Lifestyle Changes That Works for Me and My IBS
Last updated: September 2018
In this article, I would like to describe a few lifestyle changes that have helped me better manage my IBS symptoms. This is not to encourage folks to do what I do, but rather to inform those on what it takes for some IBS sufferers to be able to live and function in society with an invisible illness.
Working from home
I remember traveling to my past jobs with so much anxiety because I didn’t want to deal with my IBS symptoms around people I wasn’t comfortable enough with. I never felt at ease using workplace/public restrooms because it was difficult to trust the sanitary condition of the bathroom stalls (let’s just say I’ve seen some horrifying public restrooms in my time). I also tend to take a while in the bathroom which is something I can’t always help and can become awkward among coworkers that don’t know what I’m dealing with. Imagine your boss needing you to complete a task as soon as possible, but your IBS makes you use the toilet often and sometimes for long periods of time; it doesn’t leave a great impression. It can be very hard to be productive and living up to other people’s standards with IBS, so personally, working from home gives me the flexibility I need to both manage my symptoms and be able to work on my own schedule. I can use the bathroom as many times as I need to without fear of judgement. Even better, I can relax or take breaks when I need to because it’s important I keep my stress and anxiety to a minimum so that my IBS symptoms don’t flare up. I am extremely grateful to have established a work schedule that allows me to deal with my IBS by my own standards, and no one else’s.
It’s important to note that not all work-from-home jobs will give you the flexibility you need to deal with symptoms stress-free. However, it’s better than being at a workplace dealing with random flare-ups, or having to explain to coworkers why you are making so many bathroom visits.
Eating what works for me
Over the years, I have learned as an IBS sufferer that when it comes to diet I should avoid eating out as often as possible because 9 times out of 10 outside food will contain ingredients that trigger my IBS symptoms. So, what has actually been working for me is cooking the majority of my own food, avoiding gluten and dairy products as much as possible, and sticking to a low carb diet. For instance, eating a lot of raw green vegetables in a salad with minimal dressing and a side of meat or fish is what I consider the “best meal” for my IBS because I deal with the least consequences after consumption. Also, only eating two to three meals a day (only one of them having a carb side), chewing my food excessively, and making sure my portions are small but still satisfying is important because it allows my body to digest the food properly. In addition, I have been avoiding sugary drinks, such as juice and soda, which fortunately has minimized the number of flare ups I deal with now. Therefore, I on a normal day I just drink water and coffee (1-2 max servings per day for the coffee). Following this diet regimen has worked well for me, but I still have my non-diet related flare ups to worry about.
Surrounding myself with supportive people
Constantly being in a positive, supportive, and encouraging environment makes a huge difference on how often I deal with my IBS symptoms. For instance, my wife is very understanding of my condition, so she doesn’t make me feel guilty when I need to relax when while dealing with pain. She also encourages me to do the best that I can and not hold myself at fault if I don’t feel well enough to push myself beyond the pain or exhaustion IBS leaves me with. My wife and I have created a very positive environment in our home where we do our best to keep stress to a very minimum. It’s even better now that I work from home because I can live my life without as much anxiety as I had before, and I’m allowed to deal with my IBS on my own terms.
What lifestyle changes have you made that have helped you better manage your IBS symptoms? Please feel free to share in the comment section below.
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?