Susan Hart: How to live with IBS

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Our resident nutrition coach Susan Hart explores what IBS is, and the dos and don’ts of living with it.

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome, otherwise known as IBS is a common condition that affects your digestive system.  It can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, trapped wind, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. These tend to come and go but can last from a few days to a month or more; making the impact on your everyday life difficult and frustrating.

Dietary and lifestyle changes can often help to control the symptoms and reduce its impact.

Some dietary dos and don’ts

  • Start by keeping a food diary and any symptoms that the food causes. It’s also worth noting down your emotional state i.e. stressed, tired, rushed, happy, angry, sad
  • Try and make more homemade meals. This doesn’t mean every meal has to be cooked from scratch, but use more fresh ingredients and less processed foods, ready meals or takeaways
  • Make any changes to your diet slowly and increase your water intake
  • Start to take a probiotic for a month to see if it improves your symptoms
  • Exercise or increased activity may help reduce the intensity of your symptoms
  • Learning to relax and de-stress could also aid your recovery. Try deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation,  being outdoors, listening to music or reading
  • Eat regularly, ideally every four hours. It doesn’t have to be a large meal, maybe a snack of nuts, an apple, some hummus and veggie sticks or a rice cake with whole-nut peanut butter
  • Don’t eat too quickly – mindful eating can be of benefit
  • High fat, spiced or processed foods can increase your symptoms
  • Too much tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods can also be detrimental
  • Try and limit you alcohol and fizzy drink intake

Foods to include and foods to limit

Depending on your symptoms, and a food diary will be key to pinpointing your triggers, it is important to increase or reduce certain foods.

  • Oats – these provide fibre and are prebiotic, meaning they provide food for the bacteria in your gut
  • 1 tablespoon of ground linseeds (also known as flaxseeds) a day.  Provide essential fatty acids and fibre
  • Peppermint oil or fresh mint tea
  • All  the above are great for easing bloating, trapped wind and tummy cramps
  • To ease constipation drink more water and increase your intake of soluble fibre from oats, linseeds, pulses, beetroot, prunes, potatoes and carrots
  • Following a FODMAP diet may be beneficial
  • Too many high fibre foods like wholegrains, nuts and seeds could be contributing to diarrhoea
  • Try and reduce your intake of the artificial sweetener sorbitol and hard to digest foods like cabbage, brussel sprouts, onions

Additional support

If you feel you need to make changes to your diet to help ease your symptoms consider contacting Susan Hart for a nutrition consultation or a cooking class.