Nutritional Information

4 Quick Tips to Ease Anxiety With Irritable Bowel Syndrome

I was asked to be the August Epicurator for Epicured, the only Low-FODMAP and Gluten-Free meal delivery company offering fully cooked meals and snacks (currently only available from Boston, MA to Washington D.C.).

When we were discussing some tips I might share, the folks at Epicured loved that I was a non-diet Dietitian and wanted my perspective on how I incorporate the Health At Every Size® paradigm into my work with clients with digestive disorders.

I’ve helped hundreds of clients with digestive disorders and a common co-occurrence that I’ve seen is anxiety; anxiety associated with eating and impending pain and urgency to find a bathroom, anxiety from past diet rules that conflict with the Low-FODMAP diet, and anxiety associated with the unexpected and irregular appearance of their bloated bellies.

Much of this anxiety stems from past history with diet culture, but when we move away from diet culture and it’s conflicting rules, impending shame, and eventual body distrust and dissatisfaction, we can reduce the anxiety and begin to heal our relationship with food and our bodies.

This approach to health can be applied to not only moving away from chronic dieting and intentional weight loss attempts but also to managing chronic health issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diabetes, and Hypertension, where our eating pattern and food choices may help to manage our health.

For my time as Epicurator, I put together four quick tips to help ease anxiety with Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

1. Don’t Believe the Diet Hype!

There are so many diet trends in our society and some of them have us avoiding certain macronutrients like carbohydrates. Diet rules can send us mixed signals (and false information!) about food and lead to food confusion and avoidance. The truth is that some carbohydrates can minimize symptoms associated with digestive disorders.  Before you remove foods from your diet, remember that what works for one person may not work for you.

2. Ditch Food Labeling!

Especially when following the Low-FODMAP diet! Placing the “bad” label on foods leads to feelings of guilt and shame when we eat them. When high-FODMAP foods are labeled as “bad,” it creates an additional challenge during the reintroduction phase, when these foods are added back to the diet to pinpoint your personal food triggers. Instead, you can refer to low-FODMAP foods as “safe during the elimination phase” and high-FODMAP foods as “unsafe during the elimination phase” which will remind you that this categorization is only temporary.

3. Know Your Worth!

You are worthy of feeling good in your body and trusting your gut again. The majority of the people I see in my practice are women and many of them have assumed the caretaker role in their lives and put their own needs on the back burner. Make yourself a priority and get help quickly by putting all of your digestive health history in one document (ie my “Tell Your IBS Story” Template) that you can share with your healthcare team. It is possible to live symptom-free and feel good in the skin you are in!

4. Seek Out Support!

Creating a healthcare team to solve your gut health issues does not end once you find a Gastroenterologist and a GI Registered Dietitian.  There are mental health professionals that can help you to manage your anxiety through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Gut-Directed Hypnotherapy, and relaxation techniques.  Seek out the support of an expert in these tools or a mental health professional who specializes in digestive health.

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