Five Things I’ve Learned about IBS... My Personal Experience
For the last six years, I have managed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I was formally diagnosed three years ago. In that time, many people have asked me about it hoping to improve their own symptoms. As I have learned from personal experience, there are five primary practices that appear to help people manage IBS, and the upset gut that comes with it.
Everyone is different. As simple as this sounds, it is very important. Just because something worked for your friend, sister, or anyone else, it does not mean that it is “the thing” that will work for you. Just as every person is unique, so too are the individual gut biomes (the collection of “good” bacteria, fungi and microbes that play a significant role in digestion and your immune system), and these variations dictate the solutions for managing IBS will vary from person to person. To determine what will help your gut and bowel, there are tests available to help determine your specific needs. I have found these tests work for some people, but not for others. Alternatively, having my nutritionist walk me through identifying my unique nutritional needs has been invaluable. Also, a health coach familiar with IBS and how to manage it is also a great resource.
What works now may not work later. The environment inside our bodies and guts changes frequently due to daily (sometimes hourly) cycles of hormones, activity levels, stressors and what we eat and drink. All too often, just when you think you have hit the target as far as identifying how to manage your IBS, you quickly realize the target has moved. When my gut acts up, there are some simple things that I look to as potential causes. These include the supplements I take regularly, whether I have exercised enough, my diet, and the amount of water I drink. This gives me some quick and easy things I can fix, that will probably put me back on track. If those do not work, then I dig a little deeper to examine the quality of my sleep, my stressors, and other parts of my routine that may have changed. It is a process, and the answer is not always the same.
When trying something, really try it. When trying a new diet, supplement, or routine change, it is important to be as consistent as possible. As you start, know specifically how long you will try it, and all the necessary parameters. For example, getting “more” exercise is too vague. Getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week for three weeks is specific. To know if it works or not, you must follow it all the way through. Your provider or health coach can help determine what the specifics are for any desired change.
When considering a specific test, determine your next actions based upon if the test comes back positive, negative, or inconclusive. Sometimes my follow-up appointment with my provider is not for a few weeks after receiving my test results. I have found that if I know the plan for how to move forward no matter the results; it saves time and gets me started on the right path faster than waiting for the follow-up appointment. Also beneficial is knowing what a given test looks for so that I know how to strategize based on those results.
Everything gives you information. Even when you try something and it does not work, you learn something. Maybe trying that diet seemed like a superb idea, but it did not help as you thought. While the attempts you make may not seem to provide benefits, it really is okay because failed attempts always teach you something about what works and what does not. Failed attempts at managing IBS is where I see many people get discouraged. Take a breath and try the next thing on your list you have worked out with your provider or health coach. If you keep going with the process, you will eventually find what works for you.