10 Strategies for Avoiding Common IBS Eating Traps - dummies

10 Strategies for Avoiding Common IBS Eating Traps

By Carolyn Dean, L. Christine Wheeler

The traps presented here may seem obvious to you, but the nature of traps is that you can’t really see them all the time, and everybody has at least one blind spot. After you know about these traps, you have to make the choice to avoid them.

IBS sufferers can find safe ways to socialize

IBS is a lonely condition that many people never tell their friends they have. Being social is more about the people you’re with and less about the food you’re eating. Consider telling your friends that you want to hang out with them but suspect you have some food sensitivities and are staying away from beer and pizza (or whatever the food of choice may be).

Then suggest another place whose menu you feel safe with. If they insist on the pizza parlor, you can try having a snack before you go and ordering a safe salad and mineral water when you’re there.

Invite everyone over to your place and prepare the snacks yourself. You get the best of both worlds: quality time with your buddies and food you don’t have to worry about. You may even start a new tradition.

Use the sniff test to avoid taking that one dangerous bite

Any number of people (including you) may be trying to twist your arm to eat one little bite of wheat, dairy, sugar — you name it. Of course, for many people that one little bite quickly turns into eating the whole thing.

One seemingly silly but surprisingly satisfying solution is to do the sniff test. The sense of smell is so powerful that one good whiff of the desired delicacy may be all you need to satisfy your craving.

Don’t assume one small indulgence is a huge problem

If you do succumb to taking one bite of something you know you shouldn’t have, don’t throw in the towel just yet. With IBS, the amount you eat can play a pivotal role. If you eat a small portion of a food you know your bowels shouldn’t have, you haven’t sealed your (or your colon’s) fate.

If you savor the small portion — make it last and enjoy the heck out of it — you may not even want any more because you’re so perfectly satisfied. And, with all those positive neurotransmitters that you stimulate by thinking happy thoughts about your food, your body may just digest that small portion without it bothering you.

IBS doesn’t recognize special occasions

Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Halloween, their sister’s birthday — for many people, these special days are just another chance to prove to themselves that they can’t eat cheese dip or chocolate cake.

Your bowels don’t distinguish special occasions, except for the fact that they may be even more tense with the stress of the holiday, so you have to train yourself not to either, at least when you’re talking about diving into a buffet of triggers. Unless spending a family function in the bathroom is preferable to spending it with your family. . . .

Start taking care of your IBS today

Refusing to eat for your IBS doesn’t mean you don’t have IBS, so don’t put off determining and implementing a diet that supports your health. So today, go shopping to fill your cupboards, fridge, and freezer with food you’ve tested to be tasty and safe.

Create a healthy environment for yourself

An unhealthy environment for IBS can come in many forms — maybe you’re surrounded by more unhealthy foods than healthy ones, or your friends and family treat your IBS like it’s a figment of your imagination. Unfortunately, the stress of these situations can make your condition worse, so you really want to work to build a positive atmosphere.

Don’t keep triggers in the house

It’s as simple as that. If you crave something that worsens your symptoms, you have a much better chance of avoiding that stuff if you don’t have it around. Otherwise, you know it’s there, every cell in your brain knows it’s there, and no part of you gets any peace until you get a piece of it. Then you have a war in your gut.

Resist the temptation to skip meals

Who knew that not eating at all is one of the biggest eating traps for IBS? When you allow yourself to get too hungry, you don’t have the calories present to keep your body at its healing peak or to perform at your mental and emotional best.

Folks can get so caught up in work, the Internet, and TV that they live in a virtual world without thinking of the very real needs of their physical bodies. To get you back into the habit, set a timer to tell you to eat every 3 to 4 hours and follow regular meal times.

If you’re deliberately skipping meals because you really don’t know what you can safely eat, stop. Having your gut rumble every time you start thinking of food is scary, but you need to eat.

Don’t succumb to emotional eating

Emotional eating is a catchy term used to describe eating when you’re emotionally upset but not physically hungry. If you regularly turn to food to feed your feelings, emotional eating is a food trap that may be feeding your IBS symptoms.

When you feed your feelings, you aren’t eating consciously and conscientiously; maybe you zone out and simply eat without caring or even being aware of what you’re putting in your mouth. You aren’t feeding your body, but your body still has to process the food.

Pay attention to how you feel as you eat

A common thread that runs through many eating traps is the feelings eating can generate. When you do take a bite out of guilt, the panic at undoing your eating rules can be enough to set off an attack that the food itself may not have triggered.

As soon as you take a bite of some forbidden food and have a negative thought, you need to spit that morsel out immediately! After you do it once or twice, you start to recognize the importance of how you feel and what you’re thinking when you eat. If you check in with your body and find your tummy is tight and you can’t take a deep breath, that’s not the time to be eating much of anything.