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Multiple shopping carts filled with the same thing. The last one has a block of cheese added.

The Challenges of Food Shopping with IBS

There are so many aspects to IBS that make the “simple” things in life difficult. For instance, it’s commonly known that it is hard for many IBS sufferers to deal with symptoms while at work, school, and family/friend functions. However, it can be just as difficult, if not more, to manage symptoms while even food shopping at a supermarket. Being in the public is many times nerve-wracking because the possibility of dealing with an intense flare-up is pretty high, and needless to say, undesirable. The rollercoaster of emotions that we experience at the supermarket can easily be applied to other places and scenarios as well. Nonetheless, the supermarket is a common place that everyone goes to, but not everyone realizes that there are others who are having a hard time maneuvering through the store due to an invisible challenge.

Here are different scenarios (and personal experiences) that I feel make it challenging to go food shopping with IBS:

The anxiety

As I drive to the supermarket, I’m already starting to feel a bit of anxiety out of fear that the supermarket will be packed with lots of people. Thus, not only will it possibly make it harder and take longer for me to get through certain aisles, but staying in the aisle long enough to read the labels without being in someone else’s way makes me anxious. Let’s be honest, it is not always easy finding IBS-friendly food, unless I stick with the same old boring recipes that I know won’t trigger my IBS symptoms so much. Nonetheless, I finally pull into the parking lot, and little to my surprise, the parking lot is extremely full, and I can’t park close enough to the entrance for my convenience. I sit and think in the car for a few seconds: I can either tough it out and hope I won’t deal with a sudden urge to use the restroom, or, I can run back home. Well, what do I do? I let my anxiety get the best of me, turn the car back around, and make my way back home until next time.

The flare-up

I walk into the supermarket, grab a cart, and the first aisle I go to is the one with toilet paper and flushable wipes because those items are always my priority over everything else. Sometimes, I feel I much rather have toiletries over food any day, which doesn’t really make sense because if I don’t eat, there won’t be much coming out to use the toilet paper for anyway. Nonetheless, I then make my way to the dairy aisle for eggs, and so on and so forth – you get the gist. Well, before I can even make it halfway through my shopping list, I get a flare-up. I do my best to tough it out, so I keep walking through aisles to get what I need. A gas bubble stops me in my tracks and makes me hold on to the shopping cart like I’m holding on for dear life. As time keeps passing, the pain gets worse and worse. So, what do I do? I leave my cart half-filled with items in the aisle and run back out of the supermarket, into my car, and make my way home to my comfortable private bathroom. Why? Because my IBS pain can truly get that bad and intolerable, and I also don’t feel comfortable enough to use a public restroom.

The temptation

I normally like to go out for dinner right after work because that’s when I start getting hungry again. However, this time I decide to go to the supermarket right after work instead. I learned the hard way that it is not good idea to go food shopping on an empty stomach because the temptation of wanting to buy food that isn’t good for my condition, or overall health, is extremely challenging. What makes it more difficult and stressful is the fact that I get very tired of buying the same old boring food just because I know that it won’t greatly affect my IBS symptoms. My diet consists of eating the same or similar meals every week just to avoid having to be either on the toilet or in bed all the time. Nonetheless, sometimes I just want to break my diet and eat whatever I want because what’s life if you can’t enjoy it sometimes, right? So, what do I do? Fall into temptation and buy the ingredient for the cheesiest mac and cheese recipe I can find. Boy, that sure was a mistake!

My new normal

Since having IBS, I have realized I have to live my life a little different from the norm and in a way the best accommodates my condition. So, having anxiety, flare-ups, and temptation is all bad for IBS, but there are ways to deal with those things. For instance, I can ease my anxiety by going to the supermarket at a time when it is less busy (an hour before closing is my favorite time), so that I can take my time reading through labels if I need to. I can also lessen the risk of a flare-up while at the supermarket by grabbing the essentials first and shopping just a little at a time by extending the amount of times I go during the week. And, last but not least, I lessen the temptation by eating something light before I go to the supermarket because buying food on an empty stomach will possibly cause me to make poor food choices for my condition.

What are some of the challenges you face during grocery shopping trips? Please feel free to share your stories and tips on how you manage below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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