How do you stay fit when you have IBS? Ask @fittiefodmapLDN

Working out when you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be a pain in the arse: literally. So we went in search of tips from @fittiefodmapldn to find out how she stays motivated to keep fit and manage her IBS at the same time.

Becky ffldn.jpg

One of the things that has made chronic illnesses a tad easier to bear in this day and age (besides our diary) is the online community.

There are plenty of us wandering around these here networks – though especially we seem to gather on Instagram – talking about how we’re faring with life and a constant autoimmune issue hanging around our bodies. And because of these people it’s not all doom and gloom. You remember that there’ll be bad days and good days, and in between you’ll keep kicking arse with humour and a lot of self-care.

And because they help keep us going, we wanted to share the stories of some of the people behind some of our favourite insta accounts! First up, Becky from @fittiefodmapldn…working out with IBS can be a one step forward, three steps back sort of feeling, but Becky’s blog and insta motivates us to keep trying. 

So without further ado Becky, tell us your diagnosis story…

I remember being sick on the morning of Boxing Day 2013, and then for the next few months after I was feeling sick every night.  Some nights would be worse than others, with terrible stomach pains, where I could not leave my bed (or even the floor!). I know I had the same afternoon tea with champagne in January, and then in March – one time I felt amazing and the other I was really ill.  None of it made any sense and it made me feel completely out of control. 

I went to the Doctors after being ill on New Year’s Eve (whilst at home in bed) and he prescribed me some anti-nausea medicine.  This medicine made no difference, so I went back to the doctors again.  I was referred to a gastroenterologist and also for ultrasound of my throat.  I felt like I constantly had something in my throat and it was stopping me eating.  The doctors were worried there was a lump and this was cancer.

The first specialist I saw, thought I may have IBS and suggested trying the low FODMAP diet (this was in June 2014).  The hospital also wanted to rule out every other type of stomach illness, so I had to have a camera down my throat (which was one of the worst experiences of my life). The ultrasound on my throat didn’t find anything, but the doctor suggested it could have been acid (from my stomach) in my throat. The other tests did not show up any signs of other illnesses, so it was settled that I had IBS.

How long have you been living with IBS?

I have had IBS since the end of 2013, but looking back I may have had it before that date, as I can see some foods which I am intolerant to now could have made me uncomfortable before then.  So, just over four years.

Were you a fitness enthusiast before your diagnosis? Did you have to create a whole new fitness routine for yourself or did you adapt something you were already doing?

I have always been a fitness enthusiast! But after having IBS I did change the way I trained.  I was struggling with bloating and lack of energy, so I employed a personal trainer.  I then went from a cardio bunny to weights enthusiast. I used to train 5/6 a week at the gym, and I still do that now!

How do you cope with a flare & working out?

If I have an IBS flare up I do have to rest and not train, which I hate.  Depending on how bad the flare up is, I may be able to do some light cardio (generally a cycle for me) or some body weight exercises.  I would recommend resting though, especially if you do not train regularly.

Even if I don’t have a flare up, I personally have found that doing ab exercises can really make me feel sick.  Pre-IBS I could do a plank without any issue but now it can really upset my stomach. I do sometimes feel very sick mid workout too, and the only solution is lay down for a few minutes and finish my workout, and stop pushing my body.

How do you cope with working out and IBS mentally? Is it more of a struggle to keep up with fitness?

I love working out so I don’t struggle to get to the gym or a class.  I find IBS hard on my brain though. As previously mentioned IBS can stop me from working out, or stopping me from reaching my full potential in the gym, and this upsets me. But I definitely think that exercise helps my mental state – it gives me a break from work and life, and allows me to focus on something positive! When I first started on the low FODMAP diet, I think exercise was one of my only constants.

What tips do you have for our followers for working out when you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Be kind to yourself (which I find hard!), some days you will struggle but others you will smash it! Also I would suggest trying to find a personal trainer who has experience with IBS, gut health and exercise to ensure you are working out in the best way possible.

If you do not exercise currently I would say start with 3x30 minute workouts a week and build up.  It will take a while for your body to get used to it.  Also you do not have to join a gym to workout, you can just get outside and move, run, walk or even join a team, such as hockey or football.

Give us a link to your favourite fodmap-friendly recipe on your site for a post-workout snack/meal :) 
My favourite post workout dinner is the cheese burger casserole, which is low FODMAP and gluten free! To make it leaner, you can mix it up with turkey or chicken mince.

Do you have any funny/horror stories about working out with IBS? A 'we've all been there' moment?

I can’t think of anything I want to be public!! Eeekkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!

Is there anything else you'd like people to know about living with IBS? 

Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is hard – before I was diagnosed, I think I just thought it was people that had issues with spicy or fatty food, but it is way more than this! It can affect all parts of your life, mentally and physically.  It is a long term illness and this can really drag you down sometimes.

It is becoming more common now, and although this is not a good thing, it means there is a larger network of people out there to lean on. 

I would also recommend you pushing your doctors for answers and ensure they investigate everything before you are given the IBS diagnosis.

Thank you Becky for giving us your tips on staying fit and healthy when you have IBS (and sometimes, no desire to workout!)

If you’re interested in more experiences of our diary users click here, and for more lifestyle and diet articles, click here!