Hey! I’m Jayne. I help people suffering with IBS regain control of their gut and life a normal life again, without restrictive diets or medication - no matter how long they have been struggling. Learn more.
One of the first places to start when you’ve been diagnosed with IBS is to take a good look at your eating habits and one to do this is to keep an IBS food diary.
Now whilst I certainly don’t believe that food is the enemy and you’re going to be condemned to a permanent diet of tea and toast, taking a closer look at both what you are eating and how you are eating, will provide you with some valuable clues as to how to get your bowel and IBS symptoms under control.
So in this post and in the video below, I’m going to help show you how to take a closer look between the food you’re eating and your physical IBS symptoms, whether that’s gut pain, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
By the end of this post, my hope is that you’ll stop being afraid of mealtimes, and instead start to get a fresh understanding of how the food you’re eating, and the way you’re eating it is impacting your body.
READY? HIT PLAY
Now when it comes to IBS and food, it’s very easy to start feeling afraid of meal times, worrying about what you can and can’t eat, and dreading what’s to come after you’ve eaten something that perhaps you think you shouldn’t.
Your life becomes consumed by your IBS and thoughts around food. You may even feel like you’d rather just go hungry than potentially trigger your IBS.
And look I get it, because I’ve been there, and preferring to go hungry than potentially paying the price of severe gut pain always felt like the easiest option.
But here’s the thing, although it’s true that certain foods can trigger or exacerbate IBS symptoms, with a little knowledge, research, and planning you can discover which foods are helpful and which are best avoided.
And to do this, I recommend you start a keeping food and symptom diary.
Now the key thing to remember as I walk you through the 6 steps I take my clients through, is that if you do discover issues with a food now, you may likely find that when your digestive system starts to calm down and settle, you can eat that food again later with no issues.
Also, remembering to keep mealtimes stress-free and rush-free will help to reduce your IBS symptoms…. Because when it comes to food. It’s not just what you are eating, it’s HOW and WHEN you are eating too.
OK, ready for step 1?
The very first step of tracking your physical IBS symptoms and the food that you are eating is to create your food diary template. You can do this in a notepad or simply use a blank piece of paper. You can also keep a record on your phone, or I’ve had clients who like to create their template on the computer.
So what do you include?
You want to divide your template into four columns and write down the following information for each day:
It is helpful to also write down the type of stress being experienced – for example, if are having a fight with your partner, a deadline has changed at work, or you’re feeling anxious because you have to give a presentation in front of lots of people.
And finally, in column 4 you will write down everything you eat or drink each day. Be specific as possible and include the serving size. This information will help to reveal your eating patterns and possible trigger foods.
So how does the food diary work?
You want to be keeping your food diary for 2-3 weeks so you build up a really good picture of both your physical IBS symptoms and your food intake and habits.
As I mentioned at the start, it’s important before you start labelling foods as “good” or “bad”, or “troublesome”, that you make sure your symptoms are not due to other things such as:
Now there are TWO common pitfalls you need to be aware of when keeping a food dairy – these both run the risk of triggering further food anxiety so it’s important you are aware of them.
1. Watch out for black and white labelling of foods – this means resisting the urge to label a food ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The problem with this type of labeling is that you can start to feel hopeless, experience self-pity and feel resentment towards yourself and your IBS. Which let’s be honest isn’t helpful.
And as I mentioned right at the start, if you identify a certain food now as troublesome, it does not necessarily mean that you can never have it again.
2. Panicking after you have eaten food that you think you shouldn’t have. This triggers anxiety and something called hypervigilance about the effect it is going to have on your digestive system. The irony here is that these types of thoughts and misdirected focus often cause the very IBS flare-up you wanted to avoid.
So keeping your thoughts in check is a really valuable strategy here.
In this step I want you not just to become aware of the common culprits, but also to understand WHY they are triggering your IBS symptoms.
You see knowledge is power my friends, and understanding the reasons underlying your IBS will dramatically increase your sense of control over your symptoms.
Some foods just have a reputation for irritating the intestines, particularly spicy or gassy foods.
And remember, once you have your IBS symptoms under control, you may find that you can eat these types of foods with no issues. But when your gut is far from the happy place, or you are undergoing extreme stress or a flare-up, the following are best avoided until you get your gut back on track.
The common culprits are:
After about 3 weeks of keeping a food and symptom diary, you should have enough information to identify some patterns. For example, you should start to see foods that are friendly to your digestive system, and those foods that aren’t so friendly.
To start identifying these patterns, and making sense of your symptoms, I want you to get out your food diary and ask yourself the following questions. These questions are designed to help you get a much better understanding of what is happening in your body:
I want you to become a detective when it comes to your symptoms, and as you learn which foods you feel are safe vs troublesome, I want you to create a list of these.
If you are unsure, that’s very normal and you can just put a question mark next to that food item.
Remember, just because you find a food troublesome at the moment, this does not mean you can never have it again. This is such an important point which I need to make, which is why I keep repeating it!
Ok the final step is all about creating a plan moving ahead.
As you work to change your eating habits so that you can reduce your IBS symptoms, it’s also a great time to incorporate other healthy eating strategies.
Now these do not need to be complicated and in fact the simpler the better.
It’s also important to make sure that any new lifestyle and healthy eating strategies fit into your life, not the other way around if they are going to be sustainable for the long term.
So lets talk about what these could look like for you:
So now you know the 6 steps to not just keeping a food and symptom diary, but what you can do with that information to help identify triggers and manage your IBS symptoms.
But if you do need more help with understanding your triggers and managing your symptoms then my program, The Calm Gut Method may just be the answer.
You can learn more about the work I do with my clients, and The Calm Gut Method here.
I would also love to invite you to my free facebook group where you get to ask your questions and get advice from myself on your IBS. You can join that group by clicking this link.
Get regular IBS insights and advice straight to your inbox, and start living life on your terms!
don't miss a post
Jayne Corner is a gut directed hypnotherapist and gut health coach helping you get long lasting relief from your IBS symptoms without restrictive diets or medication, even if you've been suffering for decades.
JAYNE CORNER - COPYRIGHT 2021 ©
opt in form goes here... just paste it into the code box below!