This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing; woman with her head down grabbing her hair in frustration

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing

Hands up if you’ve ever felt stressed or overwhelmed before?

(Pretty sure you should have your hand up right now!)


Stress is a normal part of life, but large amounts of it, or long-term, chronic stress can start having an impact on our health.


And often, stress is the reason why you’re struggling to find the pattern to your digestive symptoms.
⁠ Stress is a huge trigger when it comes to your digestion. I would maybe even go so far to say that it’s the number one trigger!

It might be why one week a meal can be perfectly fine, and the next week the exact same food ends up in a whole lot of discomfort.

What types of stress can affect your digestion?

When we think about types of stress, we often overlook or downplay the importance of certain areas. Things like deadlines, finances, relationship troubles probably come to mind immediately, but they are just the tip of the iceberg really.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, below I’ve summarized some of the big categories of stress with examples.

 

Physical stressors:

  • Over-exercising
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor sleep (quality and/or quantity)
  • Injury or illness, surgery

Chemical stressors:

  • Allergens (whether food-related or otherwise)
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Drugs

Sensory stressors:

  • Bright lights or chaotic colours
  • Loud noises
  • Crowded or cluttered spaces
  • Strong scents

Psychological:

  • Deadlines
  • Traffic jams
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Worrying about digestive issues
This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing; man pouring coffee from one cup to another, the second overflowing and spilling over his hand

How can stress management help with digestion?

So now that you have an idea about what types of things might be causing stress on your body, let’s look at two angles to consider stress management itself:

  1. How big is your bucket – aka how resilient are you to stress? How effective are you at dealing with and recovering from it?
  2. How full is your bucket – aka how much stress are you under? What areas can you identify to decrease the total amount of stress hitting you?

Most of the time, when we talk about stress management, we focus on tactics that build resiliency. How can we make our bucket bigger and therefore manage the ever growing list of stressors we are collecting?

These are actions and habits that you have that reduce the overwhelming feeling of stress or help you increase the size of your bucket so that it takes more stress to even make you hit that feeling in the first place.

This way of viewing stress and digestion is game changing; pink background with an alarm clock, calendar, and pencil on top

What activities can help build stress resilience?

Often these are activities that feel relaxing or recharging in some way. Everyone is going to be different, so just because something works for your friend or family member doesn’t mean that you will find it relaxing or refreshing.

If you’re unsure if something is truly helping you reduce the feelings of stress and overwhelm, note down before and after the activity the number (between 1 and 10) that reflects your feelings of stress at that moment. If your number is higher or the same afterwards, then maybe that activity isn’t for you!

 

Some examples of activities to build stress resilience:

  • Meditating / breathing exercises
  • Journaling
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Getting a massage
  • Going to the spa or spending time pampering yourself
  • Exercising
  • Being in nature
  • Yoga or stretching
  • Talking to a friend
  • Snuggling a pet
  • Reading a book
  • Having sex (with a partner or alone!)
  • Shopping
  • Watching a TV show or movie
  • Listening to music
  • Laughing
  • Doing something creative
  • Gardening
  • Cooking

⁠Focusing on stress-relieving activities is a great approach, but don’t completely overlook ways to also decrease the total amount of stress you’re subjected to.

If you’re not sure where to start with this, why not book a free breakthrough session with me and I’ll share with you my 4-step process for evaluating and reducing the stressors in your life!

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How does the menstrual cycle affect your digestive symptoms?

How does the menstrual cycle affect your digestive symptoms?

How does the menstrual cycle affect your digestive symptoms; woman with red hair holding a calendar with the days of her menstrual cycle marked

How does the menstrual cycle affect your digestive symptoms?

 This post is for general information purposes only, is not meant to diagnose or treat, and is in no way a replacement for consulting a medical professional.

To understand how can the menstrual cycle affect your digestive symptoms we need to first take a step back and review the cycle on its own. What hormones are involved, and how these hormones change throughout the month and what that could mean for your digestive system.

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers in our body. They are secreted into the bloodstream and are brought to the organs and tissues where they signal for a change to take place. Only a small amount is needed for a big impact, and even a small excess or deficiency can cause issues in the body.

There are different types of hormones, from ones that are part of the digestive process, to hormones responsible for regulating growth, to those involved in sexual function.

When we think about sex hormones involved in menstruation, we mostly think about estrogen and progesterone, and this is where the bulk of research on digestive issues like bloating, cramps, and irritiable bowel syndrome has focused on thus far. However, there are several other hormones also at play during the menstrual cycle.

 

The menstrual cycle basics

Different sources may group the phases of the menstrual cycle in different ways, but here we are going to look at 4 different phases of the cycle. Average cycle length can vary, while 28 days tends to be referred to as the standard, it can range from 26 to 36 days. (If you’re far outside of this range, definitely bring it up with your primary care physician.)

 

Phase 1: Menstruation

The first phase, starting on Day, 1 is your first day of menstruation (your period). Estrogen and progesterone levels drop which is what triggers your uterus to shed the lining, or the endometrium.

 

Phase 2: Follicular Phase

The drop in these hormone levels also triggers other hormone changes, like follicle stimulating hormone, to start to be released. This hormone, true to its name, stimulates the follicles in your ovaries to start getting an egg ready. Around Day 8 estrogen begins to rise again which stimulates the thickening of your uterine lining. Shortly after, testosterone also rises (elevating your libido).

 

Phase 3: Ovulation

Estrogen levels spike around Days 12-14 and trigger luteinizing hormone to be released. This is the start of ovulation, when the ovaries release the egg. The egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus where it is either fertilized by sperm and implants in the lining or will dissolve and pass out of the body during menstruation.

 

Phase 4: Luteal Phase

The follicle in the ovary, that once contained the egg, now releases progesterone and estrogen. This tells your body to prepare for pregnancy. While estrogen was dominant during the first half of the cycle until ovulation, now progesterone is the dominant hormone. Progesterone peaks around Day 21.

If the egg isn’t fertilized, then the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, triggering menstruation, and the cycle starts again!

How does the menstrual cycle affect your digestive symptoms; Hand holding half of a peeled mandarin, finger pointing to centre of fruit

How does the menstrual cycle affect your digestive symptoms?

Estrogen and progesterone can impact our bodies beyond just our reproductive system, and so the rise and fall of these hormones throughout the month could be linked to a higher likelihood of experiencing digestive symptoms.

There are receptors for both of these hormones found in cells of the gastrointestinal tract, suggesting that the GI tract is meant to receive and react to them.

One study reported that around 40% of menstruating people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) found their symptoms were impacted by their menstrual cycle. However, the amount of these hormones is not different in menstruating people with IBS versus those who do not have IBS, even though the IBS symptoms appears to be more commonly triggered.

Some ways in which estrogen and progesterone have been seen to impact digestive symptoms during the menstrual cycle:

  • Bloating and constipation tends to increase post ovulation as progesterone increases (until day before or day of menstruation)
  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea potentially increase in the days before and first days of menstruation
  • Visceral pain sensitivity may be higher during menstruation than other phases. A study using balloon distention in the colon showed that people who menstruate and have IBS are more aware and sensitive to discomfort during their menstruation phase
  • In general, gut transit time is slower in people who menstruate than in those who don’t and some studies have shown that transit time is longer in the luteal phase than in the follicular phase
  • Changes in hormone levels can impact the muscle contractions of the GI tract, transit speed, and digestive hormone secretion which could affect gas production in the colon, the onset of bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements
How does the menstrual cycle affect your digestive symptoms; Sanitary pad covered in pomegranate seeds

What can you do to improve hormone related digestive symptoms?

The general consensus tends to be that symptoms increase in the second half of the cycle. It could be helpful to take extra care for your diet during these times, especially known trigger foods. The good news is that you may find that you can be less strict with trigger foods during the first half of your cycle!

During this time, make sure to get enough fibre and fluids to help reduce the chance of constipation. Bowel movements are an important part of our body’s natural detoxification process and we want to be sure we are getting rid of excess hormones.

Ensure you’re eating sufficient healthy fats, from foods like nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, etc. And put extra focus on those containing omega-3 essential fatty acids like in fatty fish, flax seeds, and walnuts. Our system needs healthy fats to produce sufficient hormones.

Make sure you’re eating enough; a severe calorie restriction can throw your hormonal balance off. If you’re struggling with this, especially due to food fears around digestive symptoms flaring, make sure to reach out to a nutrition professional!

Keep a food, gut, and cycle diary to track any patterns that may appear.

Don’t forget to work on stress management – excess stress and especially long-term chronic stress can lead to hormonal imbalances. Not to mention the well-known (at least if you’ve been around here for a while!) link between stress levels and digestive symptoms.

Look for ways to reduce stressors in your life and make sure you’re incorporating stress management practices daily. This includes things like getting sufficient sleep, moving your body, meditation, journaling, social connection, eating nourishing foods, and spending time out in nature.

 

If you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance, make sure to bring this up to your health care team and nutrition professional.

Sources:

Heitkemper, M. M., & Chang, L. (2009). Do Fluctuations in Ovarian Hormones Affect Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Women With Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Gend Med, 6(Suppl 2), pp. 152-167.

Hye-Kyung, J., Doe-Young, K., & Il-Hwan, M. (2003). Effects of Gender and Menstrual Cycle on Colonic Transit Time in Healthy Subjects. The Korean Journal of Internal Medicine(18), 181-186.

Mulak, A., Tache, Y., & Larauche, M. (2014, March 14). Sex hormones in the modulation of irritable bowel syndrome. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 20(10), 2433-2448.

Palssoon, O. S., & Whitehead, W. E. (2017, October). Hormones and IBS. Retrieved from UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders: https://www.med.unc.edu/ibs/patient-education/educational-gi-handouts/

READY TO FINALLY ACHIEVE BLOATING RELIEF?

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Mealtime Hygiene – 5 Tips for Mindful Mealtimes and Better Digestion

Mealtime Hygiene – 5 Tips for Mindful Mealtimes and Better Digestion

Mealtime hygiene 5 tips for mindful mealtimes and better digestion | group eating around a picnic table

Mealtime Hygiene – 5 Tips for Mindful Mealtimes and Better Digestion

Mindful Mealtimes: Why HOW you eat is as important as WHAT you eat

It might surprise some of you to know, but almost as important as what you eat, is how you eat. You can be eating all the so-called “right” foods, but if your mealtime hygiene is lacking, you might not be reaping the benefits! By working on improving your mealtime hygiene you’ll also be working on better digestion; it’s really a win-win situation.

So what do I mean with mealtime hygiene? Well, it’s basically your habits around eating your meals. Do you eat on the go, at your desk or in a meeting, or sit down for a family dinner? Do you eat quickly or slowly? All these things can affect your digestion.

Proper digestion is so important; you could be eating amazing, nutrient-dense foods, but if you can’t properly digesting them then your body isn’t getting all of the benefits! This could lead to subsequent cravings and unnecessary snacking, as your body calls out for the nutrition it couldn’t get from your meal.

What you need to know about the parasympathetic state, a.k.a. rest and digest mode

Our autonomic nervous system has two key states: the sympathetic and parasympathetic state.

The sympathetic state is where the “fight or flight” stress response is turned on, it’s a state of being a lot of us find ourselves in often in these modern times, from stressful commutes to work to managing relationships, finances, or high workloads. This is our active, energetic, reactive state. It’s a positive reaction when we have a specific stressor to focus on, like the extra adrenaline needed for a push towards a looming deadline.

To contrast, the parasympathetic state is our “rest and digest” setting. It’s where the body can rest and repair/rejuvenate itself, and its the state we need to be in for digestion to function properly. It’s less active, more passive, and we need to find a comfortable balance between both of these two states.

By making sure your body is in the parasympathetic state (or rest and digest mode) at mealtimes, you’ll be setting yourself up for better digestion and less stress on your digestive system overall.

Want to know more about what proper digestion looks like? Check out this blog article.

Mealtime hygiene 5 tips for mindful mealtimes and better digestion | group eating around a table

How to use proper mealtime hygiene to get yourself into rest and digest mode

1. Carve time out for meals

Stay away from on-the-go meals and eating at your desk or in front of the TV and try as much as possible to sit down separately for your meal. Even though you think your brain can multitask while eating doesn’t mean your body is able to process that meal properly. The first part of digestion is triggered by the brain; the thought and smell of food can get the process kickstarted – for example, you start salivating which produces enzymes that help in the breakdown of carbohydrates.

2. Ditch the distractions

We are conditioned nowadays to always occupy our mind with something. Whether it’s scrolling our phones while waiting in line, in the bathroom, or at the dinner table, it can be really difficult to disengage from the constant stream of information. But it’s important to stay away from screens while you’re eating – even if it does feel super uncomfortable the first few times! (And no, you can’t just substitute a book or magazine for your usual scrolling.)

If our mind is distracted by whatever we are reading or looking at, it’s also distracted from really registering the act of eating and properly triggering our digestive system. Plus you’re much more likely to have your stress response triggered by something that you see or read, pulling you out of rest and digest mode. 

 

3. Take your time

The first physical step of digestion is the act of chewing; if you inhale your food as fast as possible to move on to the next task, you’re only putting undue burden on the rest of your body, which won’t be able to take up the slack. Chewing mixes our food with saliva which as said starts the breakdown of carbohydrates. But the act of chewing itself also breakdowns proteins and fat into smaller pieces – the smaller the better and easier it will be for the rest of your digestive system to further break everything down.

Try and aim for 25-30 chews for every mouthful. It might feel tedious at first, but you’ll quickly start noticing the difference. By doing this you’ll also automatically slow down your eating, giving yourself more time to digest your food and lower the likelihood of over eating.

4. Breathe your way to better digestion

Before you start eating, try taking some deep calming breaths to help relax your system and switch over to that parasympathetic state. Be sure to pause between bites and repeat these breaths, it will help you stay mindful and present and less likely to rush through the meal. Try a box breathing exercise that is shown to relax and bring people into the rest and digest mode. Inhale for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and hold again at the bottom for 4 counts. Repeat a few times before starting your meal.

5. Enjoy yourself

Eating should be pleasurable! It’s a great time to relax with family, friends, or colleagues over a good meal, and that congenial atmosphere that is created with good conversation, laughter, and connection can actually help your digestion. Try to keep any potentially stressful conversation topics for another moment, away from mealtimes. Relax and enjoy yourself and the food!

Getting started with mealtime hygiene and mindful mealtimes

Don’t bite off more than you can chew! (Sorry, not sorry for the pun.) Start slow and build it up so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Choose one meal to focus on implementing proper mealtime hygiene, like dinner, and once you get the hang of it, go from there.

The bonus is that a lot of these habits easily stack together. Focusing on chewing more slows you down, and you’re less likely to crave the distraction that a screen might bring.

Good luck, and enjoy your meal!

READY TO FINALLY ACHIEVE BLOATING RELIEF?

Find out what you can do when bloating rears its ugly head. Grab the free guide for 12 tips to help you find bloating relief so you can get back to living your life.

Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

Group of people cheersing with cocktails, Is alcohol a trigger for IBS

Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

With the holiday season upon us, the influence of alcohol in our lives only continues to grow. But does alcohol sit well with your IBS, or is that glass going to send you running to the toilet?

There’s not a whole lot of research done yet on the effect or link between alcohol and irritable bowel syndrome, but anecdotally around 1/3 of IBS-sufferers self-report that they are triggered by it (myself included).

And when I polled my Instagram community, this number was far higher!

However, since alcohol is often served along with food (and often more indulgent dishes) it can be tricky to differentiate any symptoms from your drinks versus your food.

 

The effect of alcohol on your digestion

Alcohol can be an irritant to the gut and can cause inflammation. It can reduce your absorption of vitamins and minerals from your food.

By potentially reducing the frequency and strength of certain muscle contraction in the gut, alcohol can also disrupt the digestion of carbohydrates in the small intestine, resulting in more poorly absorbed carbs coming into the large intestine.

Cue bloating, gas, and change in bowel movements. This is the same effect that FODMAPs can have on your digestion.

It also can mean an increased transit time (a.k.a. the time it takes for your food to move from one end to the other), which can result in diarrhea.

Alcohol can also interfere with the working of some digestive enzymes – one of which is lactase. Lactase is the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose, the milk sugar.

This means when drinking you could find yourself sensitive to lactose-containing dairy products even if you would normally do OK with some of them.

The pattern of alcohol consumption has been studied in terms of its impact on IBS.

While the study didn’t find an association between light or moderate alcohol consumption and next-day IBS symptoms, it did find an association between binge drinking (4+ drinks on one occasion) and next-day IBS symptoms.

Green cocktail in a martini glass, is alcohol a trigger for IBS

Alcohol and FODMAPs

While alcohol can function similarly to FODMAPs in the digestive system, they aren’t one and the same.

However, some alcohol can also contain FODMAPs (so possibly a double whammy on your gut) and warrant some additional focus. 

According to Monash University, the following are high-FODMAP containing alcohols / alcoholic drinks:

  • Cider
  • Rum
  • Sherry
  • Port
  • Sweet dessert wine

Conversely, the following are considered low-FODMAP:

  • Beer (but watch out for gluten if you’re gluten intolerant)
  • Red, sparkling, sweet, white and dry white wine
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Whisky

If you’re consuming a cocktail, don’t forget to take the additional elements into account as well for FODMAP content. (Check out the recipe at the bottom of the post for my favourite, festive cocktail!)

 

Drinking responsibly

In general, any potential benefits from alcohol don’t really outweigh the possible negative consequences. That being said, drinking alcohol is a personal choice, and it’s so interwoven into our social life that it’s understandable if you don’t want to abstain completely!

Just remember to enjoy it responsibly. While your country’s guidelines of alcohol consumption may vary, here in Belgium we recommend (for adults over the age of 18) a maximum of 10 units of alcohol per week, and several days with no alcohol.

One unit of alcohol is equal to:

  • 10g / 12.7mL pure alcohol
  • 250mL standard beer
  • 100mL wine
  • 50mL aperitif alcohol (sherry, port, etc.)
  • 35mL strong liquor (gin, vodka, etc.)

And, of course, remember the general recommendations: avoid alcohol when driving or operating machinery, if you’re pregnant, if you’re under 18 (and/or under the legal age in your country), when doing heavy physical activity, and talk to your doctor if you’re on any medications.

 

Practical tips for alcohol consumption 

  • Watch out for what you are mixing it with (pop, fruit juice, etc. could all contain FODMAPs or other triggers for you)
  • Abstaining might be the best option for you If you notice an increase in symptoms when drinking alcohol
  • Drink plenty of water: alternate each alcoholic drink with at least one glass of water
  • Consume food along with alcohol (but be sure to consider your food triggers)
  • Space out your drinks over a longer time frame
  • Swap in some non-alcoholic mocktails; no one has to know!
  • Avoid binge-drinking
IBS friendly cocktail mocktail, red cocktail in a glass surrounded by fresh cranberries and rosemary

IBS-friendly festive holiday gin & tonic:

Serves one

  • Ice
  • 35mL non-alcoholic gin
  • 35mL cranberry juice (check the ingredients list for any high-FODMAP additives)
  • Tonic water
  • Fresh rosemary and/or cranberries for garnish

Fill your glass with ice. Add in the cocktail ingredients in the order listed. Top off with your garnishes and enjoy!

 

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8 Tips for Happy, Healthy Holidays with IBS

8 Tips for Happy, Healthy Holidays with IBS

View of a Christmas tree from above surrounded by presents, how to have a healthy holiday season with IBS

8 Tips for Happy, Healthy Holidays with IBS

The holiday season can be a challenging and stressful time of year – even without taking your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) into account.

And while this year may look a bit different for you depending on the situation where you live, by keeping some tips in mind you’ll be more prepared than ever to navigate this time of year in a more healthy and less stressful way.

Check out the video below for all my healthy holiday tips!

This is an edited version of the monthly Facebook live of November in my free private community, IBSuccess. (Want to join? Click here!). It was a casual chat, so apologies for the overuse of “um”!

8 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season:

✨Meal plan & prep ahead on the weekend.

While I go on about meal planning a lot, I don’t necessarily do it every week. But it is KEY for surviving these busy periods!⁠ Not only will you save money on your grocery bill by being as efficient as possible and minimizing take-away and convenience foods, but you’ll also be getting more more nutritious meals that will keep you full and fuelled for longer. Not to mention the precious weeknight time you’ll save on preparing dinner.


✨ Bring a homemade packed lunch.

Not only will you probably save money and cut down on food waste, but you’ll be making sure to get a nutrient-dense lunch in before any evening activities.⁠


✨ Front-load your nutrition. 

Focus on getting lots of veggies & protein in early in the day, since these will likely be lacking if you’re out for dinner.⁠ That way you can roll with whatever comes in the evening, knowing that you got some solid nutrition in already!


✨ Don’t deny yourself some indulgences! 

If you’re out at a party, start off with the “healthier” fare, but definitely still go for those cravings as well. The healthier options will fill you up first, helping to ensure you can still have those indulgences mindfully. This way you’re less likely to go overboard.

Decorative snowmen sitting in a row, how to have a healthy holiday season with IBS

✨ Swap out a couple alcoholic drinks for some non-alcoholic cocktails. 

Keep your alcohol consumption in moderation by, at the least, alternating with a non-alcoholic alternative. There are loads of fancy mocktail possibilities, and I bet most people won’t notice! You’ll definitely thank yourself in the morning when you sleep better and minimize the chance of a hangover.


✨ Prioritize sleep.

Sleep is key for recovering and building resiliency to stress. Not to mention this time of year kicks off cold and flu season, so your immune system could do with the boost. Even if sleep comes at the expense of something like exercise, this is a period of the year where this swap is worth it.⁠


✨ Know your non-negotiables for managing stress.

This will ensure you keep up with some form of self-care.⁠ While you might need to cut down on your self-care time to properly balance your schedule, make sure you’re not cutting it out completely! That time to yourself will help you recharge and have more energy to give to everything else that is going on.


✨ Practise saying no when needed. 

Recognize your limits or propose alternatives when certain requests are just too much.⁠ Everyone is busy at this time of year, so most people will understand if you turn down an invitation. Or think of alternative activities that won’t take all of your energy. Did a friend invite you to a holiday party that you know will be exhausting? Propose meeting for a lunch instead so you still get that time to connect. Or, maybe you want to throw a party of your own to see all your friends in one go, rather than attend a million different functions.

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5 Tips to use Food Journaling for IBS Success

5 Tips to use Food Journaling for IBS Success

Woman writing in notebook, how to keep a food journal for IBS symptoms

5 Tips to use Food Journaling for IBS Success

 

Figuring out what is triggering your IBS symptoms is a bit like playing detective.

Since everyone’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome tends to be different, what might be triggering you is likely very different than what is triggering someone else.

It can be a frustrating task to try and sort it all out, but luckily if you know how to keep an effective food journal, you’re much more likely to be able to make sense of it all!

 

Tip #1: Every bite counts when it comes to IBS

Now remember, the purpose of this journal isn’t about tracking how much food you’re eating or your macro split or whatever blah blah is on trend for the moment.

It’s a no judgement zone.

You’re only collecting information to help you get to the bottom of this mystery called IBS.

But in order to do that, it’s helpful to be sure you’re really writing down everything you eat.

Even those two bites of mac n’ cheese you ate from the kids’ pot before you served them their dinner.

For many people, such a small amount might not be so relevant and might not cause IBS symptoms to be triggered. But for some it may be. And perhaps it’s just a couple bites of something that on top of the other foods you eat just manages to push you over the edge in terms of “trigger foods” consumed.

 

Tip #2: Don’t forget the liquids

Making sure our body is properly hydrated is so important, and if we aren’t doing well on this it’s just extra stress on the system. And extra stress = higher chance of symptoms being triggered. (Want to learn more about how much water you should be drinking? Head over to this blog post.)

And it’s not only the amount of water that you’re drinking that you should be noting. Any and all coffee, tea, sodas, juices, alcohol, etc. should also be making it into your food journal. This is all important data that could help you spot patterns in your symptoms.

Woman on bed writing in a journal, How to keep a food journal for IBS symptoms

Tip #3: What’s your mood like?

This step is too often skipped! How we’re feeling and what emotions are going on can play a big role in determining how we are going to digest our food. Worried, anxious, stressed? These emotions are probably increasing the likelihood of symptoms being triggered (sometime regardless of what you’re eating).

Studies have shown that when people are stressed their guts behave differently (IBS or not). Since the gut-brain connection is thought to be dysfunctional in many people with IBS, this could mean when your brain communicates with your gut about emotions and thoughts, it’s actually being over-interpreted.

 

Tip #4: Keep track of those BMs!

Noting down what’s going on for you digestively is a great extra piece of information to add into your food journal. When did you have a bowel movement? What was it on the Bristol Stool Chart? Did you experience pain, cramps, etc.

This is the kind of information you’ll likely forget or incorrectly recall if you look back on your food journal days or weeks later. You might remember having some symptoms pop up, but depending on how you felt at the time, you’re likely going to downplay or intensify what it was like. Make sure to always give some sort of rating (like a scale of 1-5 for discomfort / intensity) in order to have something concrete to refer back to.

 

Tip #5: Be realistic in what you can keep up with

Can you recall what you had for lunch a week ago today?

Most people can’t, or it takes them awhile to get there. Imagine you’re trying to recall an entire day or week of food at one time – probably you’re going to forget some details. Whether it’s a snack, a side dish, etc. the accuracy of your journaling will decrease if you don’t do it regularly.

While the more detail the better, you need to balance this with what you can realistically keep up with on a daily basis. Know you won’t have time to properly journal? Take photos of what you’re eating on your phone to refer back to and use the Notes app to jot down how you’re feeling and what’s going on with your digestion.

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Curious about one-on-one coaching?

Ready to understand what the missing piece is in you finally achieving that effortlessly healthier lifestyle (while still getting to indulge in your favourites)?

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Contact

Healthfully Heather

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