Health & Wellbeing

LIVING WITH IBS – Part 2

It’s been a week since Glastonbury and I am happy to report that I made it. 8 weeks ago (after years of suffering at the hands of IBS) I challenged myself to completely overhaul my lifestyle. The aim was to finally take steps to improve my symptoms and to feel as good as possible for Glastonbury Festival 2017.

In part 1 , at a point in time where I knew something had to change, I talked about how IBS has affected my life so far. I wanted to make a number of changes to improve my lifestyle and hopefully my symptoms as well.

So, a quick recap on the changes I had planned to make 8 weeks ago:

  • Change to a wholefoods, natural plant based diet (Vegan)
  • Keep a record of my eating habits, stool movements and feelings each day
  • Meditate at least once a day
  • Partake in regular exercise (30mins 5 x a week)

SO HOW DID I DO?

DIET:

The day after writing part 1 of this blog post, I challenged myself to change my diet. Out went meat and dairy, and in came a lot of vegetables. I wasn’t sure how I would manage with a Vegan diet – before then I didn’t really see a meal as a meal without some meat on the plate.

I can happily say that overall the change in diet so far has been a success. After the first week (and a lot of documentaries), I not only understood more about the benefits veganism can have on our planet as a whole, but I also genuinely began to feel better.

Initially the hardest thing was working out what I could and couldn’t eat, I had never been one for reading labels on my food and never really cared about what was in my meals. The other thing that took some time to adapt to, was what to replace meat and dairy with, buying a couple of vegan cookbooks helped on this front. Giving up meat and dairy was actually a lot easier than expected and I didn’t crave it as much as I thought I would. It does have its challenges – but once you have done it for a bit of time it gets easier and easier.

I have even started to enjoy meals again, I am rarely getting bloated or if I do it is not as severe. Looking at it now, it is pretty amazing how much better I feel from just changing my diet. Overall my stomach tightness has eased, I feel less bunged up and people have even commented about how I look better – and this all after just a few weeks of going vegan!

I used to regularly suffer from constipation; I now know that this is because the human stomach finds meat and dairy products a lot harder to breakdown. These types of food travel much slower through the intestines, creating a bloated feeling. I actually noticed changes even after a few days – I was visiting the bathroom a lot more regularly. My constipation was gone, but at first these trips were so regular that it made me a little anxious about how many times I had to go, especially whilst at work. Once my body had adjusted (a week or so) these trips reduced and my routine is now normal.

RECORD KEEPING:

On the same day as changing my diet, I downloaded an app that would help me to track my eating habits, stool movements and general wellbeing each day. After doing a bit of research, I decided to use Bowelle, an app made specifically for people suffering with IBS.

Personally I am a big fan of this app and I would highly recommend it. Its easy to use and clear to read and digest, most importantly you can export your data if you ever wanted to show a dietician or doctor. It does take a little bit of time to get in the habit of continuously recording what you eat, drink and when you go to the toilet etc. but once you’ve done it for a few days it just becomes normal.

MEDITATION:

I went straight onto Google and did a little bit of research for some meditation apps. The app I eventually chose was Headspace. It is a paid app, but I thought this might incentivise me to commit to it.

Being honest – I have used it, but not daily. I am surprised how hard it is to find 10 minutes to sit down to do this! I did manage to do it most weekdays leading up to Glastonbury.

The mediation helped a lot with my anxiety, allowing me to concentrate on my breathing techniques and gain relaxation methods when I began to feel symptoms coming on. The week before Glastonbury I had more average days then good days; I believe this was mostly down to anxiety than anything else. Being able to track my symptoms each day really helped me to pinpoint what was causing the flare ups.

My mind was thinking a lot about my symptoms and the same old questions were bouncing around my head. “What if I feel ill when I am there? What if I need to go to the toilet and there’s nowhere accessible to go?” After having IBS for a number of years it was always going to make me a little anxious, after all there have been so many other occasions that it has ruined. On reflection, I was definitely feeling more positive this time around; comforted by the success I had in the previous weeks and the techniques I had learnt for dealing with it.

EXERCISE:

All I can say is that I didn’t do too well at this one. I did bits here and there, cycled to work a few times but didn’t commit to this change anywhere close to the amount I did for the others.

IN SUMMARY:

Glastonbury is a crazy wonderful place and has been on my bucket list for a while now – getting tickets definitely gave me something to work towards. I actually stuck at a new routine and am still continuing these habits as I write this post.

Adopting the vegan diet and with the use of Bowelle, the weeks leading up to Glastonbury were better than I could have ever predicted. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some days where I still felt bloated or anxious, but the good days hugely outweighed the bad.

I have definitely noticed that I moan a lot less about my symptoms on a daily basis and I feel a lot better in myself. I would say I feel 70% better than what I did when writing part 1 just 8 weeks ago.

I am shocked by how effective some of the changes have been in such a short period of time. However, I know that I still have some way to go before I can completely put IBS behind me and I know that there is still a lot of work to be done. Glastonbury can be classed a success but there definitely were still times when I felt more reserved than I would of liked to have been but overall I am feeling a lot more positive about the future.

What has surprised me the most about these changes is the journey I went on to make them. I set out to improve my health and wellbeing, but I now also understand the impact our lifestyles have on our planet.

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