Nutritional Therapist and Gut Health Blogger, Jenna Farmer shares her tips on how starting the day right can really help those with IBS…
“Today I’m going to delve into what it’s really like to live with this painful and, at times, debilitating condition. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, 1 in 5 people are thought to struggle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (i).
IBS can be erratic in its nature, but sufferers often find that morning time is by far the worst for their symptoms. Some days it can feel as if your stomach is desperate to make itself heard the moment you open your eyes!
It’s no surprise then that our mornings can often set us up for the whole day ahead-and that’s why it’s important to try to get things off to a good start. Below I share five top tips for giving your gut a helping hand when the alarm clock goes off…
1. Ease into the day gently
If you’re mentally plotting a to-do list the second you open your eyes, then it’s time to reconsider. Stress can have a real impact on your gut and it’s largely to do with the steroid hormone Cortisol.
Cortisol is an important hormone that our adrenal gland release when we’re stressed. It works great when there’s a true emergency (for example, it helps increase insulin so we have more glucose in our blood-which was very handy for our ancestors if they were being chased by a tiger!) but not so much when we’re stressed-out daily (and the only people chasing us are our credit card company!)
In particular, studies have found those with diarrhea-predominant IBS; had higher levels of cortisol in the morning (ii) so try to ease into the day slowly; with a spot of yoga or even journaling before you get up and running. Even setting your alarm for five minutes earlier can make a big difference!
2. Consider a liquid start to the day
When your tummy is troubled first thing, it’s tempting to avoid eating altogether. However, given that your body has already ‘fasted’ overnight; it’s in desperate need of refuelling (even more so if you’ve been feeling under the weather the day before).
So rather than waiting until lunch; consider a liquid approach instead:and sip on juices and smoothies until your mid-morning snack.
Smoothies can be particularly beneficial for individuals with IBS-since they provide fibre that we need for our gut in a much gentler form. Blending fruits and vegetables gives our gut a much easier job if digestion is impaired-since our blender does much of the work for it!
Whizzing up almond milk, a banana and a serving of Purition’s plant nutrition is a great way to start the morning off right (it contains omega 3s, protein and B vitamins so you’ll be getting plenty of nutrients too). If you’re feeling adventurous; consider a sprinkle of turmeric (a proven anti-inflammatory) or chopped ginger-both are great for your gut.
3. Get a Protein Fix first thing
Protein is really important at breakfast time – even if you’re not planning to set foot in a gym. Why? Well, protein has many functions in the body. One is that it actually helps stabilise our blood sugar levels-which means a protein-packed breakfast can stop you snacking an hour later. It also helps massively with stress-reduction; since the amino acids (which help build protein) have a real impact on chemicals in our brain; such as serotonin (otherwise known as the happy hormone!).
Purition offers a variety of protein powders but those with IBS may benefit from one of their plant-based varieties; since dairy can be a trigger food for some. Purition’s Hemp range in particular is not only a source of protein; but a source of vital omega-3s; which can help our skin and our gut bacteria.
4. Balance fibre levels from the get-go
There tends to be two types of breakfast cereals on the market: ones that have very little fibre altogether (corn and rice based cereal are often low in fibre and don’t offer much nutrition) and ones considered ‘high fibre’; such as bran or rye based cereals.
Neither of these are a great option for IBS: whilst low-fibre foods might not irritate the gut; these types of cereal have very little nutrition and often contain lots of added sugar. On the other hand, bran-based cereals contain a lot of insoluble fibre:a type that can often irritate a sensitive belly.
You might notice that Purition is a high in fibre product and for those who suffer from diarrhoea in particular; we can often see fibre as ‘the enemy-’ since it can sometimes cause us to run for the loo!
However, when we blend products, this ‘tough’ insoluble fibre is greatly broken down; meaning you might find it impossible to eat a plate of salad but have no trouble blending leafy greens in a smoothie. Lots of the fibre in Purition is also soluble fibre; such as Psyllium Husk. Psyllium Husk is incredibly beneficial for those with both constipation predominant and diarrhoea predominant IBS.
Despite this, fibre is something to monitor and increase slowly. Whilst the recommended serving of Purition is 40g, we’d recommend those with IBS start slowly and gradually increasing. Begin with a tablespoon a day for the first day; and gradually increase to 20g in your first week. After another week, you should then be able to move on to the full dose of 40g each morning.
5. Initiate the ‘little and often’ mantra
Even if you’re doing everything right diet wise; it’s still worth thinking about the quantity of what you’re tucking in to (and how you’re eating).
Imagine this: for eight hours your body has been hard at work whilst you’ve been sleeping. By the time you wake up, it’s essentially running on empty; and whilst it’s important to tuck in to something nutritious; quickly going from an empty stomach to a full on feast can startle even the most hardy of guts!
‘Little and often’ is a great mantra to consider with IBS and some people can find it better to snack on six smaller meals throughout the day-rather than three larger ones. Either way, slowing down is really important. Making sure you sip rather than gulp and chew rather devour can make such a difference!
If you like to make a huge smoothie to start the day, you might consider drinking ½ of your portion as soon as you wake up and then popping the other half in the fridge- adding it to a smoothie bowl or stirring it through a serving of porridge as a ‘second breakfast’.
Whilst there’s no ‘quick fix’ for living with IBS, I hope these tips help make your mornings just that little bit easier.