Figuring out how to manage your IBS symptoms may be tricky at first. You may have some ideas as to how to manage your symptoms through food – what foods are “safe”, and what foods will be triggers. Or, you may be totally confused and overwhelmed by all the information you find online and from talking to friends and family who suffer from their own experiences with IBS. You may be even more confused by your personal experiences with food, as some days, you can eat certain foods and be completely fine and then eat those same foods a different time and feel terrible.
If you’re struggling to figure out how to manage your IBS symptoms through food while still ensuring you’re getting the nutrition your body needs to stay healthy, you may want to think about consulting with a dietitian.
What’s a dietitian?
Dietitians are health and nutrition professionals who are trained to work with individuals to establish healthy eating habits that work for them. Dietitians always start by hearing their clients’ stories – every single person has a unique story, and there is no universal nutrition plan that can be used for everybody. Nutrition care plans must be individualized depending on medical history, symptoms, food allergies or intolerances, food preferences, cultural differences, physical activity, and work/social life. A dietitian will consider all of these factors when discussing how to make changes that will help you feel better.
A dietitian trained in IBS management will also help you to understand your diagnosis – what causes IBS, what’s happening in your gut when you eat certain foods, and how to best manage your symptoms long-term.
It is a dietitian’s responsibility to stay current with research and evidence in their field of practice to make sure their clients get the best and most up-to-date care possible. A dietitian will also provide nutrition education that is practical – the low FODMAP diet is hard and is often done incorrectly! Working with a dietitian can help you substitute the necessary foods in your diet to ensure you are still eating a tasty and nutritionally balanced diet. They will also guide you through the three stages of the FODMAP diet – elimination, reintroduction and continued gut health – to ensure you are fueling your body properly and getting the best results from the diet.
Managing IBS requires a well-rounded approach to health and well-being, which is described in more detail in my post about the Four Pillars of Health. Basically, it requires taking a good look at how your mental health, personal stressors and overall lifestyle is contributing to IBS symptoms and gut issues. A dietitian can help you work on stress management techniques and mindfulness, and will provide continued guidance throughout the entire symptom management process.
More than just food
I think often times, people believe a dietitian just does food. What I think makes us KEY PLAYERS in helping those with IBS is that we often work to coordinate care with other health providers (gastroenterologist, psychologist, family doctor, social worker, etc.). We understand a team approach is often required to get to the bottom of digestive issues – and know that evidence supports the use of a team in medical care to provide the most benefit.
I always encourage people, if they’re able to, to at least touch base with a dietitian when diagnosed with IBS. Your gastroenterologist or family physician may have one in their clinical network, or you can often find one through your province or state’s dietitian board. If seeing a dietitian one-on-one isn’t quite right for you – I always encourage people to check out blogs and informational sites where dietitians contribute, like IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, so that you get credible and accurate information.