alt=two oven mitts holding a steaming casserole. A man looks panicked.

Community Views: IBS and Summer Barbecues

One hallmark of summer is gathering with friends for a backyard barbecue. Ribs, chicken, burgers, brats, potato salad, ice cream – these are the foods that often epitomize summer. But when you live with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), barbecues often create feelings of dread, not excitement. Managing your symptoms when you cannot control the food, the spices, the “secret ingredients” that could send you into a flare is anxiety-inducing.

To commiserate with the many feelings that arise with a barbecue invitation, we recently asked members of our Facebook community to tell us: “What is your first thought when someone invites you to a barbecue?”

Your responses highlight the challenges and workarounds you find for cookouts.

Where is the bathroom?

The most frequent responses to this prompt were comments about bathrooms. With IBS, knowing the bathroom location and ensuring you have easy access to it is foremost in your mind.

“How many toilets are there, and how far are they from the garden?”

“How many people are coming vs. how many bathrooms are available.”

“Panic. Where is the bathroom, and is there more than 1?”

a man looking panicked.

Food choices

Preparing to navigate food choices at a barbecue creates feelings of panic for many of you. You worry about what foods might set off your IBS symptoms. Accepting an invitation means planning ahead, deciding how best to eat, and bringing a few foods you know are safe.

“What can I eat there, and will I have problems from what I eat?”

“I usually bring a dish or item I can eat.”

“That looks so good, but I will not be able to eat it.”

“I’ll eat beforehand.”

two oven mitts holding a steaming casserole.

Saying no

The stress of trying to eat and manage IBS at a barbecue is often more than many of you feel you can handle. You prefer to say no rather than risk putting your body through the agony of an IBS flare. When you cannot guarantee hosts observing your dietary restrictions, it is easier to say no.

“So, I have to go to the BBQ????”

“What will my excuse be not to go?”

“I don’t go anymore. They ask what you can have and then don’t have it, or what spices to avoid and then brag about using them anyway because ‘you’re not sick yet.’ Family should know better.”

“I’m busy, but thank you for the invite.”

a text message conversation with lots of food emojis.

Taking meds ahead of time

For those who do attend the barbecue, taking medicine along is a must. Preventing possible symptoms is an essential item for enjoying the party.

“Take my Imodium beforehand and eat blandly.”

“What tablets I need to take before setting off.”

“Take Prevacid and have a good time.”

a hand holding pills over an open box of Imodium.

What can I bring?

In addition to considering your IBS symptoms, many of you look forward to preparing your favorite dish to share with friends.

“I’ll bring the coleslaw! It’s the best!”

“Take the baked beans!”

“I would happily accept the invitation and suggest making the side dishes. My potato and quinoa salad are delicious.”

“I will make dessert!”

a chocolate cake with strawberries on top.

Share your experiences

We appreciate everyone who took the time to share your responses to summer barbecues. Living with IBS is difficult. Sharing the challenges helps everyone feel less alone.

How about you? Have you turned down an invite to join a barbecue because of IBS? Did you go and set boundaries? Share in the comments below or visit our forums.

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