1. Don’t rush meals
Symptoms of IBS such as stomach cramps and bloating are more likely to occur if you eat on the go than if you sit down for a meal. That’s because your body finds it easier to digest food when it is given the time to do so.
Also, if you are on the move you are less likely to spend time chewing which again can bring on IBS symptoms. Chewing breaks down food into manageable pieces and also alerts the stomach to the fact food will soon be arriving. Therefore, if you don’t chew properly then the digestive enzymes in the stomach will not have prepared for the food’s arrival and indigestion can become problematic.
So, my advice is sit down, don’t rush and sit up too – eating hunched over can cause acid reflux and burping. Once you’re in position, make sure you take time to chew your sandwich or banana - you should aim for around 20 chews for each mouthful.
2. Don’t eat processed foods
As well as focusing on how you eat, it’s also important to watch what you eat if you are suffering from IBS. Most processed foods are lacking in essential nutrients and minerals which makes them hard for the digestive system to process. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that processed foods can trigger IBS symptoms but, where possible, what exactly is it you should be avoiding?
- Snacks: crisps, rolls and bread, pies, pasties, biscuits, sweets, cakes
- Meat: sausage, bacon, ham, salami, pate
- Other: microwave meals, cereal, tinned vegetables
3. Don’t drink with meals
Most of us will pour a glass of something to accompany our dinner or lunch but this is another thing that’s best avoided if you suffer from IBS. Liquids can dilute the digestive juices making your food harder to process. Therefore, after drinking make sure you wait 20 minutes before eating again then, after a meal make sure you wait at least 45 minutes before drinking. If you do need a drink whilst you are eating though, make sure it is just a small glass.
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4. Don't eat trigger foods
As IBS varies so much from one individual to the next, the foods that trigger symptoms vary considerably too. To find out if a particular food is causing your symptoms I’d recommend you keep a symptoms diary for a couple of weeks as this will show if there is a link between what you are consuming and the severity of you symptoms. However, so that you know what to look out for, here are some foods that often cause problems for those with IBS:
- Gluten: wheat, rye, barley, couscous
- Lactose: milk, yogurts, cheese, cream
- Fermented foods: sauerkraut, yogurt, pickles
- Other: sugar, spicy foods
5. Don’t choose problematic drinks
What exactly is a problematic drink I hear you ask? Well, a flare up of IBS symptoms can most often be linked to alcohol, fizzy juice and caffeine. Gut bacteria can feed on the sugars within alcohol which allows them to thrive. This explains why the likes of beer and wine are so problematic but what is less clear however, is why caffeine brings on IBS symptoms. Some experts believe it is because these drinks stimulate the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response which takes attention away from the digestive processes.
I realize there are times when all you need is a coffee or a sugary snack to get you through an afternoon at work but if you give in to these things, be prepared for them to bring on your IBS symptoms. My advice would be to avoid these things as much as possible and if you are looking for some alternative drinks, have a look at my blog ‘drinks to help IBS’.
6. Don’t overeat
Ok, so you’re sitting down, you have a plate of food that won’t trigger your IBS and you’re taking your time to eat it slowly. Therefore, don’t ruin all these good things by then overeating – you’ve guessed it, it’ll only worsen your IBS. Symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, flatulence and acid reflux are all known to flare up when up when you eat a large lunch or dinner.
To help IBS, instead of opting for large meal it is best to spread your food consumption over the whole day. This does not mean you skip out any breakfasts, lunches or dinners, but instead you should simply cut down your portion size and snack on fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts if you get hungry in between times.
7. Don’t start eating mindlessly
Whether it’s a bar of chocolate in front your TV or a box of digestives with your cup of tea at work, we are all guilty of eating mindlessly from time to time. Not only can this cause you to eat too much though, in your anticipation of a sugary treat, you can also eat too quickly as well. All of this puts pressure on the digestive system which can result in IBS symptoms.
8. Don’t stress
Yes I know this is easier said than done but stress can be a major factor in the development of IBS so if you get this in check, you can keep your IBS in check too! If you are suffering from severe stress it's best you talk to someone about the situation as soon as possible, be it a friend, colleague or even your doctor – they’ll all be happy to help. For mild stress and anxiety though, you can turn to Stress Relief Daytime, our natural herbal remedy. This contains a mix of freshly harvested and organically grown Valerian and Hops which will help to soothe these unsettled feelings.
9. Don’t eat late at night
Another no-go for IBS sufferers is eating late at night because in the hours before you go to bed (and when you’re sleeping) your digestive system slows down to give itself time to rest. This means that if you eat before sleeping, you’re more likely to experience IBS symptoms because your digestive system is less able to cope with food. So, try to avoid food after 8pm and see if this helps your symptoms.
10. Don’t smoke
This one’s pretty straightforward because as well as causing problems for your lungs, heart, fertility, circulation, skin, bones, hair and nails, smoking can also worsen digestive problems like IBS.
Smoking can weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of your oesophagus and this causes acid from the stomach to travel in the wrong direction. The acid heads towards the gullet in a process known as acid reflux, just one of the many symptoms of IBS.
So, if you smoke read some advice from the NHS on how to give up now.
11. Don’t forget treatments!
Whatever your symptoms, there are a range of herbal remedies that can be used to address IBS.
If diarrhoea is particularly problematic for you then Tormentil could prove helpful as it calms erratic contractions of the gut to ease the problem. Diarrhoea is, after all, caused by fast and inconsistent contractions of the gut.
Another good option for those with IBS is Silicol gel which I have already recommended in many of my previous blogs. This soothes the gut and the walls of the intestine by providing a protective barrier in the digestive tract. This will help reduce a variety of symptoms including stomach cramps and acid reflux.
12. Remember your IBS survival kit!
Finally, IBS can often flare up when you’re out and about and that’s why I have put together a handy IBS survival kit. From hand sanitiser to IBS-friendly snacks, it lists everything you’ll need to help prevent the condition from disrupting your day-to-day life!