For many of us, the world is slowly opening back up again; people are returning to workplaces and pubs and restaurants are filling up. For people with IBS who are following a low-FODMAP diet and managing their symptoms at home, it might all seem a bit overwhelming. So, how can we help IBS sufferers adapt to this new ‘new normal’? NHD contributor, Jessica English, RD provides some answers…
Now that we seem to be out of lockdown restrictions and the Government is telling us we are on course to open up fully in a couple of weeks, I wanted to look at a few common areas that can be addressed to help manage symptoms in those with IBS. Every client is different and everyone experiences IBS differently, but there are some tips than can when out and about.
1) LIMITED ACCESS TO PUBLIC TOILETS
Finding and using public toilets may be a source of anxiety for people with IBS and it could take some adjustment after the past year, having had constant access to their own bathrooms.
Consider talking through regular routes they’ll be taking and how to plan out journeys. Apps and sites such as Loocations (formerly Lockdown Loo), GB public toilet map - or toilet finder apps like Flush. Support those who need or prefer a different format with creating suitable handwritten lists and maps. Radar Keys provide access to a large network of accessible toilets in the UK and can be purchased from the IBS Network or elsewhere.
2) CHANGES TO MEAL PATTERNS
For many, being at home all day meant having control over what and where they ate. Anecdotally, this may have reduced barriers to starting a low-FODMAP diet, along with improved possibilities for tracking of symptoms. Now people are faced with more rigidity; time to prepare food could also be limited and issues like lack of access to refrigeration at work may have an impact on eating patterns.
Working with clients to begin to adapt any meal planning or shopping systems they had in place could be a good place to start. Talk them through any possibilities around eating at work and plan for what they could have to hand for ‘emergencies’. Encourage them to track their symptoms in a way that works for them in this ‘new normal’. Trial different apps like the Monash app, Cara Care, Bowelle (only available on iOS at the moment) or mySymptoms. Or, of course, the more traditional pen and paper. Ensure they’re noting down any differences to their days: exercise, sleep and snacking could all be changing.
3) EATING OUT
When lockdown started, the possibilities and stress around low FODMAP and eating out disappeared. Now that we’re all readjusting, for those with IBS that means getting used to managing their symptoms with so many food options available again.
We can help to support people by looking through restaurant websites, building-up confidence in asking for changes to meals where possible, any suitable apps (ie, Monash low FODMAP app) which can guide them through food swaps and the different options that are available with different cuisines.
4) FOREIGN TRAVEL
Travelling abroad has never been straightforward with IBS – new languages, new customs, new foods and potential difficulties translating ingredients when it comes to low FODMAP. As well as looking at translations and local cuisine options, we can help by signposting people towards useful tools like the can’t wait international travel card for when symptoms may flare up.
Many people also don’t know that they can take their own food onboard a plane leaving the UK – though they’ll need to check in advance what they can bring into their country of arrival and of course comply with regulations around liquids and medications. Radar keys for EU and other countries’ accessible toilets are different – find out more from Radarkey.org here.
More tips and advice on IBS, low FODMAPS and gut health, visit Jess’s website: https://www.levelupnutrition.co.uk/blog/
For more on the low-FODMAP diet and IBS see NHD March: https://library.myebook.com/NHD/network-health-digest-march-2021/3173/
Jessica English, RD
Jess is a self-employed Private Practice Dietitian and
owner of Level Up Nutrition. She specialises in IBS, gut health and the
low-FODMAP diet (Monash trained). Additional special interests lie in
Public Health and Maternal nutrition.