How about approaching IBS differently?

How about approaching IBS differently? Irritable bowel symptoms are not pleasant, to say the least, but we’re going about it all wrong!
IBS is set of digestive related symptoms that often disrupt our day to day lives. Obviously, we’re upset, irritated and we want to get rid of them immediately. But the truth is that for most of us that’s simply not possible! We probably will have to through a bunch of ‘trial and error’ treatments, tests and sets of probiotics.

The silly thing you can do during that hard time is to ACCEPT IT.

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Accept that you have IBS, that it sucks, and you will probably have to take sick leave (again!). You can ask: what about the money (and/or promotion, mean boss, and Christmas)!? Well, it will have to wait for you! It will have to wait because, although you’re trying, there’s nothing that can help you at the moment. That’s the sad reality for many of us.
Having said that, please don’t give up! Managing IBS is your long-term goal!
But if you’ve been struggling with it for a long time, it may be a good idea to approach recovery slightly different…

Changing approach towards IBS:

1) Change your attitude towards IBS.

You’re a human being. You suffer from pains, indigestion, and other nasty stuff. That’s the part of being a human. That’s nobody’s fault. You don’t have to feel guilty about your bodily functions. They are faulty sometimes. Accept that.

2) Change your attitude towards recovery.

Make useful changes with awesome goals in mind.
Do not change things to control ‘this awful body’, to prevent embarrassment at work, farting at home, pains at Christmas table. Accept that those uncomfortable things you fear will probably happen at some point in your life.
And that’s ok.  

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Chasing recovery at all costs will only make you more anxious and prone to setbacks.

3) Treating real problems, not symptoms.

Finding the real problem is important. You might suffer from the undiagnosed condition. Make sure to cover all the options with your GP. Real problem may be hiding in your gut (literally). You may have to take bowel content test, or you may have to change your whole lifestyle.

What does it exactly mean?
That means dismantling the whole system that keeps you from recovering. That may (or may not) involve your work, family life, daily eating habits, the way you spend free time, the way you sleep etc.
Finding out what keeps you from recovery may be hard, but changing it may be even harder.
But first things first!

How to find the problem?
You can extend the role of food journal practice, and include your whole day to day life. That means you will have to make notes of things that happened during the day, not only what you ate.
Slept in? Include that. Had a nice relaxing walk? Include that. See if you can spot a pattern.
Are you flaring up after certain activities?
Are your symptoms being triggered during the week and easing out on the weekends? Maybe work overload is the problem? Maybe the way you work is the problem?
Don’t make any hasty decisions, but be honest with yourself, and try to make changes if you spot a harmful pattern!
This may be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to face, but if nothing else helped, what do you have to lose?
Of course, that is only an example. Your ‘recovery block’ may be something else. There may be a group of factors preventing you from feeling better. That means you need to look at your life as a whole.

4) Change your attitude towards food.

Treat food as a way to nourish & regenerate (not control) your body!

5) Create your special IBS toolkit!

It should contain practices, foods, home remedies, medicine, and exercises that previously worked. It may take a while to create it (and it may change over time), but it’s worth to take notes and apply all the useful practices for the maximum benefit.

The list may contain mundane things like warm bath, drinking ginger tea, and things you spotted during your extended food journal practice (east less more often, go for a run, divide housework, go to sleep earlier etc).

To sum it up…

Accept IBS as part of your life. It doesn’t mean giving up! Just stop trying to avoid all the symptoms, always, at all costs. It’s an unfortunate illness that you’re dealing with, but you need to accept the fact that on some days you will feel awful, tired and in pain. Allow yourself to experience this, be kind to yourself and proud of yourself.

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My “How about approaching IBS differently?” tips are based on ideas from Mark Freeman’s The Mind Workout: Twenty steps to improve your mental health and take charge of your life
Some of these steps include: recognizing your problems, practicing mindfulness and changing actions not thoughts and feelings. I highly recommend this book to everyone!

Learn more about IBS:

I’ve been diagnosed with IBS. What now?

IBS recipes. Low FODmap diet.

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How about approaching IBS differently?

Mila Myk

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