From regular issues with constipation or diarrhoea to uncomfortable wind and bloating – IBS can blight your life and your social life and make you worry you’re never too far from a toilet. Stress can also considerably worsen it.
Dr Sunni Patel’s first strategy for dealing with it is that you should keep a diary. “This will help when you speak to your doctor to get a diagnosis or manage the condition if you have already been diagnosed.” He suggests recording what you are eating and drinking every day as well as symptoms and severity – toilet habits, pain, bloating and mood. “This will help you identify what common symptoms you have, how often, what may trigger the symptoms, as well as how long it lasts,” he says.
Secondly, he advises eating creatively, and cooking ingredients in a fun way whilst maintaining a good balanced diet. “Add more plant points gradually to your meals with brightly coloured vegetables, as well as fruits like berries that will still benefit your health in several ways.” He says. Despite having IBS you can meet the essential needs of your body and avoid long-term health issues. “Make sure you eat foods rich in sources of antioxidants, polyphenols and flavonoids.”
Add sources of prebiotics (a fuel source for gut bacteria) and probiotics (live bacteria themselves) into your diet to help support gut health and maintain a balance of good gut bacteria. “Foods like oats, bananas and artichokes that are rich in prebiotics and resistant starch as well as other low FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides and polyols) foods like tofu, pak choi and carrots to name a few, will still provide the necessary micronutrients essential for good overall health as well as an abundance of variety, textures and flavours to your diet.” Dr Sunni says. Try meals such as noodle soups and stir-fries or simply add herbs to heighten flavours and antioxidants – your meals needn’t be bland.
Foods to avoid when suffering from IBS include FODMAPs - which are carbohydrates that ferment in the gut, create surplus fluid and create an imbalance in bacteria (promoting the growth of the unhealthy ones that worsen IBS symptoms). “Foods like cauliflower, broccoli, beans, garlic and onions to list a few, can be irritating to the gut for those with IBS but can be substituted with things like garlic oil, spring onion tops and other vegetables with the support of a qualified professional and the likes of the MONASH food app,” continues Dr Sunni. Once you have your IBS under control and know your triggers, you can slowly start reintroducing foods carefully, so that your diet is not so restricted. Also look at reducing foods that are oily, spicy or full of artificial sugars as they are known to be typical triggers for those with IBS. Avoid fried foods and try baking, grilling or even air-frying to still get that satisfactory crunch and texture to your food.
Last but not least, look at your lifestyle generally as well as diet, advises Dr Sunni. Triggers like stress and tiredness can worsen symptoms. Make sure you are sleeping 6-8 hours a night and getting 15-30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. What’s more look into stress management practices such as mindfulness, meditation, journaling, gratitude and affirmations. Hydration is also key – “try drinking kombucha, kefir water or plain water flavoured with fruits and herbs and aim for 2-3 litres per day.”
Dr Sunni’s website www.dishdashdeets.com has further information on his tried and tested methods.