How I Recover From An IBS Flare Up…

I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). For me, this means stress and some foods cause me intestinal cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. I feel a lot of abdominal pain when I have flare ups with my IBS. It makes it difficult to stand, sleep and even just enjoy my day. I have noticed it negatively impact my mood, as well. I become short with people and quite argumentative.

To manage day to day stress I meditate and do yoga. However, it is hard for me to completely avoid or give up eating everything that causes me issues. I feel in order to 100% avoid them I would never be able to appreciate dinners with friends at their homes or out on the town. That said I do my best to avoid them as much as possible, even when I travel. It also helps if I eat in moderation by not continuing to eat beyond when I feel satiated or full. Birthdays, Holidays and a little too much happens though, so here are the main guidelines I follow to recover.

Get Right Back on the Horse

Overall, the best way I have found for myself to recover from an IBS flare up is to get back to eating right for my gut as soon as possible. If I continue eating all the foods I know cause me issues then it just becomes worse. I usually know when I may be eating foods that are bad for me and plan out proper meals for about 5 days after. It is also best to not beat myself up about what I did and just do what needs to be done.

This does not mean I am depriving myself, you can make meals that are flavorful, delicious and good for your gut. One of my favorite recovery meals is a tempeh rueben sandwich. YUM! It is loaded with beneficial microorganisms that are GREAT for your gut too!

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Probiotics

I eat a lot of natural probiotic foods throughout the day on top of taking a probiotic supplement before bed each night. Some of my favorite probiotic foods are tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, unsweetened yogurt, and kombucha. I always have at least 2 of these in my refrigerator. My fastest recovery from a flare up came from every meal and snack containing natural probiotics so I know this works for me. The more often I have them the easier recovery is for me.

Note: In my last post I mentioned that I had an epic food day with my friend and the following day I had a Sesame Kale bowl for dinner with a pile of sauerkraut and tempeh.

Relax

Since stress is one of the triggers for IBS, I try to regularly take some time for myself. Even when things are busy, I schedule time for meditation and running to help alleviate anxiety. These two things help me out a lot, if something else helps you relax then do it!

Lately, I have noticed that I have developed habits I associated with relaxation, but they really cause me stress. I have become very into watching some YouTubers (family vloggers and beauty gurus), so much so that missing an “episode” stresses me out. It is not like I can not just watch later. However, it has been causing me anxiety to miss what was posted that day so this habit needs to end. Stress over something like that is NOT worth it.

Traveling

When we travel it typically means eating out a lot and I love to enjoy the local food, which is often not the best option for my health. Before I travel, I look for hotels or AirBnBs with at least a refrigerator, if not a small kitchen. Then, I can stop by a grocery store my first day out of town to grab some food to eat breakfast in and bring my own snacks. A filling gut friendly breakfast helps me pace myself throughout the day as well. Sometimes I find I do not even need snacks since eating out tends to mean a lot more food, but it is great to have the option to bring leftovers back to my home away from home.

For example, my last trip to my hometown I knew I would be eating out for lunch and dinner most of the weekend to spend time with friends and family. I made a zucchini bread to bring with me for breakfast. I also stopped by the grocery store on my first day to pick up peaches and yogurt. I knew my mother had some unsweetened almond butter as well so for breakfast I had:

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Spicy Avocado Dressing

There was a request for my dressing mentioned in Sunday’s post so I thought I would make it a separate post for folks to be able to search for easier.

This can make 4-8 servings depending on how much you like to use.
1 avocado
¼ c. chopped cilantro
¼ c lime juice
⅛ t sea salt
1 t minced garlic
¼ c water
1 t hot sauce sauce (or more if you like it hotter)
Put everything in a blender. Blend until smooth (you should still see specks of cilantro throughout). I recommend using this within ~5 days.

What I Eat

There is clearly an obsession with what people eat because all over social media people are sharing what they eat. I even did a “What I Ate Wednesday” on Instagram while I was working toward eating to relieve my digestive issues. People want to know what others are eating, it can be inspiring.

My Diet

To start, when I say diet I’m not talking about that thing people do temporarily to lose weight. Diet is how you eat regularly all the time. So here is how I eat 80-95% of the time.

When I got the news that I needed to change my diet, I looked for recipes and lifestyles that I could just follow (such as Paleo, Vegan, Mediterranean, South Beach, etc.) until I got a hang of cooking outside of my normal ways. Clean Eating seemed to fit the best, but there are a few things I have to sub (the use of cane sugar and too much oil) for my IBS issues. I make much of my food from scratch, so this has been easy for me to follow.

On top of clean eating, I eat mostly plant-based or like a semi-vegetarian/flexitarian. Meat is expensive (adding $1+ per serving) and most of it is produced in a way that has a negative impact on our environment. This not only saves me money and helps the environment, but seems to be gentle on my digestive system. I aim to keep meat consumption for when I go out to eat or family gatherings.

To summarize:

  • I eat foods as close to their natural state as possible; whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, lean meat and seafood, etc.
  • I avoid processed foods (boxed/pre-packaged foods, things with more than one ingredient, ingredients I do not know what they are, preservatives, and added sugar).
  • I focus on eating whole health fat (avocados, coconuts, olives, nuts, seeds, etc.) without consuming too much added oils since that causes IBS issues for me.
  • I drink mostly water, decaffeinated herbal tea and a glass of milk each day.
  • I try to eat vegetarian at least 75% of the time, in other words meat only once a day.

What I Ate This Week: August 14th – 21th

Note: I did not specially select what week to do this post, I just picked a date and wrote up what I ate. Also, I did not include any of my recipes since it would have made this a CRAZY long post. Let me know if you would be interested in seeing some of my full recipes and maybe I’ll start posting those one day during the week. I link any recipes I used from external sources, however.

Sunday, August 14th

I had a friend in town and we were trying to eat light this day after doing a local food tour the previous day.

Breakfast: 2 peach zucchini oat bran muffins with 1 cup unsweetened soy milk and an herbal tea

Lunch: 2 cups veggies, 2 falafels, 2 T hummus, 1 cup watermelon, 2 coconut date balls

Snack: 2 T peanut butter, 1 coconut date ball

Dinner: 1/2 an order of vegan nachos, 1/2 an order of sesame kale rice bowl with tempeh

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Monday, August 15th

Breakfast: 2 peach zucchini oat bran muffins with 1 cup unsweetened soy milk

AM Snack: 7 Trader Joe’s Mini tacos

Lunch: leftover sesame kale rice bowl with tempeh, 2 cups watermelon

PM Snack: tortilla chips and black bean salsa

Dinner: spicy avocado salad (greens, corn, tomato, red onion, black beans and spicy avocado dressing)

Tuesday – Friday, August 16th – 20th

I typically prepare multiple servings of the same dish to eat throughout the week. I personally do not get bored of the same food. It saves a lot of money and time to eat the same dish all week, especially when you are feeding only one or two people.

For breakfast: savory breakfast quinoa (quinoa with steamed kale, sautéed zucchini, a runny egg and avocado)

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AM snack: a packet of beef jerky, on sale at Costco this month.

Lunch: 2 cups of watermelon or cantaloupe chunks and 2 slices of a Bison Brat pizza (whole wheat crust, tomato sauce, bison brat (my mother left this gem behind from her visit), white cheddar, red onion, red bell pepper, sauerkraut and mustard)

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PM Snack: 1 1/2 cups of veggies with about 2 T hummus, I basically just cut up a ton of veggies throw them in a bag to eat from all week.

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Dinner: spicy avocado salad

Evening Snack: homemade mango puree pop

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On Wednesday, I did go to an event in the evening, for dinner I had a SoyBoy veggie dog with mustard and sauerkraut on a poppyseed bun along with bites of everything folks brought to share (hummus and herb bread, chips and salsa, Bollywood popcorn, and dill pickle chips).

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Saturday, August 21st

Breakfast: unflavored grass-fed whey protein powder mixed in coconut water, french toast

Lunch: leftover cheese sticks, curtesy of my roommate, dipped in my leftover homemade tomato sauce

Snack: watermelon float with homemade vegan ice cream

Dinner: Mediterranean quinoa bowl (quinoa, eggplant, summer squash, red onion and lemon tahini dressing) – this will be my lunch for the next week

At Home Workouts

Screenshot 2016-08-08 18.12.33I prefer a free workout, I like to get it out of the way first thing in the morning and I need it take less than an hour long to get to work on time. So at home workouts are perfect for me to get in a great workout without the rush in the AM or bit out of my budget. Here are a few easily accessible workouts I have followed and a little review on on each of them. Also, share below your favorite free workouts!

YouTube (YT)

YT is a wonderful place to find at home workouts. There are so many variety of things to chose from too! You just need to look for YouTubers who do activities you enjoy and motivate you to keep going. I love doing yoga and resistance training. I also like positive, fun, unique individuals to fuel my determination. So here are a few of my favorites:

Yoga With Adriene (YWA or Adriene Mishler)

Adriene is a yogi who releases a new video every week (although I believe she takes August off). She is most certainly my favorite YouTuber! Her videos range from beginner to intermediate and she brings a fun, quirky personality to the experience. I appreciate her trademark phrase of, “Find What Feels Good.” It reminds me that I am doing this for me, so I should take my time and modify the positions where I need to. It is not a race to be able to bend and stretch in all sorts of crazy ways. She really teaches that if you relish the journey, you will reap more rewards as you continue your practice. I have been following her channel since her first year on YT and I hope to meet her one day. 🙂

Tone It Up (Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott)

Karena and Katrina started out providing workouts on YT and for LIVESTRONG Women. They are very open and easy going gals who love to inspire other women to feel good about themselves. I really appreciate their positive attitudes during their workouts, which makes the experience fun. I was lucky enough to meet these gals in person at their Chicago book signing last year. Their book features 28 days of positivity and self evaluation along with recipes and workouts to help you get in the right mind set to make a permanent change toward a healthier lifestyle. They have developed a nutrition plan you can follow with the workouts, which I have the nutrition plan and can review that in a future post if anyone is interested. Tone It Up has had huge success and although their nutrition plan and gear costs money, most of their workouts are completely free on YT and/or their website!

Sarah Fit (Sarah Dussault)

Sarah is a Boston based health and fitness guru who provides recipes and workouts on her YT channel. She recently had a baby and has shown her whole pre and post-natal fitness lifestyle. What I love most about her is her realness. You can count of her to tell you how it is. For instance, in her video on why she stopped running toward the end of her pregnancy, she described it as, “it gets extremely uncomfortable down there…, imagine someone walked up to you and kicked you really hard in the crotch area.” She has a great sense of humor, which makes her fun to follow. She also does more realistic grocery hauls, where she includes the Scandinavian Swimmers she picked up while I Trader Joe’s.

Buff Bunny (Heidi Somers)

Heidi is an athlete who shares her life, motivation and workouts on YT and Instagram. She is a very positive and energetic fit gal who focuses on body building. She features an “operation booty” program you can get tips from on how to build a better butt or keep the one you have in shape. I appreciate that she is a body builder that is more natural than most. She has achieved an strong body without steroids. She focuses on proper training and eat right with treat days occasionally. It is so cute how much she loves donuts and her pitbull, Nero!

Fitness Guides

Bikini Body Guide (BBG)

This is a 12 week program of circuit training designed by Kayla Itsines. She developed it to work multiple areas of your body throughout a period of a week and the circuits are done using a unique tabata timer. This program also includes a regular walking routine, called Low-Intensity Sustained State (LISS), to give you some light cardio to help reduce fat. It is set up for you to just follow a set schedule each week, but she explains that you can make it work for your life by just changing the days around. She has released 3 different rounds (1.0, 2.0 and 3.0) and I feel they are quite different experiences.

I started this with a friend just after Thanksgiving 2015 doing BBG 1.0. After my first workout I felt what many of her followers call “death by Kayla,” but after talking with my friend I realized I was not focused enough on form and was really pushing myself beyond my limits. We went almost none stop through 1.0 and 2.0. I do not recommend doing that. If you purchase the rounds take a week off in between, your body NEEDS rest occasionally. I also found it challenging to do any other workouts while following this guide.

I have a love hate relationship with BBG. I love the strength it helped me build in the slightly over 6 month period I did it and if you eat to be fit along with following it you will see great results in a short period of time. However, I found myself dreading my workout. Although I felt stronger, I mentally was not getting the happiness other fitness activities gave me. Presently, I occasionally do a BBG workout or incorporate some of the moves I learned into my routine, but I will likely never follow the BBG program again.

Instagram

There are endless personal trainers and health coaches on Instagram. They will post about what they eat in a day, healthy tips, recipes, their fitness guides (usually with coupon codes) or even full workouts! Here are a few of my favorites right now:

Fuel vs. Fitness

PhotoGrid_1469796090745Throughout most of college I would eat anything, especially if it was free. I notoriously would eat meals I felt bad about eating then walked extra or occasionally worked out to make up for it. It never worked. First of all, I never ate healthy even outside of these meals I felt bad about. I ate what I wanted and what was easily accessible to me, i.e. pizza, fries, shells and cheez, massive burritos, pastries, brownies, extra large ice cream balled up on top of a chocolate dipped waffle cone, etc. Not to mention, what I did pay for was not as cheap as I thought it was because eating out is expensive!

Second, only working out after you over did it more than you normally already overdo it will not undo what you have eaten. I was more active than your average college student and I thank having to walk the hilly terrain of my undergraduate daily for not having a “freshman 15” situation. However, I was still over weight and perpetually fatigued.

Even when I started a fitness routine in 2012, I still was slightly overweight after losing the weight I gained during graduate school. Plus, I was starting to feel symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) coming on stronger than ever. I chose to ignore it for the most part. By the time I started my first job after graduate school, the intestinal cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation had gotten to the point where I was working from home or taking sick days to recover from merely eating.

The recognition brought to digestive intolerances, allergies, and sensitivities within the past decade, had me starting to think that what I was feeling was not normal. In early 2015, I went into the doctor begging for help after a 2 week long bout of constipation left me without sleep and in intense pain. After allergy tests, blood tests and a few months of tracking my food and digestion, my doctor had a feeling that heavy fat foods, sugar, alcohol and processed foods were causing me issues with IBS.

After really getting a hang of removing these foods from my diet 80-95% of the time I noticed my weight changing quickly. I lost 30 pounds in 4-5 months, putting me right in the middle of the healthy weight range for my height and build. It was not just my weight that changed though, my mood improved and I physically felt great! I was amazed. I remember thinking one day, “Who knew my body was telling me something and I just was not listening for years!”

Recently, I have discovered on my own that beans eaten with animal protein (meat or dairy) cause me problems as well… goodbye side of beans at Mexican restaurants. Now know that everyone is different and something that does not work for me could be just fine for you. You need to listen to your body and talk to your doctor to figure out what you could be having issues with.

Personally, I think it is equally as important to get up and move as it is to fuel your body the way it needs. I would not have the muscle definition or therapeutic experience without my fitness activities. However, how I fuel my body has made a much bigger difference in my health than I ever thought it would. When I truly changed my diet to work with my digestive issues I finally felt like I could take on anything! It boosted my mood, I had more energy and I could have regular, healthy bowel movements.

Have you had digestive problems you ignored or just think is normal? You may want to delve into it deeper because it could really change your life!