IBS is a wily one. There are a wonderful amount of things that have the ability to kick off an IBS flare. For me, increased stress, a whiff of lactose and getting my period, are just three of the things that have an undesired effect on my gut.
Here are the 5 things that irritate the hell outta my IBS.
Periods. I don’t know the science behind it but around 3-4 days before I get my period, my IBS goes into meltdown. I get the bloating and then I get the loose bowel movements, a bit too frequently if you ask me. It’s irritating as hell and it usually lasts as long as the period itself but it does act as my monthly calendar reminder. I guess it’s reliable in that way.
Lactose. I couldn’t even begin to calculate how long I’ve been lactose free for, it must be ten years plus. All that time ago I found that milk and cream were my nemesis, my body instantly rejecting them any time I tried to eat them. It gradually started to include ice cream, if I wolfed down a lot of chocolate, cheese, anything with a whiff of diary, it’d all go horribly wrong. I’ve since worked out the worst triggers, swapped a lot of products – I swear by lactose free milk and sunflower spread vs butter – and know when to risk eating a Creme Egg or two.
A change of routine. My body, my mind and my IBS all crave routine. I like to know what’s coming next. I need to be able to plan for worst case scenarios, know where the nearest loos are and check I have everything I could possibly need – scented oils, peppermint tea bags and spare pants, you know the deal. As soon as my weekdays roll out of routine, my stomach falls to pieces. I know that I can’t always be in control but it’s a killer when I’m not prepared.
Stress. Ah, my dear friend, stress. One of the main culprits behind my IBS and potentially everyone else’s. It’s textbook really. The more stressed I feel, the worst my symptoms get. Then said symptoms stress me out. The circle of stress is never-ending. I’m extremely tough on myself and always pile on the pressure which of course, doesn’t help. I’ve found recently that a couple of small changes have helped my mindset. I listen to podcasts on my morning train commute (current faves include old episodes of Desert Island Discs, Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place and Mad World with Bryony Gordon). I take my full lunch break, making an effort to get outside breathing in the air, pounding the pavements of London and distracting my mind. I’m trying to be kinder to myself, carving out time for myself, saying no to things. It’s all slowly helping.
Overdoing it. This one follows on nicely from stress. You see, if I book too much in for a day, say yes to absolutely everything and try to do all my weekly chores in one hit, I inevitably end up locked in the loo for 20 minutes. I’m constantly reminding myself to slow it down, say no to things and to not put unnecessary pressure on my shoulders. When even a simple task leaves me feeling drained, I remind myself of Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory. It’s a disability metaphor which is used to explain the reduced amount of energy people with disabilities or chronic illnesses have for daily activities. And for me it rings totally true and makes me feel strangely comforted when I can only do a certain amount of DIY before my body starts to get fatigued and shut down.
What I love the most is when there’s no explanation at all as to why I’m having a flare! Joking. It’s my least fave of all the flares.
Anyway, let me know your triggers, I’m a nosey bitch.