As a dietitian, I love research and education. Many of my articles are about helping you understand digestion issues like IBS and SIBO so you can make informed choices and seek out the right solutions for your symptoms.
But sometimes, we’ve just got to get practical. That’s what this month has been all about — talking about the nitty gritty, day-in-day-out practical things you can do to manage your IBS.
This week we’re going to get ultra-practical.
If you’ve got IBS, you know how it goes. Any time you’re going to be away from home, there’s a low level of anxiety lurking in the background of your mind.
? What if my IBS acts up?
? What if I have a HUGE digestive disaster away from home?
? How will I handle it if there’s a mess?
This week’s post is about peace of mind.
You can’t always control — or even predict — when you’re going to get hit with IBS symptoms. But you can be prepared. This week we’re going to pack your IBS Survival Kit. This is a collection of just a few items that you can keep with you — in your car or bag — so you can handle an emergency. Hopefully you’ll never need it. But my goal is to get you set up with a portable kit that will give you the peace that comes with knowing you’re prepared.
I’m going to hit you with ALL the ideas. Then you can pick and choose what you need.
There are lots of wipes out there. And they serve different purposes. There are a few you might want to consider:
First a disclaimer: I don’t recommend you use these at home. Yes, they’re technically flushable. But they can still clog your home toilet. But they are great for occasional use on the go (pun intended).
Public restroom toilet paper is scratchy and thin. And let’s face it. Some IBS messes are just too much for it to handle. That’s where flushable wipes can come in handy. They can clean up the job — hopefully without chafing your sensitive skin.
If you’re stuck somewhere without soap, these can be a lifesaver. I don’t recommend you use them in place of toilet paper because they aren’t meant for that sensitive area. But they can work great when the soap is empty and hand sanitizer just won’t do.
If you find yourself racing the clock with an IBS attack, sometimes you just can’t find the bathroom fast enough. And it’s a huge comfort knowing that you have an extra pair of undies handy just in case.
They don’t take up much room in a bag. But keeping a spare set with you can do wonders for your peace of mind.
Many IBS patients know the horror of walking out of the bathroom and leaving it smelling foul. You nervously open the door, hoping there’s no one waiting outside. This can be a recipe for embarrassment. Even though you can’t help it, and you deserve sympathy if anything, it can feel awful leaving a cloud of fumes in the bathroom.
If this is a concern for you, you might want to invest in a small deodorizing spray. Poo Pourri makes one just for this purpose.
I went into detail about using peppermint oil to calm you IBS symptoms in last week’s article on dealing with IBS emergencies. Peppermint can calm things down and reduce bloating.
I recommend the IBgard brand for OTC peppermint oil. There are other brands out there. But this one has an enteric coating that keeps it from dissolving too early in your digestive system. You want the peppermint oil released right where it does the most good. And this brand is designed for just that.
You can also keep some peppermint tea bags on hand. Sometimes a soothing cup of peppermint tea is just the thing.
Bloating and tight pants are not a good combination. If bloating is an issue for you, but you want to wear the stylish pants, you have a couple of options. You can use the old safety-pin-in-the-buttonhole trick that can buy you an inch or two.
But if you need some extra room, you can keep a pants extender with you. Yes, these are designed for pregnant women. But if you have a day where your bloating gets out of control, being able to add a few inches to your pants can literally affect your quality of life.
Eating and drinking on a consistent schedule are key to IBS symptom management. Keeping a bottle of water and some safe snacks with you can help you stay on track.
There are plenty of low FODMAP snacks you can carry with you. From low FODMAP fruits and nuts to IBS-friendly snack bars, it’s good to have something on hand for those moments where you’re starving or you end up in a restaurant that doesn’t have good options for you.
First a disclaimer… I do NOT recommend using over the counter medications as a long-term solution for IBS symptoms. But in an IBS emergency, they can be helpful.
I’m not going to recommend specific products here because that’s something you really need to have a 1:1 conversation with your practitioner about. But there are products available to address a variety of IBS symptoms on an emergency basis:
If you’re constipated enough to need a laxative, it’s time to check in with a practitioner. Laxative use can interfere with your body’s natural process of elimination. But if you’re on a vacation or in some other situation where you need occasional, immediate relief a laxative can be helpful. But I recommend that you stick with the gentlest variety you can find. There are also supplements that can help move things along. Again, check with your practitioner to address your unique situation.
These can also be used in an emergency. But if you have chronic diarrhea, it’s important to get to the bottom of the problem — again, pun intended. I couldn’t help myself…
But if you’re away from home and you need your diarrhea stopped FAST, these types of OTC medications can help you out.
Heartburn (or acid reflux) is the result of an imbalance in your digestion — often a case of too little stomach acid. Yes, really. So using antacids consistently can actually make the problem worse. But if you are in dire need of relief, an occasional antacid may cool the burn.
Again, check in with your practitioner to see if your acid reflux is the result of inadequate stomach acid production. A knowledgeable dietitian (like me) can help soothe any damage that your reflux has caused while addressing the root problem.
Sometimes gas can be extremely painful and you just need some immediate relief. There are medications out there that can help reduce that gas in an emergency situation.
If you’ve read this far, you probably struggle with IBS symptoms on at least a semi-regular basis. Even if you’ve been to doctors who told you that there really aren’t any great solutions for you, please don’t give up hope.
I’ve helped literally hundreds and hundreds of IBS patients get their lives back. Yes, it takes work. Yes, you’ll have to change your diet. But it is entirely possible for most people with IBS symptoms to feel better long-term. The key is finding and addressing the root cause. And that’s what I do.
If you’re ready to do something about your IBS once and for all, let’s talk.