An elimination diet helped me to take control of my IBS.
Often when people are diagnosed with a disease they appreciate it because it gives them a sense of being heard and knowing what is going on in their body and normally the doctor will have a specific treatment available. However, with IBS I find it to be disempowering, because it can mean such a wide range of things and there is often not a lot of help. I see many people come away with an IBS diagnosis none the wiser as to what is happening in their body or how to deal with it. An elimination diet did for me what a diagnosis does for others. It helped me find what was causing the majority of my symptoms and what to do to stop them from occurring – put simply – eliminate the offending foods.
Now I’m not saying that my food intolerances are the only triggers or contributing factors to my IBS but it certainly is a major one. Understanding that some of the foods that I had been eating were what was causing my bloating, pain and diarrhea and then being empowered to choose whether to eat them was life changing. Don’t get me wrong there are days when I don’t care and I eat them anyway… but I know what the consequences are.
This is a massive shift from the days of not knowing and being constantly frustrated with my body and upset because I didn’t know what to do. Being unable to leave the house or be comfortable traveling or going to a friend’s house. I now have more control and that is amazing.
Which elimination diet should you do?
There are so many different elimination diets out there now and I use different ones for different clients depending on their presenting symptoms. If you want to start somewhere though, I would suggest an initial elimination of gluten and dairy. These two foods are the most common intolerances I see and often go hand-in-hand, i.e. I don’t often see one without the other. This can be a much simpler start as it is not as restricting as many of the other elimination diets like FODMAPS and can be slightly less overwhelming. Though if you are the cereal with milk for breakfast, cheese and something sandwich for lunch and lasagne or cheesy pasta for dinner kind of person, this isn’t going to be easy, and will mean massive changes to your diet.
With any elimination diet, it is very important to be 100% strict with it and continue for a minimum of 30 days. Trigger foods can cause symptoms up to 72 hours after ingesting and even very small amounts can cause symptoms. So, a little cheat, while doing an elimination diet is a big deal. Once you have been strict and you are certain if the food is or isn’t a trigger, you can then decide to cheat as much as you want. The goal is to find out for sure, so cheating is not an option.
If you don’t see a full resolution of your symptoms or no reduction at all with removing gluten and dairy, then please see your health care professional for a more personalised elimination diet. Either way it can be a very empowering experience and allow you to take control of your symptoms.