Better Bowel Movements
Strategies for the Perfect Poop
As much as we might look forward to the Holidays and all the joys of the season that come with this special time of year, if you have IBS, the Holidays may be a bit of a different experience for you. We all want fewer symptoms and better bowel movements, but this can be especially hard during the Holidays. For one, it’s an extra busy time of year for most of us, and the stress that comes along with that constantly growing to-do list can really do a number on our symptoms. This means that even when we are making good choices for digestion, symptoms can still show up in response to the added stress we are experiencing. When we are in a state of heightened stress, this also means that even the smallest of triggers can be even harder for our bodies to handle, and our symptom response may be stronger and quicker than we are used to. There’s nothing worse than being out at the mall or over at a friend’s house and suddenly getting that awful, urgent feeling that you need to use the bathroom.
There are a few things I have to suggest that will help you avoid this situation and have better bowel movements over the Holidays. Some of this advice you will have heard before, but I want to remind you not to forget about the simple, basic things we all know are good for digestion, but especially so over the Holidays or any other time where you may be experiencing greater than normal levels of stress.
Fibre and Fluids for Digestion
Are you getting enough? These two are the classic recommendations that almost always go along with any digestive health issue. Let’s start with fibre. What’s enough when it comes to fibre? 25-38g per day. Here’s the catch. When you have IBS, your fibre needs and tolerance may be a little different. So what do you do and how do you figure out your ‘sweet spot’?
First, figure out where you are now. Do a little food tracking and figure out how much fibre you are getting in a typical day on your normal diet. The Dietitians of Canada EaTracker tool is a good, simple option to use if you’re not sure. If you are in the proper range and your symptoms are under control, then keep doing what you are doing. If you are still struggling with symptoms and you’re not getting enough, then try to start slowly increasing your fibre intake, just a few grams per day, until your symptoms improve. It could be as simple as adding a spoon of chia seeds to your breakfast, or eating one more small serving of a cooked vegetable. If you are having symptoms and you are already getting enough fibre, you may actually benefit from reducing your fibre. Again, make slow adjustments and reduce just a few grams per day until you find relief.
When it comes to fluid, we know one thing for sure; you can not have good digestion if you are not getting enough fluid. You need to be getting in at least 2-3L per day! That’s quite a bit, especially if you never really get thirsty. Try to set reminders for yourself to drink a little every hour, instead of trying to get it all in at the end of the day which can seem impossible. Although this is obvious advice, I find most of my clients aren’t getting enough. We know better, and it’s such a simple thing, yet we struggle to get it done. While fluids can include anything from soups to juice, milk, coffee and tea, it’s best to focus on getting most of this fluid from water and little from the other options.
The Best Food for Perfect Poops
We aren’t going to get into the specifics of the best and worst foods for IBS in this post, but I will share with you my top strategy for avoiding those urgent loose bowel movements over the Holidays. Focus on simple foods. By simple, I mean foods with just one, two or three ingredients, NOT those with lots of layers or sauces or complex flavours. I’m talking simple roasted potatoes with salt and pepper and olive oil. Simple steamed vegetables. Simple proteins. Casseroles and lasagnas and those types of foods with lots going on are way more likely to trigger our symptoms, so it’s best to avoid these.
How to Manage Holiday Stress
My favourite tip for managing the added stress and anxiety of the season is to use deep belly breathing. When we get worked up about something, we tend to take a lot of short quick breaths that stay nice and high in our chest. The next time you feel a wave of anxiety or stress coming on, I want you to pause for just a moment and take a slow deep breath all the way down into your belly. Hold it for a second, then let it all go. And repeat. It really is a simple strategy that you can use anywhere, anytime, but you will almost instantly feel the anxiety leaving your body. So as you’re getting ready to go out to that Holiday party, as you’re driving over in the car, and as you assess the spread of food for the evening, come back to this deep belly breathing, and I promise you will be just fine.
The Holidays can be such a hard time if you are struggling with digestive symptoms. I know because I lived through this for a few years before I was able to identify my triggers and it was awful. I really feel for those of you who are still struggling. If you’re looking for support and plan to get you feeling well again, I’d love to help you out in the CLAIRITY program. Please don’t hesitate to contact my team and we will work together to figure out the best way for you to find relief.
Wishing you much love & wellness,