How I Survive IBS - 4 Easy Steps

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or known by its common name IBS is not the worst but definitely not an easy medical problem to live with. IBS is when due to stress, nerves, or foods to high in a certain aspects like fiber or acid cause uncomfortable painful stomach aches, diarrhea, constipation or other unpleasant digestion issues. 2.5 years ago I started to develop IBS and quickly became frustrated with it and it's control over my life. From first dates to Thanksgiving holidays certain foods for absolutely no reason would have me laying on the couch or crouched on the floor hugging my stomach. I would rock back and forth slightly in my bed as I begged the pepto or whatever else I had tried to relieve the pressure in my stomach. Sometimes it would come as a cramping or a rolling pain other times like outrageous bloating, the whole "poke me with a fork" quite literally played through my head. I am not one to give up easily on these things and when I started to suffer I did everything in my power to figure it out. Once I had ruled out crazy outcomes (thank you WebMD) like stomach cancer I moved onto the doctor. The doctor prescribed me a pill that was supposed to help with the pain, I was told to take 1 or 2 based on pain the moment it started hurting. This worked a little but really didn't help much and I was growing more and more depressed about it by the day. He then recommended a colonoscopy which i figured could help but all my research just told me that the $700 dollar procedure wouldn't be worth it at my age. So I soon realized there would be no magical pill to fix this. There is nothing worse than being out with friends and your nervous to pick something off the menu because you don't know how it'll go over in your stomach. There is nothing worse and I've been there, then when you're out having a good time and your stomach takes a turn for the worst and you're far from home. Having been through the ups and downs of IBS I finally figured out the easy 4 steps anyone can take to find their peace and survive IBS.

1.) Food Diary - Once it got to the point where I couldn't even eat rice without upsetting my stomach I dialed it as far back as I could. The first morning I had toast with peanut butter....a half hour later my stomach hurt....I realized I shouldn't have added the peanut butter but it's a learning process right?! So once that passed I waited and had a gluten free, dairy free bowl of chicken noodle soup for lunch. No pain, I felt completely fine. I wrote that down and kept on going until slowly and surely I figured out what I could and could not have.

To see what I can and can't eat click here maybe it's similar to yours. I am sure that at one point or another you have looked up the FODMAP, this map tells you what foods are scientifically known to upset IBS sufferers, I found it true in some sense but also not true in other. See the FODMAP here. 

2.) Ease up on the stress. Now I know this may not seem possible (at this time in my life I was working way too hard, way too stressed and way too many hours and it seemed impossible to decrease any of it. I was right out of college in my first job and I found myself running to the bathroom more times than I wish to admit after eating simple things like sweet potato, apple slices, and a sandwhiches with a tiny pieces of lettuce. At this point I felt broken but research told me the stress I was under wasn't doing anything positive at all for my gut.) So I made my move to quit. Now, I didn't quit right away but I started planning for it, applying for new jobs and setting that as my end goal. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. In doing this I had already decreased some of my stress. Try to set small goals and find small joys and places to take a break. If the job you are in is hurting you that much to where eating is difficult I think it should be a priority to get out and find something healthier. If you need help identifying the stressors in your life click here to see an exercise to help with that. 

3.) Eliminate Hot Coffee - This was such a huge reason that my stomach is better now than it ever has been. Hot Coffee is packed with high acidity and for people with IBS and sensitive stomachs it doesn't do anything good for your gut. The day I quit drinking coffee (was not easy) but I felt the improvement in my stomach almost immediately. By the end of the first week my stomach was handling food in a way it hadn't in months. After 8 months of no coffee I learned through a barista at a local coffee shop that cold brew has 1/10th the acidity of a hot brewed cup and with that I was able to reintroduce it into my mornings! Yay! Too learn the health benefits of Cold Brew and the brands that work best for my stomach click here

4.) Add probiotics to your daily meals. Whether it's a small pill, I found the best results with (Pearls) or drinking Kombucha type drinks with live probiotics. When I found myself nervous about an eating experience at a restaurant, out with friends or at a family gathering I would prepare myself and bring a Kombucha with me. Casually while I eat a meal I'll sip on the Kombucha and I find that the live probiotics help the food digest better and I'll feel no pain.

I hope these help you find your peace with IBS. It's not fun but there are ways to help our guts and in turn help ourselves have a much better life. It all comes down to listening more intently to our bodies and how they are reacting to the environments we put them in.  

-Sierra