You've just been diagnosed. The thing that's been plaguing you with all manner of stomach aches and gut pains and nausea and more is apparently Irritable Bowel Syndrome. But...now what? Now: you keep a food diary. Your doctor may have already told you to, and maybe you've been given a print out of the high FODMAP foods to avoid too. But that's often just the start of the journey.
So...what is a food diary then?
Put simply, an IBS food diary is a way of tracking the things you’ve eaten and the symptoms you experience to try and narrow down the culprits causing you to feel unwell – or your personal ‘trigger’ foods. Because the experience of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is different for everyone, we sadly can’t simply find a single list of ‘things to avoid’ and have that be that. Even the Low FODMAP diet isn't gospel - you may be perfectly happy with some high FODMAP foods and not others. So, we have to keep a proper record of everything we’ve ingested to find the sneaky little culprits causing our trips to the loo (…or lack thereof).
A complete record of everything you ate
A food diary shouldn’t be just a record of every thing you ate, but when you ate it and how much of it you ate, too. We found it helps to carry our diary on us so that we can update it as and when throughout the day instead of trying to remember the details once we get home on an evening. Because the more accurate you can be about food and symptoms, the easier it is to say with some certainty ‘’X’ reaction was due to ‘Y’’.
We have a great downloadable PDF that explains the optimal way to keep a food diary - sign up to our newsletter and we’ll send you it for free!
A good food diary should look at more than diet
Tiresome though it may seem, an IBS food journal needs to keep track of more than just what you ate and when. It should take into account all sorts of things that could be triggering an IBS attack. Could you say for definite how much sleep you had this week? No? That’s why you need to write it down. How about the exact amount of caffeine or alcohol you drank? What about the things that stressed you out, or your mood that day, or the medicines you took? These are all things you need to write in a food diary to make sure you get a holistic overview of your gut and health, and subsequently, what could be affecting it.
A food diary is one of your most useful tools in controlling IBS
IBS can feel like a shape-shifting trickster…like one minute you have a handle on it, and the next you’re cursing something unknown from the porcelain throne. Trust us, we’ve been there. It’s the literal worst. But you can drastically ease the way back to health by finding your most common IBS triggers. In fact, without keeping a food diary you might never figure out what causes your personal symptoms.
Keeping a food diary has to be consistent
If you’re not being consistent about what you’re tracking, you’re not going to capture all the data you need to figure out what your gut is rebelling against.
Ever have those days where you eat everything you’ve ever eaten before that you never had any trouble with…except on this day your stomach feels awful? Maybe you’re eating bigger quantities of something. Maybe you’re more stressed than previously. Maybe you ate two types of food that separately are fine, but you ate them together and now you hate life. Write. It. Down. Then you’ll know for sure the next time.
Additionally, you have to be honest about what you’re writing down. Your diary is your personal place to be truthful about how you’re feeling, what you ate, and how it’s affecting you. No-one’s going to see it, and our diary design is discreet. So no-one’s needs to know you’re jotting down details of your BMs (that’s bowel movements, kids. Isn’t IBS joyful…?).
A food diary can be easy
While everything we’ve just talked about can feel time consuming and frustrating, keeping a food diary doesn’t have to be a chore. That’s why we created the food diary company: because we wanted a ready-made diary that we could just pick up and get started with. We wanted a journal with all the prompts already there, so we didn’t forget to record something that could help us later on.
You don’t need to buy a Food Diary Co diary to get started; but if you want to take the hassle out of keeping a food diary, we thoroughly recommend it.
Is a food diary just for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Nope – it could be for anyone with any type of illness or intolerances that involve food and a rebelling body. We’ve had people with dairy intolerances that result in skin rashes use the diary to monitor their intake, and people with diagnoses of plenty of other illnesses that affect the gut and food diets (like Coeliac disease, fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease etc) use them. Take a look at our food diary now – it might just be for you too.