Anyone who's ever experienced the pains of irritable bowel syndrome will know that the bloating blues are the actual worst. What with persistent tummy ache, constipation and tiredness, IBS is a condition that's physically limiting, not to mention tricky to bring up in conversation.
Once you've been diagnosed though, it's important to get your symptoms under control. And when it comes to figuring out a management plan that works for you, nutritional health coach and author of A Year of Beautiful Eating!, Madeleine Shaw knows a thing or two about the condition.
With the launch of Madeleine and dietician Laura Tilt's 12-week online programme , you can find out all you need to know about managing your IBS, helping you to implement changes into your everyday life through switching up your mindset, movement and meals.
Read ahead for Madeleine's personal IBS story and her top tips for becoming a happier, healthier you...
"I was diagnosed with IBS aged 21. I didn't know what it was or what to do with the information. I looked like I was pregnant even though I wasn't. I was miserable and needed a change. This was the rock bottom moment that made me start to look at what I ate and my eternal lifestyle.
I started seeing a naturopath who turned my diet around and I became obsessed with cooking and helping manage my symptoms. There is so much information out now about gut health, but as I've learnt from personal experience, foods that are good for gut health aren't always good for IBS. I was smashing kombucha and fermented foods and feeling awful - I didn't understand why this was happening to me.
I met dietician Laura Tilt last year and she explained IBS to me in such simple terms. Through my years of suffering and knowledge in food and wellness, and her expert clinal experience, we created Happy Gut Guide. There is so much misinformation out there and 1 in 7 of the population suffer. We wanted to share how to manage it properly.
The program is 12 weeks long and holds your hand through how to eat, what to eat, what type of IBS you have and how to manage it. We look at how stress affects the gut and give you 12 different self-management tools. There are also free meditations, yoga classes and live weekly calls with both Laura and I, so you can ask us anything.
We want to empower you to know what triggers your IBS, how to manage it and how to live bloat-free."
Top tips for managing your IBS:
Visit your G.P. first
Tempting as it is to self-diagnose (yep, we’ve all visited Dr. Google), it’s important to make sure your symptoms are down to IBS, because bloating, tummy pain or a change in your poo can be a sign of other conditions including coeliac disease and Crohn’s.
A visit to your G.P. and a simple blood test will help to determine whether it is IBS, helping to get you on the right path to managing your symptoms. Don’t fret about discussing poo with your G.P. – we promise they’ve heard it all before. If you can, take a symptom diary to help explain what you’re experiencing.
Get to know your IBS
Not all IBS is the same - different types require different treatments. Knowing your type will help you manage your symptoms more effectively.
IBS-C (constipation) describes tummy pain and infrequent (less than 3 times a week), hard or lumpy poos. IBS-D (diarrhoea) is tummy pain with loose and watery poos. If your poo alternates between the two, you’re in the IBS-M (mixed) camp.
Make the caffeine switch
If your latte habit is stronger than Arnie’s bicep, it’s time for a rethink. Caffeine is a natural laxative and can aggravate IBS-D and heartburn. Stick to no more than 2 caffeinated drinks per day (tea, coffee, cola), and swap in caffeine free options like rooibos, peppermint or lemon and ginger.
Adjust your alcohol intake
Boozy nights might be fun but they can worsen tummy pain, cause changes in gut bacteria and trigger loose stools. A max of 1-2 drinks at a time is advised, with 1-2 booze free nights a week – good for your belly, good for your body.
Change your fibre intake
Fibre helps us poo – but for people with IBS it isn’t always helpful. Eating lots more fibre can make gas worse, so choosing the right sort is important.
If you have IBS-C, upping some types of fibre intake can help. Try oats for breakfast, snack on fruits (bananas, berries, kiwi, oranges and pineapple are IBS-friendly) or supplement with linseeds (up to 2 tbsp. per day). If you are increasing your fibre intake, do so slowly over the space of a few weeks and make sure you drink plenty of water - without water, fibre can’t do its job.
If on the other diarrhoea is the issue, reducing your fibre intake can help – choose lower fibre cereals (this might means switching to white pasta and rice), reducing fibre from beans and raw veggies, and avoiding skins, pips, and peels.
Swap gassy veggies
Hummus, beans, peas lentils and other veggies (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and onions) tend to produce lots of gas, which can cause bloating and pain for people with IBS.
Have smaller portions of these veggies, and add in less windy alternatives like spinach, kale, carrots and Mediterranean veg - tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes.
Learn to manage stress
Stress doesn’t just frazzle brains; it can also play havoc with digestion, as stress hormones are picked up by your tummy, and can trigger IBS-symptoms, which means that tackling diet alone may not provide you with the relief you are looking for. Build in time to relax each day - yoga and mindfulness have both been shown to have a positive effect on IBS symptoms.