Living with IBS: Signs to look out for + food tips

Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be challenging, especially when it comes to what is on the plate. Managing  IBS presents a number of daily challenges and while there is no cure for the disorder, treatments are available.

With careful attention to diet and lifestyle, individuals can significantly manage their symptoms and enjoy a fulfilling life. From understanding triggers to implementing dietary changes, here’s a guide to navigating life with IBS:

What is IBS?

IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or both. While the exact cause of IBS remains unknown, factors like diet, stress, and gut sensitivity are believed to play significant roles in triggering symptoms.

Researchers classify IBS based on how your stools look during flare-ups. Some days, your bowel movements are normal, but other days they’re not. The abnormal days determine what kind of IBS you have.

Types of IBS:

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C): Your poop is mostly hard and lumpy.
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D): Your poop is mostly loose and watery.
  • IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M): You have both hard, lumpy bowel movements and loose, watery ones.

These differences matter because certain treatments only help with certain types of IBS.

Living with IBS


READ MORE: Foods to avoid if you have IBS

Living with IBS and its impact on your life

Machaela Botha-Jacobs, a 28-year-old female living with IBS, shares her experience with us. “Having IBS has been difficult in my experience. From waking up to going to sleep, I simply cannot just plan out my day according to a schedule that works on time,”

“This is because when I am experiencing active episodes I am in so much pain, and the urge to need to use the bathroom would be between 5 to 15-minute intervals upon getting a pain that radiates down my bowel system, and I have to go again,” says Machaela.

“Physically, I have struggled to pick up weight for more than 10 years. My intestines have also become weaker which led to me developing a hernia in my large intestine. Weakening in my pelvic floor because of prolonged sitting causing pressure has also been one of the biggest impacts on me. Emotionally it has been difficult because I was diagnosed with IBS in the year that I would say I was most unstable with my anxiety and depression. Thinking of my IBS makes me emotional because my main reason was harbouring so much stress in my body for a year that it manifested into a chronic condition,” Machaela added.

Living with IBS


According to Machaela, the most triggering foods and indicators for her IBS are lactose, gluten, alcohol, processed foods, and stress.

Signs to look out for that may indicate you have IBS

Being attuned to your body’s signals is crucial to identifying whether you may have IBS or not. Pay attention to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation, and track any patterns or triggers. Consult with a healthcare professional if symptoms persist or worsen, as they can provide personalised advice and treatment options.

“Some warning signs are irregular bowel movements for more than 2-3 weeks. When our stools get light in colour, accompanied by a mucus yellow substance or a mucus coating around the stools. Unexplained sharp pain that radiates down from mid torso to lower and they come and go at intervals. Other symptoms include blood in the stools, loss of appetite, and excessive bloating in the lower abdomen,” adds Machaela.

ALSO SEE: Can certain foods increase stress? Here’s what foods to eat and to avoid

Can certain foods increase stress? Here’s what foods to eat and to avoid

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