In October 2017, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It is a disorder that affects the large intestine. IBS involves two types of problems: 1. The movement of digested food through the intestines and 2. How the brain interprets signals from the intestinal nerves. This all leads to abdominal pain, changes in bowel patterns, nausea, bloating and other symptoms. Symptoms of IBS can be triggered by food, emotional stress, medications and hormone fluctuations.
What I eat is a very important role in lessening IBS symptoms. I follow a diet called Low Fodmap Diet, which I explain more here. To sum it up, I do not eat any form of dairy, fructose and gluten (wheat protein), alcohol, carbonated drinks, fatty foods and certain vegetables and fruits because my body cannot physically digest them. And by my own personal choice, I do not consume any form of meat.
Alongside food, stress plays a huge role in triggering IBS symptoms. During times of high stress, symptoms worsen because they are aggravated by stress. They do not cause symptoms, rather they provoke symptoms.
I have now implemented a number of lifestyle changes that I make part of my everyday routine. These include:
- I sleep more: if I do not sleep enough, fatigue can worsen the symptoms of IBS.
- I do yoga and meditation: the brain and colon are linked through many complex pathways and emotional stress can disrupt intestinal function and cause pain.
- I try and exercise: note the word try.
- I still eat at restaurants: I seek out vegan (and GF) restaurants in Toronto because they are everywhere.
- I always pay attention to every ingredient that I put into my body: when buying items like bread, pastas, crackers, chips or cereals, I make sure I read the ingredients carefully. If it lists that it “may contain milk or wheat” I put it back on the shelf.
- I reduce fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs). They are small carbohydrate (sugar) molecules found in everyday foods that may be poorly absorbed in the small intestine of some people. FODMAPs are fermented (digested) by intestinal bacteria, which can lead to symptoms of IBS. Therefore I follow a low-FODMAP diet to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms.
- I take a probiotic every day: probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits. They are natural, ‘healthy’ bacteria that helps with digestion and offers protection from harmful bacteria in the intestines.
- I take vitamins: vitain B6, vitabin B12, vitamin D, Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Biotin.