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.
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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