Does someone you love suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome? If so, you can probably feel helpless sometimes. It can really be an overwhelming thing to deal with for that person and for those that care about them, because for so long, there weren’t any good recommendations on how to help.
With five million Canadians (and millions around the world) suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you or someone you know is affected by this complex and debilitating illness. Not only does IBS cause painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing digestive symptoms, like gas and bloating, but it can get in the way of normal, daily life.
Today’s post is for all you wonderful, loving family and friends that care for us IBS’ers and how you can support your loved ones with IBS to make their life just a little bit easier.
AND if you have IBS, forward this article to someone who loves you and wants to support you better. They will be happy to have some guidance 😉
How to Support a Loved One with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
1. Just Ask
“Where would you like to have lunch?”… “What do you feel like doing this afternoon?”. These are questions that anyone likes to hear – to have your preferences acknowledged. People with IBS often don’t want to put anyone out but can feel uneasy about when symptoms are going to hit. By asking questions and giving someone control over an event, location or meal it will help them to feel more comfortable, relaxed and valued. PLUS being involved in making choices will allow them to choose somewhere that has foods less likely to trigger symptoms, an accessible bathroom and ultimately will reduce their stress and anxiety. If you are hosting an event, ask your loved one with IBS to help plan the menu or for a couple of their favourite recipes to serve as part of the meal. If you have plans to go to a restaurant, ask them which restaurants offer choices that meet their needs. Asking for input will make a WORLD of difference!
2. Be Flexible
Understand that IBS is unpredictable. It’s super annoying for those that have to deal with it when it’s out of control – one minute they might be on top of the world and the next they feel absolutely terrible. If someone you know with IBS needs to cancel or change plans, be understanding. Know that they are already very disappointed that they can’t make it out or are putting you out by meeting at a different time or location. Guilt is the last thing we want someone to experience, so be kind, just like you would want someone to do for you. Maybe instead of a big night out of dancing and drinks you can both have a relaxing night in watching movies and drinking tea. Perhaps instead of a hiking in a remote area you can do a walk where there are bathrooms nearby. Come up with an alternative plan together. IBS can be isolating – so don’t give up on your IBS loved one.
If you feel like they are ready for some support, information and a community where they can get the advice and support to feel better, show them the CLAIRITY Program. This is the best way to work with me where I share all my insight and advice for healing and better managing symptoms.
3. Try Something New
There’s a very good chance that people suffering with IBS won’t be able to eat all of the same foods that you can. Instead of making a big deal out of having to avoid certain dishes, get excited about trying foods that may not be usual for you. It can be discouraging and embarrassing when people are constantly commenting on your eating habits and food choices, or when people imply that you are just being picky. Look at it like an opportunity to expand your horizons and investigate new, cool restaurants together. Try cultural foods that are easier on the gut, like Mexican Corn Tacos, Columbian Empanadas, or Brazilian cheese bread! Not only will you be trying something new, you may just find your new favourite dish 😉 . Why not try my Low FODMAP Peanut Noodle Bowl instead of ordering Chinese takeout the next time you get a craving?
4. No Jokes (please)
It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 55… Nobody likes to get teased or made fun of. Even though it can feel light-hearted, many people are truly suffering on the inside as they struggle with IBS day in and day out. And please don’t mention how long we’ve been in the bathroom … we know, it was a little long…. well sometimes that happens when milk sneaks into the food! Instead, be empathetic and sensitive to their feelings. Ask them how they are feeling and simply be supportive.
5. Be a Friend
It’s very easy to feel isolated or alone when you have IBS. You can feel like you don’t fit in or that you’re a burden to others. Make sure your loved one with IBS knows that you are there for them, that you’re flexible to stay in or go out, and are happy to try new foods and places that work for them (all of the above!). You don’t have to have all of the answers; even just having someone to listen can be helpful. You can also be there for them by offering your help when needed. If you see that they are having a particularly bad day with lots of symptoms, you could offer to watch their kids for a couple hours, pick up something for them when you are out or go for a walk together to help them achieve some self-care. It could even be as small as making them a tea, low FODMAP of course 😉 .
Between painful symptoms, food restrictions and surprise bathroom visits, IBS isn’t easy to live with. While this list of tips isn’t complete, what I hope you will take from this article is that your support can make a world of difference to those suffering with IBS. Kindness never goes out of style, so be the best version of yourself and lend a hand to your loved ones.
Wishing you well,
Stephanie & the Team.