Despite having battled with IBS for many years and understanding my FODMAP triggers there are still bad days. What I have noticed is that when I am under either emotional stress or a time crunch my belly issues come back with a vengeance despite keeping my FODMAP bucket low. Stress can come in many forms whether it be bad or good. The holidays are a perfect example of stress, most of us enjoy the time spent celebrating with our friends and family, however, holiday travel, unpredictable holiday foods, and less down time = STRESS. My body has become pretty predictable in regards to my reaction to certain high FODMAP foods, however stress throws a curve ball into the mix.
When stress hits some of us turn to food while others skip meals or go too long without eating. Both of these behaviors often do not equal a happy belly. Eating too fast and not chewing you food well enough which is likely to occur when we feel rushed can impair digestion and contribute to IBS symptoms. I have noticed that both my clients and myself fair better with liquid based or easy to digest meals when stressed. Liquid and soft meals require less digestion and empty out of your stomach quickly which can help keep your tummy calm. Challenging as it can be skipping meals may make it harder to keep symptoms in control since this can promote overindulgence and rapid eating. Aiming for consistent meal times may be worth striving for. Personally, I try to replicate my weekday eating patterns on non work days since the lack of structure can make meal timing more challenging.
Mindful eating is key, try to make eating an event versus a passive activity. We live busy lives and many of us multitask all the time. Eating at your desk, in front of the television, or while driving are all forms of distracted eating. When we eat at a table slowly we have the opportunity to really enjoy our food and thrive with IBS. We all have time but many of us need to rethink how we allocate our time. Putting energy and making time for meal planning and the act of eating will be well worth the investment.
Some of my favorite liquid and easy to digest meals are low FODMAP smoothies, ProNourish is nice to keep on hand especially when away from the home, lactose free yogurt, lactose free cottage cheese, or a small unripe banana.
There is a strong connection between the gut and the brain, therefore practicing stress management skills is essential when suffering from IBS. Stress reducing strategies such as deep breathing, light exercise, meditation, walking, yoga, or even a hot bath all have calming elements which may help you better manage your IBS symptoms. A glass of wine may sound nice, however alcohol can be a gastrointestinal irritant and contribute to IBS symptoms. Turning to food is not an ideal approach or effective coping skill to deal with stress since it can result in unwanted weight gain. Learning non-food related coping skills such as the ones mentioned above will help improve your IBS and achieve a healthy weight.