Bloating, gas, cramps, and other bowel problems are the most distressing effects if you are living with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). The goal is not to allow these symptoms to have a major impact on your quality of life. If you have avoided socializing with friends and family when food is involved because you are worried about your IBS, it's time to take charge over the condition so you can enjoy time with those you care about. The following tips can help you dine out without fear of a flare up.
Tip #1: Have a Snack
One trigger for IBS is to delay eating. This is because an overly empty digestive system can get filled with air, which then translates into gas and cramping. If you will be attending a late dinner with family, have a small snack at your regular meal time. Make sure you choose something that you know doesn't normally irritate your condition.
Tip #2: Ask for a Box
It isn't uncommon to take a portion of a restaurant meal home. Many restaurant portions are huge and the food tends to be richer than what you are used to. At a casual dining establishment, ask for the box before you eat. This way you can move half the portion into the container for later, getting rid of the temptation to clean your plate. Over eating is a sure way to trigger an IBS attack, so removing the temptation early can be a very useful strategy.
Tip #3: Personalize Your Order
You likely know which foods are going to be the biggest trouble makers. For many, it is rich items that include milk, cream-based sauces, or lots of butter. When making a menu selection, don't be shy about asking for substitutions. Most items can be made without the sauces or with a light sauce. If you know broccoli bothers you, ask if you can substitute a different vegetable. Also, don't be afraid to ask your waiter for details, since menu descriptions may leave out some key ingredients. Most restaurants are happy to oblige.
Tip #4: Slow Down
It's easy to become distracted when you are having a good time with friends, which can lead to eating too fast and swallowing a lot of air – an issue that can lead to cramps. Eat more slowly and chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. Avoid ordering items that may lead to gulping and swallowed air, like soups, and opt for the salad instead. If you don't finish your meal, that's fine. You can put it in your take home box for later.
Tip #5: Drink Wisely
Water is generally the best choice if you have IBS. If you do want a drink, skip the carbonated options like soda or beer. Once again, the air and fizz in these drinks can become gas or cramps in your digestive system. Instead, opt for a flavored ice tea. If you prefer something alcoholic, get something that you know you can enjoy safely. For some with IBS, wine is fine, while for others the acidity of the wine is an irritant. If you aren't sure if something is a safe drink but you really want to partake, start slow and limit yourself to a single glass.
If you need more help with managing your IBS symptoms, contact a doctor that specializes in the condition, like one from Naugatuck Valley Gastroenterology Consultants LLC.