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  1. Ah, it’s that time again, friends. Time for New Year’s Resolutions. This year especially, we may not have the mental space to think about improving ourselves next year (and that’s okay!). We don’t even know if our lives will regain some semblance of “normal” next year. My vote is that we don’t add unnecessary pressure to our lives, but instead we take this new beginning as an opportunity to better care for ourselves. Learn to listen to your body and mind. If you’re looking to improve your IBS symptoms in 2021, consider these low pressure, high impact options. Take Your Needs Seriously If you know that something triggers you, you have the power to turn it down. Even if you feel it would be rude to decline something you’re offered, remind yourself that it isn’t. I can’t count the number of times I’ve eaten just a bit of something I shouldn’t have or cleared my plate knowing I would feel sick afterward. It has taken me so much practice to learn that I can say no. If you’re comfortable, share a bit about why you are declining a food or only serving yourself a child-sized portion at dinner. Share Your Truth Find someone who understands you. Maybe it’s a fellow IBS sufferer or an online forum. Maybe it’s a close friend who doesn’t have a similar experience, but who is willing to listen and learn. Just establishing the freedom to share when you have a flare up with someone you know won’t judge you can be extremely liberating. Even those who aren’t afflicted have likely experienced some level of gut dysfunction in their lives and would be delighted to be there for you when you need some support. The more we normalize our experiences the better things get for all of us. Start with just one person. Acknowledge Anxiety Learn to listen to your body’s signals. When you start feeling that tightness in your chest or when that rumbling starts in your tummy, take a moment to breathe. Allow yourself to say, “I’m not okay.” Write it down in a journal, tell a friend, say it aloud to your dog or whisper your thoughts to a plant. Whatever it takes to release the pressure you’re feeling will be tremendously helpful. In time, this will become second nature and you’ll find that freeing your mind of burdens is the first step to freeing your body too. Be Kind to Yourself Allow yourself to indulge in the foods and drinks and activities that bring you joy. Eat pancakes for dinner, have the occasional glass of wine, skip the run and dance in your kitchen for 20 minutes instead. Forgive yourself for overindulging when you inevitably do and learn from your experiences about moderation and your body’s needs. No one is perfect all the time. - - - - - For most of us, 2020 has been a rollercoaster. Whether you’re working from home and helping your child in the virtual classroom or picking up groceries for your elderly neighbor or sewing masks for everyone you know, there is no doubt in my mind that you spent time this year caring for someone else. And while that can be extremely fulfilling, it can also be draining when we continue to prioritize everyone else before ourselves. The truth is, the better we are to ourselves, the more we can offer to others. Take time in 2021 to be kind to yourself and to take your needs seriously. Share your truth with those you love and ask for their support on your journey. Acknowledge your fears, worries, and anxieties, but don’t let them rule your mind or your gut. Recognize that you deserve to be a top priority in your life and make choices that reflect how much you care about yourself. - - - - - Happy New Year to all. May 2021 bring you happiness, health, and love. Read more about my experience with IBS at https://gut-vibes.com/
  2. Last summer I was nearly at my wit’s end with my gut problems. I couldn’t wear anything without looking 6 months pregnant. I felt like garbage all the time. I didn’t have my diagnosis yet, so I was blindly trying anything I could to sort out my symptoms on my own (do not recommend) because I was too embarrassed to make an appointment with my doctor (if this is you, don’t be embarrassed… Make the call!). Every few days I would weigh myself because I was convinced that I’d gained a few pounds and it wasn’t just bloating. (Of course that wouldn’t have explained all my other symptoms, but I was desperate for something—anything—to make sense.) And then it hit me: alcohol. Flashback to the year I lived in Spain. I worked part time and had 3 day weekends. I was 21, fresh out of college, and down to party nearly every weekend. Some nights I wouldn’t drink. I’d stay out late and go dancing, sure, but I wouldn’t always drink. The nights I did drink though, I would have a guaranteed bowel movement the next morning. It was usually urgent, accompanied by severe and painful cramps, and anywhere from a 5-7 on the old Bristol Stool Chart. I thought this was just a normal reaction to drinking because it always happened to me. (Funny what we tell ourselves is normal, huh?) This flashback gave me an idea: maybe I can hack my gut and guarantee a poo every morning if I drink every night. I wasn’t planning to get wasted, just to have a glass of my favorite red after dinner. What could go wrong? For a while it did seem to help. I would have not the most ideal poo the next day, but at least I wasn’t always constipated. After about a week of thinking I had pulled the ultimate con on my gut, things started to go downhill. I realized I was just trading constipation and bloating for diarrhea (and still bloating—not a single summer dress was worn that season). I began to question my gut hack. So why did this seem like a genius scheme (at first) and what happens in your gut when you drink alcohol? Here’s a quick breakdown. Alcohol is naturally an irritant and as we all know from middle school health class, alcohol can have some pretty negative effects on the body, especially if consumed in excess either chronically or acutely. (I won’t go into all that here, because this is about alcohol and IBS, not just alcohol in general.) Alcohol is a stimulant, so it can increase motility (the speed at which your GI tract moves food through your digestive system). This is why it can cause cramping, urgent bowel movements, and diarrhea as your intestines are suddenly moving things through faster than normal. (It was this key feature that I thought I could use to my advantage. Alcohol—1, Me—0) Alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you urinate more frequently and can lead to dehydration. (Hello, hangover!) In case you didn’t know, staying properly hydrated is not only good for all your inner bits, but it is especially good for your gut to keep things moving properly. Alcohol causes inflammation in the gut and could exacerbate or directly affect many GI disorders if consumed excessively over time, although there is still much to learn about the relationship between alcohol and IBS. It wasn’t completely crazy to think I might be able to manipulate my body to get a desired outcome, but ultimately it was destined to fail because I wasn’t addressing the actual problem. Take it from me: Your gut cannot be outsmarted.
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