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In today’s episode of the My Self Love Style podcast I want to tackle the poo taboo aka IBS (yes ladies and gentlemen, you may want to pause this one if you’re about to took into your breakfast / lunch / dinner) and how I’ve used mindfulness and self-care to reduce the effect it has on my wellbeing.
Although I wasn’t ware of it at the time I started with IBS in my late teens. Although most commonly people start to notice the symptoms of Irritable Bowl Syndrome in their 20s and 30s, it isn’t unheard of (particularly for women) for them to materialise in teenage years.
Personally, I started to notice the piercing abdominal pains appearing for the first time when I was 18 or 19.
I was a typical student – bad diet (Chips Cheese & Mayo was pretty much all I ate), poor lifestyle (late nights out, late nights in the library) and at the point I remember thinking there was something wrong with me, I was in a pretty toxic relationship too. To say I was in a bad place would be an understatement.
But eventually it got to the stage where I remember feeling unwell (bloated, windy, tired) every single day and when I finally plucked up the courage to speak to my family doctor, as helpful as he was, I didn’t really get anything out of my visit. Back then IBS wasn’t as ‘in vogue’ as it is now, it wasn’t the doctors go to diagnosis every time a patient mentioned their tummy troubles.
After a brief discussion about when I felt I noticed my symptoms being at their worst, I was advised to try ‘laying off’ garlic and onion.
It didn’t help, I put my toxic relationship behind me and I moved on.
Over the next few years my symptoms became less prevalent; by the time I was entering my final year at university I had put the majority of the late nights behind me, my diet had vastly improved and I was single and loving life.
A few years later I was in a job I loved, in an amazing relationship and although my diet had regressed a little (OK I mean a lot, Rice Krispie Squares are not a healthy or nutritious lunch), I felt as though I was in a good place.
However, my IBS symptoms had returned and they were worse than ever. I was having to go home from work because I couldn’t bare to sit at my desk in pain. Luckily my employer was understanding and flexible – but I felt like the worst employee and being the ambitious goat I am, I knew I needed to get things sorted if I was to climb the career ladder there.
It was on my next visit to the doctors that I heard the term I’ve since heard a thousand times “it’s just IBS”.
I was given an A4 leaflet (you know the ones that are folded like a takeaway menu?) and told that there wasn’t a great deal they could do and that essentially I would just have to learn to live with it.
It was actually my employer at the time that gave me the idea of reducing my dairy intake. Aside from IBS, I was also suffering from really dry, flaky skin on my arms. My boss had had a similar problem and had cut dairy out of her diet which cleared it up.
I started to research things online a lot more and experiment with my diet a little.
Over time I came to realise that my biggest trigger was lactose, the pesky sugar that is found naturally in Cows Milk, followed by stress and irregular eating patterns.
I felt as though I had finally cracked it!
Admittedly it wasn’t until I recently started to read ‘Tummy Tied‘ by Scarlett Dixon recently, that I realised just how many IBS symptoms there are (and how many I actually suffer from).
*OK here we go with the serious poo talk guys & gals … feel free to skip if you’re easily offended.*
Believe it or not there are different types of IBS.
There’s IBS-D where you suffer predominantly suffer from increased bouts of diarrhoea alongside some of the other symptoms and then there’s IBS-C (can you guess what it is yet?) where you’re spending hours on end on the toilet for the completely opposite issue. Constipation. But then there’s me, IBS-M. IBS-M is the most delightful type of IBS where you flit between having frequent, loose bowel movements (sometimes catching you off guard) and just not being able to go at all.
Sometimes for days.
Then there’s the mucus, lovely, an almost jelly like substance that I usually get alongside one of the above symptoms. I’m no doctor (and if you have any of these symptoms I urge you to speak to yours before self diagnosing IBS) but apparently this is totally normal!
Oh and lets not forget the bloating, cramps, wind, unbelievable noise, low self-confidence, low mood, fatigue…
There’s so much to IBS that the phrase ‘its just IBS’ actually makes me a little angry!
But I have learnt to manage it over the years – food intolerances are frequent triggers for IBS and for me having a low intake of lactose definitely helps. But then there are the occasions where it isn’t food related at all and that’s where quite often mindfulness comes in.
Mindful eating gives me more awareness of what I’m doing, what I’m consuming and how I’m consuming it for example. I know that I need to eat little and often and letting myself be hungry is actually a big trigger for me. I make conscious decisions to eat smaller meals more regularly, to pick nutri-dense ingredients and cook from scratch more often than not.
Being mindful has helped me to notice when I’m stressed or anxious and given me the tools to help control these emotions that can have such a big effect on my gut health. For example I know that being stressed often triggers what I call my ‘stressy belly’, so when I feel myself getting like this I try to remove myself from whatever situation is giving me those feelings. I try to reason with myself.
Essentially mindfulness gives me the opportunity to replace all these thoughts and reactions that have become the way we are programmed since birth, with more conscious, healthier responses that allow me to be the best version of myself.
For me being more positive is a way of controlling my IBS and lifting my mood through gentle movements, positive affirmations, helps to make the negative emotions I associate with IBS melt away.
This has definitely been a ‘meaty’ subject to tackle and I do hope you have taken something away from today’s My Self Love Style, but if you do want me to into more depth on anything I’ve covered feel free to slide into my DMs over on Instagram and don’t forget to sign up for the My Self Love Style newsletter for you FREE Morning Routine Guide.