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“With Claire’s help, patience and support, I feel like I’m just living a whole new life. My stools are consistent. Almost the same time every day, which is awesome because before Claire, it was every 2-3 days and a lot of discomfort in between.”
Meet Lyndsay: a 20-something mum who was suffering with unpredictable bowel movements and uncomfortable excess gas leaving her feeling “constantly miserable, bloated, insecure and exhausted”.
“I was literally afraid of getting the urge to go to the bathroom because it always turned into a 30-40 minute ordeal that kept me from my daughter longer than I would have liked. Not to mention… my husband’s and my intimacy had suffered from the symptoms. I felt like a prisoner”, Lyndsay says.
Here’s some background
Back in 2019, when Lyndsay was diagnosed with IBS, she visited a gastroenterologist and was given medication to help regulate her bowel movements. However, when she fell pregnant, she was unable to continue taking it, and her symptoms returned shortly after giving birth to her daughter.
When I first met Lyndsay, in 2022, her bowel movements were irregular and unpredictable. She was struggling with constipation and intermittent episodes of urgent overflow diarrhoea. Because she was so backed up, the fermenting stool was causing painful gas and bloating too. Understandably, Lyndsay was miserable and desperate for relief.
Lyndsay said: “My symptoms had really started to get bad. I was introduced to Claire by my amazing sister in law, someone I can’t believe I was comfortable enough to talk about poop with! I reached out to Claire and I have to admit, I really just wanted the medication again and I was convinced it that was the only thing that would help me”.
What we did
After an initial chat with Lyndsay so I could get to understand her lifestyle and food preferences, it became apparent that she needed straightforward and simple recommendations that would work around her busy life. I started off by looking at her fibre and water intake, and we made a few small changes to her daily diet by adding in some specific foods. I also recommended a non-fermentable fibre supplement and a natural osmotic laxative supplement. These are first-line approaches and very easy to implement.
We titrated her fibre intake and supplement dosages slowly over the course of several weeks until we found the sweet spot that relieved Lyndsay’s symptoms. There was some trial and error involved, as there always is with IBS, but with her patience and determination Lyndsay was able to normalise her bowel movements. She told me: “After a trial run of a few different solutions, I am happy to say I am going to the bathroom better than I have in my entire life!! Truly, I didn’t even realize that my whole life was plagued by some level of constipation”.
On top of dietary changes, I also counselled Lyndsay on different ways she could naturally stimulate her bowels, like taking a gentle walk after breakfast and dinner, and how to make sure she was sitting in an optimal position on the toilet to reduce straining.
Overcoming fibre fear
I know it can be scary for many IBS sufferers to think about eating more fibre, so it’s important to make sure it’s the right kind (soluble or insoluble), and that a ‘low and slow’ approach is taken to minimise any additional digestive discomfort. I also think it’s essential to reassure my clients that any increase in symptoms is likely to be temporary, and that the long-term benefits outweigh any short-term inconvenience. On including more fibre in her diet, Lyndsay says: “The process of adding in fiber was not an easy one! Upping fiber intake meant more gas, more, bloating, more ick. But I pushed through with Claire’s support.”
I recommended that Lyndsay added some oats and chia seeds to her morning smoothie, along with a little-known weapon against constipation; the humble kiwi fruit. I also provided Lyndsay with a list of high fibre, low FODMAP foods to try and add to her main meals, and an example meal plan (with recipes) so she could see how to put it into practice. I advised her to spread out her fibre intake over the course of the day to reduce the severity of her symptoms.
It really only took a few small adjustments to Lyndsay’s diet and lifestyle before she noticed an improvement in her symptoms.
INclude rather than EXclude
You might be wondering what foods I advised Lyndsay to remove from her diet? Well, the answer is none whatsoever! That’s right – we added in foods, rather than removed them. Making sure my clients have a healthy relationship with food is something I am always conscious of.
For many reasons, IBS sufferers can develop disordered eating, so picture me doing a happy dance when Lyndsay told me: “I found an eating plan that works for me. I didn’t even have to fully switch to low FODMAP and l am still enjoying all of my favorite foods. But the real kicker is I am also eating healthier than I have in my entire life. Do I still enjoy treats? Oh, all the time. I’m not on a diet. I don’t feel restricted. But the foods I have added have transformed my diet from ‘eh… this is definitely not healthy’ to ‘wow, that is a A LOT of fruit’.”
This is proof that you can get relief from IBS without the low FODMAP diet, or a restrictive eating pattern that sucks the joy out of food!
The importance of diet diversity
Often, IBS sufferers become fixated on removing trigger foods from their diet to get relief until they have very few ‘safe foods’ left. The problem with this approach though, is the lack of diversity actually makes things worse in the long run. By starving your gut microbes of the plant compounds they thrive on, your beneficial bacteria start to die out. This ecosystem of microbes is essential to gut health (as well as whole body health), and as an altered gut microbiome has been identified in IBS sufferers, it makes no logical sense to add insult to injury by further damaging the delicate balance of gut microbes.
We need to be looking at the bigger picture when we address IBS. Removing foods may bring short-term relief, but it’s not sustainable or healthy. When I do take a client through the low FODMAP process, I help them keep their food restrictions to an absolute minimum. I also have a module in my IBS program dedicated to long-term gut health which centres around the importance of dietary variety to support a healthy gut microbiota.
A final word from Lyndsay
If you’re on the fence about getting professional help to manage your IBS, Lyndsay has a message for you:
“Please, if you are struggling… reach out to Claire. One moment stands out to me the most from our sessions. It was when I was telling her how hard it was to deal with these issues. And she said she wished she could hug me and that we were going to get me regular again. She is the most empathetic, supportive, kind, knowledgeable, and determined person I have been lucky enough to come across. I’m so grateful for her and her support. She’s truly, truly changed my life.”
Want to get relief from IBS without the low FODMAP diet too?
Apple to work with me so we can have a no-obligation chat about what might be the best approach for your personal situation.
P.S. a friendly reminder
This case study does not constitute or replace personalised advice. Each IBS sufferer is different and what works for one person is unlikely work for you.