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Living with IBS/food intolerances and anxiety

Living with IBS/food intolerances and anxiety

by FoodMaestro | 10 October 2016

Written by Lauren Tibbetts, Founder of Lauren Loves

Having suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember, I’ve worked my way through plenty of ups and downs. Over the past few years I’ve managed to reduce the effects of anxiety on my everyday life by adopting a few lifestyle habits. 

Since setting up my business, Lauren Loves and entering the food allergy industry I’ve been speaking to lots of people who suffer with IBS/food intolerances and anxiety, and realised the undeniable link between the two. I wanted to share my experiences and give some tips on how to minimise anxiety and effects on everyday life. 

Overall, my mission is to take away the stress associated with eating with IBS. I feel passionately that if we can remove some of this stress and anxiety around eating, we can allow people to feel and live better every day. 

1. Preparation 

Preparation is key! Anxiety, especially when travelling, can really kick in when you’re suffering with intolerances or allergies. You’re always expecting the worst to happen, and the worry then affects stress levels, which in turn can affect IBS symptoms. It’s a vicious cycle that can be stopped!  

These simple tips can help: 

  • Whether you’re commuting to work, or taking a long road trip/flight, it’s such a good idea to pack some suitable snacks for the journey. Snacks that you know are going to be gentle on your tummy and suitable for your specific diet. This stops you reaching for the nearest bag of crisps, snack bar or chocolate when out and about and you’ll be safe in the knowledge that what you’ve eaten that day is suitable for you, and shouldn’t give you any problems. 
  • Preparing lunches to take into work. Again, this just stops you from panic buying a sandwich when you’re hangry*. We’ve all been there.
  • When going abroad, take suitable snacks and foods with you so you can eat what you know is safe. To really safeguard yourself, stay somewhere with a kitchen in your room so you can make food from scratch, rather than relying on your waiter understanding English and your complex requirements. 
  • Download the FODMAP app. This app will support you when you’re on the move and you’re not sure what’s safe to eat. It’s an absolute lifesaver and is so quick and easy to use. 

*hungry/angry = hangry

2. Exercise 

There are many reasons why exercise helps with anxiety, and they simply can’t be ignored. We know that stress is a huge trigger for IBS, and exercise so often takes your mind away from the stress of modern life. 

Exercise releases endorphins in your body, which in turn make you happier! Your body will also be exhausted after a decent work out, which means that your quality of sleep will be better and you’ll get the rest your body needs to recover.

Anything from a brisk walk, practicing yoga or going to a full on boxing class, can really reduce stress and anxiety, which in turn can reduce IBS symptoms. Win win!

3. Support network

Talking to someone close to you, and telling them how you feel, can really help. I kept my anxiety a secret for years, and only really opened up to my boyfriend because I had to, as he did to me with his food intolerances. Now we both help keep each other on track with a healthy diet and exercise, so those days when you’re really not feeling it, you’ve got someone to support you and give you a gentle nudge. Find someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to, and tell them how you’re feeling and what they can do to help.

4. Keep a diary

This can help you figure out your triggers and you can learn from previous situations. Even if it’s just one line per day or one word to sum up how you’re feeling it can help highlight the root cause. Were you feeling particularly anxious after a big weekend of over-indulgence? Do you feel anxious when eating out with friends?

Whatever your trigger, you can quickly highlight it and address how to minimise the effects. Sharing your anxiety about food with your friends can help, as can suggesting a place to eat out where you know you can eat safely. As soon as you start making these changes they’ll start becoming habit, and part of your daily routine.

5. Commit to making changes

What does success look like for you? 

For me, reaching goals like ‘Gym - at least 3 times a week’, ‘Meditate at least once a week’ give me the foundations to my confidence. I also try to keep my diet as balanced as possible over the entire week so that I minimise the anxiety I get after a weekend of over-indulgence.

Your picture of success will be different to mine, which is absolutely fine - the main purpose is that it’s realistic. If it’s too much of a stretch to you right now you won’t achieve them which will de-motivate you, so make them achievable. You can always review them later. 

I hope these tips help you, like they have helped me! 


Lauren Loves FODMAP

Written by Lauren Tibbetts, Founder of Lauren Loves, a new business providing a range of FODMAP friendly sauces and recipes.

Check out her Facebook page for more details and more tips and tricks for managing with IBS and food intolerances.