering more food now than ever! I’ve learnt there are some foods I can tolerate during the day, but not in the evening, rice and potatoes being the main ones, so lunch for me may be a quick rice poke style bowl with a whatever I have lying around the fridge, a simple jacket potato with feta (I generally avoid lactose, it’s a big OBS irritant for me, but I do find some cheeses okay), olives and pesto (wild garlic is my current fave!), or baked eggs. I do eat bread, but only gluten free options or sourdough spelt, so on very lazy days I’m happy with packed eggs, and smashed avo on toast.
Evening meal prep is a big one for me, without thinking about it before picking the kids up from school, I’m stuck. To help me out, I generally batch make a few things at the beginning of the week, whether it be a pesto, Vietnamese dressing or peanut sauce as well as some roasted veg like peppers and squash and crispy kale or pre soaking some green lentils. It then makes assembling an evening meal so much easier, once the kids are home my brain can just about deal with choosing between rice noodles, quinoa or gluten free pasta 😂
I try and keep my alcohol intake to a minimum, so I have taken to drinking Seedlip (alcohol free gin) and tonic or cold brewing some tea and topping it up with tonic just to give me that ‘evening treat’. If we’re enjoying a night out, I want to join in (I’m only human!), so generally stick with spirits, and not too many of them!
What’s your one “pro-tip” for living with IBS?
Don’t give yourself a hard time if symptoms flare up, we all have good and bad days, but feeling bad will make those bad days even worse. Give in and just let it go!
What do you wish people knew more about with regards to IBS?
IBS is more then just having a stomach ache, it can affect your whole life (and anyone close to you!). Those with IBS will already know that tweaking your diet will help, but to me it’s much more than just managing my diet. Without my full holistic wellbeing being in tune, I really struggle! To keep on top of things a good balance between body (exercise and diet) and mind goes a long way.