When your IBS flares up, it can leave you feeling very uncomfortable. For me, it often presents as nausea, bloating and a lot of abdominal pressure – that’s when my IBS has also triggered constipation. But at other times, when my IBS has triggered diarrhea, I get a feeling of hollowness in my abdomen, as if it’s completely empty and desperately needs filling, and major cramping.
But even if your belly isn’t feeling the best, it doesn’t always stop your body from seeking nourishment. Managing that uncomfortable feeling with the desire to eat food can be tough because you need to make sure that any food you eat won’t make your symptoms worse.
What I do when I don’t feel like eating much
If the nausea and bloating stops me from feeling hungry and I have no desire to eat, I’ll happily skip a meal or two. I let my hunger call the shots rather than the time of day. Since I’ll normally be a little be hungry, yet I know that eating too much can make it worse, I stick to nibbling on small meals.
My most common choice is a piece of toast with a smear of peanut butter or jam. This goes down quite easily for me and the bread fills me up. Bread is also a good source of energy and keeps me functioning so I can get on with my day. I do have to make sure the bread is low FODMAP though, otherwise it would aggravate my belly further.
Another common choice for me is a small bowl of cooked brown rice. I keep a stash in the freezer that I can microwave so it’s defrosted and warm in minutes. I normally add a dash of tamari or soy sauce to make it more interesting, but otherwise keep it plain.
What I do when I’m very hungry
The flipside is when I’m feeling ravenous but still very delicate. At those times I’ll eat more food but still need to be very careful so I don’t make my symptoms worse. For me, that means making sure my choices are low FODMAP.
My most common choice for a filling meal that won’t upset my belly is eggs – scrambled, boiled or fried – served with toast. Sometimes I like to make eggs in bread, where I cut holes in the slices of bread and fry the eggs within it, or French toast (eggy bread). Occasionally I’ll toss some veggies in, but not a priority.
My other default choice when I need filling up is a bowl of porridge, made from rolled oats (oatmeal), almond milk and a little sugar, occasionally with a little dried fruit. This sits very well in my belly and fills it right up. While porridge is a breakfast food, I’ll eat it at any meal of the day if it’s what I think will work best. So yes, even for dinner!
But how do I make sure I’m getting enough nutrients?
I know that my food choices when I’m not feeling great aren’t nutritionally balanced – they’re mostly carbohydrates or eggs – but that doesn’t bother me.
The bread I eat is a multigrain bread, and the brown rice and rolled oats are wholegrains, which means they’re a good source of energy and fibre. And eggs are loaded with protein, vitamins and minerals, so are good choices too.
While I won’t be getting my full complement of vegetables, fruit or other healthy foods in those meals, it doesn’t really matter that much. So long as it balances out over a week or so, it’s okay. So as soon as my symptoms have settled back down, I get stuck into the fruit and veggies once again and make up for what I didn’t eat while I was letting my tummy rest.