2 women dining at a table

How To Eat Out With Friends When You Have IBS

So you’ve been invited out for dinner with friends, or you’re organizing a family gathering, or you need to arrange a team lunch with work colleagues but you’re dreading the prospect of eating out. Being mindful of what you cook and prepare can be an ongoing struggle with IBS. But eating out can be particularly difficult.

What do you say to the people you are going out with? Will there be a sound proof toilet? Will the waiter understand what low FODMAP means? If you find it difficult to eat out with friends or family, then try these tips and see if you can venture out a little more.

Research venues

If the choice of venue is flexible, then ensure you do your research on a number of different suitable places, including the menu, the location and if diarrhea is your predominant symptom, the toilet situation. Read the menu online, or drop by the restaurant and ask to take a look, check out reviews of the website on various apps, websites and social media to ensure your needs are met, but also not restricting for everyone else’s needs.

If the venue has already been decided, then do your research on that place and if you can’t eat anything on the menu, eat before you go and then follow Steps 3 and 4.

How to communicate with your friends/family/colleagues

You may not want everyone know that you get diarrhea immediately after drinking milk, or that your belly will blow up like a balloon if you eat bread, but it is important to communicate your needs and also to provide options.

After doing the research settle on two to three different venue options that can cater to your needs, even if it’s only one meal from the menu. Then let people know that you’ve found these fantastic venues and let them choose which one they prefer. That way you are not making the entire event about your condition, but you still know that any choice will be suitable for you.

How to communicate with the wait staff

If a dish on the menu contains most but not all of the ingredients you can eat, then mention to the wait staff that you have an intolerance to that ingredient and ask whether it can be removed. Be wary about saying you have an allergy if you don’t actually have one, particularly to something like peanuts because you may send the wait staff into a flurry checking with the kitchen staff who could then be reluctant to serve you anything that might cause a serious allergic reaction.

It can also be confusing if you say you have an intolerance to high amounts of oligosaccharides and fructans and may be better to say that you have a gluten intolerance or that you have trouble digesting gluten. Most gluten containing foods will be high in these carbohydrates and most staff will understand a gluten intolerance and find a way to be accommodating.

If all else fails, just choose a few small dishes, like steamed vegetables, or ask for a plain salad with the dressing on the side.

After dinner difficulties

If you suffer from diarrhea predominant IBS and you suspect you have consumed something that will set you off, it’s ok to explain to your friends or family that you aren’t feeling well and you may have eaten something that you’re having trouble digesting. Then politely get out of there as soon as possible! Whether it’s home or to that public toilet you know so well, remember it’s ok to leave early.

If you know that you ate something that you shouldn’t have but you ate it because you just wanted to feel normal for a night, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ll have to put up with the side effects on that occasion but perhaps try to make a mental note of what happened in case you feel like doing it again next time!

It can be easier to just stay at home and not get out, but socializing and having fun is important for good health. So you may just need to tweak things to your advantage, and that’s ok.

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