Amy Darcy IBS Awareness Month Interview
An estimated 20% of Australians will experience IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) to some extent during their lifetime, with the condition three times as common in women as it is in men. IBS can have a seriously detrimental impact on a person's life, however, many people remain undiagnosed as they are too embarrassed to see their doctor, or dismiss their symptoms as insignificant.
April is IBS Awareness Month, and the Gut Foundation is encouraging anyone with recurring or chronic gut-related symptoms to see their doctor for advice and support. Common symptoms of IBS include changes in bowel habits (constipation and/or diarrhea), abdominal bloating, pain, cramping and excessive flatulence.
IBS does not discriminate, and can affect people of all fitness levels, cultural backgrounds, and ages, however most people first experience symptoms during their late teens or early twenties. Each person's experience of IBS can be unique, with symptoms and effective treatments varying significantly from person to person.
Professor Terry Bolin, President of the Gut Foundation, says, 'IBS most commonly starts after some kind of gastro bug like Bali belly or gastroenteritis. These illnesses can damage the lining of the gut, making it more sensitive, and can result in typical IBS symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain. Some people will have these symptoms for a while, and then spontaneously get better, but others may have to deal with symptoms on and off for the rest of their lives."
An estimated one third of people with IBS will find that their symptoms go away completely, however the remainder will need to deal with symptoms that fluctuate throughout their lifetime.
'IBS symptoms can wax and wane, and the effectiveness of treatments can vary from person to person. Some people respond well to dietary changes, however others may find they require medication," explains Prof Bolin.
Just as there are many ways that IBS presents, there are also many different remedies that are used to manage IBS symptoms. Some people find that relaxation and gentle exercise such as yoga helps, or find their symptoms ease through allied health treatments like -gut-directed hypnotherapy', whereas others will only find relief through medication use – either over the counter or prescription.
'While not life-threatening, IBS can cause immense pain and discomfort for some people, and can impact people's lives quite considerably," continues Prof Bolin. 'There are many drugs available these days that can ease the pain and discomfort, help with bloating, and manage the constipation or diarrhea. That's why it's so important to see your doctor if you're experiencing IBS-type symptoms, for proper diagnosis and advice. A doctor can also rule out any other health conditions, like Crohn's Disease or Bowel Cancer."
Amy, the woman behind the successful health and wellness blog Eat, Pray, Workout, first began experiencing IBS symptoms four years ago, after a nasty bout of Salmonella.
'It took my body ages to recover from the food poisoning, and even when it was over, my digestive system was still all over the place," says Amy. 'I was experiencing extreme bloating, often with intense pain, as well as alternating constipation and diarrhea. The symptoms were quite distressing – painful as well as embarrassing - and sometimes I just wouldn't want to leave the house."
Amy, under the supervision of a dietician, is currently trialling the low FODMAP diet, which involves eliminating certain carbohydrates from the diet for a period of two to four weeks, and then reintroducing them in a certain order, to identify triggers.
Chloe McLeod, an Accredited Practicing Dietician, says, 'Following a diet that is low in FODMAPs has been shown to help relieve symptoms of IBS for some people. FODMAPs - Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – are types of carbohydrates that can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine, resulting in increased water to be drawn into the gut, causing diarrhea in some people. For others, the carbohydrates travel to the large intestine, where they are fermented by bacteria, producing excess gas, which can cause typical IBS symptoms like bloating, constipation, flatulence, pain and nausea."
Prof Bolin adds, 'Diet can be a very effective way to control IBS symptoms for many people. While the low FODMAP diet may be useful for some, other people may find it more beneficial to avoid other known irritants like fatty or spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine. Many people eliminate foods like dairy and gluten, thinking that this will help, but it is unnecessary to avoid them long-term, and may in fact mean you're missing out on important nutrients."
'It's important to be aware that IBS is a very real condition, with very real symptoms – it's definitely not all in your head,' continues Prof Bolin. 'Fortunately, there are also lots of different treatment options that can be very effective."
The Gut Foundation will be holding a Q&A session on its Facebook page www.facebook.com/gutfoundation at 12:30pm AEST on Friday 28th April 2017, where Professor Terry Bolin and dietician Chloe McLeod will answer questions and provide information and advice about IBS.
Interview with Amy Darcy from popular Australian healthy lifestyle blog Eat Pray Workout
Question: Can you tell us about your experience with IBS?
Amy Darcy: I first began experiencing IBS symptoms four years ago, after falling ill with a bad food poisoning called Salmonella. It took my digestive system a long time to recover from this. I experienced extreme bloating, which came with often-intense pain and discomfort. At night I would wake in pain regularly and during the day I would experience alternating diarrhea and constipation, and painful and embarrassing wind. I removed dairy and gluten from my diet, which helped my symptoms, and then slowly reintroduced them until I found a level that didn't trigger these symptoms. My symptoms cleared up for a couple of years until after I gave birth in July last year. We were very blessed to have friends and family cook for us every night for a month after our son was born. This was a huge help but it meant I was eating very different types of foods to those I would normally eat, including onion, lots of garlic and oils. Combined with the stress of being a new Mum and trying to run my business & blog Eat Pray Workout the same IBS symptoms flared up again.
I had to relearn how to manage my IBS symptoms as reducing dairy and gluten didn't seem to be working this time. Thankfully I stumbled across dietitian Chloe McLeod's The FODMAP Challenge which has been a great support as I learnt about the FODMAP diet and how to implement it. I've also found that high fat foods like peanut butter and oils seem to trigger the symptoms too.
Question: How long did it take to diagnose your IBS?
Amy Darcy: A few months and after numerous blood tests and stool samples to rule out other causes.
Question: What IBS symptoms do you experience?
Amy Darcy: While my symptoms are better controlled now, if I depart from a low FODMAP and low fat diet I still experience IBS symptoms of alternating diarrhea and constipation, and painful wind.
Question: What inspired the creations of Eat Pray Workout?
Amy Darcy: Eat Pray Workout began as a way to share my passions for a healthy lifestyle with other Australian women. It has now grown to be a popular healthy lifestyle blog that offers healthy recipes and articles providing tips on wellbeing and fitness - all from a realistic and relatable perspective. I'm passionate about empowering women to be the best that they can be and to be content where they are in life right now. I don't cook FODMAP friendly on the blog as this is still relatively new to me, however I am sure in the future many of my recipes will head down this road.
Question: What is a FODMAP diet?
Amy Darcy: Chloe McLeod provided this concise definition in a blog post for Eat Pray Workout on how to manage IBS: 'FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, which are all different types of carbohydrates. These are either poorly absorbed or digested. When these are poorly absorbed, increased water can be drawn into the gut, which results in diarrhea for some people. For others, the carbohydrates travel to the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria, which then produces gas. This gas can lead to additional symptoms of IBS including bloating, constipation, flatulence, pain and nausea.
Question: What's involved in a low FODMAP diet?
Amy Darcy: Following a low FODMAP diet usually begins with eliminating all high FODMAP foods and then gradually introducing them one by one to see which foods trigger your symptoms. Most people won't be affected by all FODMAPs. Once you've identified what triggers your symptoms you can then test whether you can have small amounts of that type of carbohydrate that doesn't set off your symptoms. It's all about getting knowledge around what brings on your symptoms so that you can learn to manage it in a personalised manner to live a more comfortable life.
Question: What advice do you have for someone recently diagnosed with IBS?
Amy Darcy: Seek the advice of a dietitian who specialises in treating IBS. I've had great success with the FODMAP diet but I think this is something that is really hard to do and it really helps to have the support and advice of a dietitian during the FODMAP diet or looking at other triggers if a low FODMAP diet isn't the only answer for you. Chloe McLeod is who I have seen and she has been a great source of information, support and encouragement as I continue on this journey to figure out my triggers and heal my gut. Also, be kind to yourself, it takes some trial and error to get the diet right and if you slip up just start again as soon as you can.
Question: Can you share with us an IBS friendly recipe?
Amy Darcy: Sure, my favourite breakfast is Toast (Alpine Spelt and Sprouted Grains) with peanut butter, banana and cinnamon – simple but so good! Another great snack I've found I enjoy after dinner is Nudie's coconut yogurt with frozen blueberries mixed in – as the berries are frozen the yogurt forms a hard coating around the blueberries. IT IS SO GOOD! You can do the same with frozen strawberries too.
April is IBS Awareness Month. The Gut Foundation is hosting a live Q&A chat session on its Facebook page from 12:30pm AEST on Friday 28th April 2017, where Gut Foundation President Professor Terry Bolin, and IBS Dietitian Chloe McLeod will be answering IBS-related questions for one hour www.facebook.com/gutfoundation
Interview by Brooke Hunter