How to Socialize with IBS: Functioning at a Function

Social functions can be very stressful for people with IBS. They have to deal with tempting but potentially triggering foods, strange (and sometimes public) washrooms, and folks who may not understand their restrictions. The good news is that you can overcome these obstacles with a little preplanning.

If your event’s venue is a public place, you can always call or drop by to check out the bathroom facilities to help to ease your mind. If food will be served, make sure you’ve eaten a safe and balanced meal beforehand.

You don’t want to show up hungry and be tempted to eat unidentified foods or foods you know are bad but look really good to your growling stomach. If you see foods that you know are safe for you, try them out. Otherwise, just pop a few drops of mint essential oil into a glass of mineral water and enjoy conversation rather than canapés.

The dreaded dinner party for those with IBS

Rule number one: If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it. Period. Experts say that they would rather be a bit rude for turning down the creamed artichoke dip they know they can’t handle than be embarrassed (and even ruder) for spending dessert in the bathroom with the fan working and matches burning.

If you’ve accepted an invitation to a dinner party because you’re feeling like your symptoms have been behaving lately, great. However, keep in mind that they can still throw a tantrum at any moment. This setting isn’t the place to test unknown foods or go back to foods that have been a problem in the past. Save testing foods for the privacy of your own home.

Many hosts ask their guests if they have any food allergies or sensitivities. Although you may be able to tell someone that you’re gluten intolerant and lactose intolerant, they may not be too tolerant of you giving them your whole IBS trigger list.

Instead, give them some or all of your safe food list, or rely on the following version of the safe soluble food list, which has been modified here for common dinner party ingredients:

  • Applesauce

  • Avocados

  • Bananas

  • Barley

  • Beets

  • Brown rice

  • Carrots

  • Corn

  • French bread

  • Fresh peas

  • Mangos

  • Papayas

  • Pasta

  • Potatoes

  • Rice

  • Squash

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Yams

No salad greens are included here — those have to come from your personal preferences and experiments. Fish, chicken, and lean meats are usually fine as long as they’re not fried.

The potluck dinner for those with IBS

With potluck dinners you know you can find at least one food you can eat safely — the dish you bring! In addition to bringing a safe dish, have a safe snack beforehand at home and, as always, have your survival kit with you. Make sure to make plenty of your dish; you need to be able to get some even if it’s the hit of the party.

If you’re having a potluck lunch at work, offer to organize the menu and add a couple of safe side dishes to the sign-up sheet like steamed rice and baked yams.

At your next potluck, suggest that everyone bring copies of the written recipe for their dishes for everyone at the party. That way, you can read the ingredients and determine what’s safe fare for you. It’s also a great way to collect recipes.

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