Eating Out Safely With IBS
Suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) does not necessarily mean that we can never eat out at a restaurant or socialize over food with friends and family. Sure, sometimes it can be challenging, but the secret is to be prepared. By planning the outing carefully most people should be able to have a positive experience.
As a long-time IBS sufferer, I would like to offer you some tips that I follow myself and can make eating out a less stressful event.
Know your IBS triggers
As we are all individuals, with our IBS triggers, it is safer to know our own limits before venturing to a new restaurant.
It is not an all-or-nothing situation, as some sufferers are particularly sensitive to a food type, while others are ok to have a small quantity.
It may not be very useful to give you a whole list of IBS-friendly food and say, "there you go if you eat these you will be fine." Unfortunately, it does not work like that with IBS as even ‘safe’ foods could trigger the symptoms if you have a bit too much.
For those who have already gone through the low FODMAP diet elimination and reintroduction phases, you should know what your trigger foods are and at which quantity.
Research the restaurant
These days most restaurants have their menus on their website so that you can find out in advance if there are any low FODMAP options available. Compared to seven years ago, when I was diagnosed, food businesses have become more aware of various food intolerances and sensitivities and the majority will be happy to help you out with ingredients substitution or alternative safe options.
Do not hesitate to call up the restaurant in advance to discuss your food requirements.
Remember these tips when ordering
You should not be afraid to ask the waiter if certain trigger ingredients could be in the meal, something that I have noticed is that many vegetarian dishes seem to skip mushrooms in the list of ingredients. Always ask if they are happy to swap some of the unsafe ingredients for safe ones.
If a meal comes with a sauce or a salad with dressing, with unsure ingredients, just ask them on a side. You could also ask the wait staff to dress your salad with a pinch of salt and pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon or safe vinegar. Very simple and very tasty.
Although not a FODMAP issue, fatty foods, in general, can be an IBS trigger and so it’s alcohol.
If you are not sure
If all the options on the menu contain too many trigger ingredients, keep it very basic and kindly ask the waiter, if possible, to prepare some grilled chicken, steak, or fish.
Make sure that they will not add any marinade/sauce or spices, as they may contain things like onion or garlic powders.
As a side dish rice will be suitable or a simple lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber salad with a suitable dressing.
Alternatively, low FODMAP steamed vegetables could also be a good option.
Stress is also a trigger
Remember, stress and anxiety can also cause an IBS flare-up.
My last tip is to plan your outing, and then relax, try to have a good time, and enjoy the company of your family and/or friends.
Have you tried eating smaller portions to manage symptoms?