The Food Diary in the Wild: managing IBS as a student
IBS is most common in women, and usually begins between the late teens and early 40s.
Helena is a student who's struggled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome since the age of 13 - but with the help of her Food Diary she's figuring out her triggers and starting to eat more mindfully. Here's her story...
"I have suffered with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) since I was 13, so that's going on for around eight years now; I’m very familiar with the struggles of having such an inconvenient, painful and frankly irritating chronic illness. Although I regulate it much better nowadays, I am yet to start FODMAP elimination, yet do eat according to what usually triggers IBS problems and what doesn’t. It makes me feel a lot better, and now I don’t spend every evening writhing around in pain anymore.
I heard about TFDC through Instagram, and love the look of the sophisticated cover, and the helpful and well-thought out pages within. It is clearly made with love and support for people who are going through the same issues as its creator! Although I’d come a long way in handling my IBS, I hadn't seen a massive improvement in my symptoms in a couple of years: bloating and distension are my main symptoms, which I find really hard to deal with, particularly having a full timetable of uni. So I thought getting hold of one of one may help me identify some triggers or at least identify patterns.
It has done just that! I have noticed that when I eat lower carbs in the evening, my IBS symptoms are more reduced, and the food diary helped me identify this - using the symptom column beside the food and meal record is a big help. The section for stress levels and sleep are also so important. Keeping a food diary is NOT just about food: lack of sleep can affect our symptoms and high periods of stress too, that’s why it’s useful and important to use this section to record these things as well, as they can help see what’s affecting your health besides food.
Being a student with Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be so difficult at times, when everyone else is scoffing their Mcdonalds after a night out, you’re there eating your gluten free crisps or your dairy free biscuits, feeling like some kind of IBS alien! But the food diary does make me realise, there is a reason I am not scoffing Mcdonalds after a night out: it makes me feel rubbish and I can see that because of what I write down in the diary.
The food diary makes you more mindful of what you are eating and makes you want to work harder to find things your tummy is going to like, and which are going to help heal it. That’s what I think the diary works the best at doing: while you can make a mental note of what you’re eating, writing it down and having a record of it does help you not just physically heal your tummy, but also heal your mind!
To anyone who is thinking of getting one, but unsure: it’s a small price to pay for something that can help you be more mindful and conscious. Being mindful with Irritable Bowel Syndrome can actually take you a long way: as we know, IBS isn’t just food related, it is also related to our mental state. That’s why the food diary isn’t just a food diary, as it not only helps you to see what you’re doing in terms of food, but can in turn calm you down and remind you that you’re doing your best. You will feel in control of your stomach and your self, which will reduce stress and anxiety.
I know what can happen with IBS and food. Your relationship with it can take a turn for the worse, because so many foods seem to be out of bounds. But having something like this where you can record everything in a discreet little place can be so helpful and I’d be surprised if you don’t get a positive use out of it - take this coming from a person who has suffered with years for IBS ever since being a teen! Plus, it looks pretty and is a cherry on the top for those of us who love stationery and organising themselves!
- Lena, London, UK/ Hamburg, Germany (@lenashappytummy)
If Lena's story sounds familiar to you, why not try a Food Diary of your own? Each diary is three months of undated tracking pages, so you can start as soon as it arrives! Pick one up here.