Have you been diagnosed with IBS or SIBO and find it super stressful eating out? Or maybe you haven’t been diagnosed but you experience persistent digestive symptoms and now you’re anxious about eating out and socialising because of the unpredictability of your symptoms?
Well…I can tell you, I’m all too familiar with this! What should be a fun & exciting social outing, and is for most people, can be a daunting and stressful one for some who have a digestive condition.
Over the many years of dinner, lunch & brunch dates or social gatherings, there were times when my anxiety took over and my brain & body were overcome with thoughts like..‘how long do I have to stay before I can get the hell out of here and go home?’, ‘what the heck am I going to eat from this menu that won’t upset my belly?’, ‘I think I already feel sick and I haven’t even eaten yet’, ‘maybe I’ll just get a little starter or side salad and then eat when I get home’, ‘sh**t, what were they just talking about…concentrate!’, ‘smile and look like you’re having fun’, 'don't let them see you shaking', ‘maybe if I have a drink or 2 I’ll feel calmer’.
So many thoughts running through my mind! Meanwhile these thoughts took over and I found myself not being present, not enjoying myself and often not giving my full attention to the person or people I was dining with. Although they would never know because I was pretty darn good at hiding it, my gosh it was so exhausting!
After years of this, you become a bit of pro and I developed my own little bag of survival tricks which I’m now happy to share with you to make things a little easier when dining out with IBS, SIBO & all the anxiety that comes with it…
First and foremost find out your anxiety triggers! This may involve getting outside help from a Psychologist, Hypnotherapist or Kinesiologist. Your anxiety triggers might just be certain foods or just eating in general which leads me to my second tip…
Learn what foods trigger your symptoms. A qualified Nutritionist like myself can help you do this. It helps to know what specific foods to avoid so you don’t need to worry about feeling unwell. This can reduce the unpredictability of symptoms (a big driver of anxiety) and can be a huge relief!
If possible, make suggestions of restaurants or cafes that you know you feel comfortable at or that have a suitable menu for you.This may not always be possible, in some instances it will be out of your control like group outings for example. For these situations keep reading…
When you know what the chosen venue call ahead and find out if they can cater to your dietary requirements. I often tell them my intolerances/allergies and ask them what meals on their menu will be suitable. This takes some of the stress away before you even get there and you don’t need to spend time worrying about what you will eat. It is also important to inform the waiter too so they know to take extra care. Most places these days are really accommodating!
Take your regular supplements with you if you know they make you feel better. Don’t skip out on them just because you’re out and about – they will make you’re outing easier and may relieve or prevent your symptoms!
Before you get there take a moment to take at least 3 slow deep breaths. This will help to calm your nerves and relax the muscles in your digestive symptom and your whole body. Breathe in for 5, hold for 5 and breathe out for 5 and really let your body & mind relax. You can do this throughout your outing as much as needed.
Use affirmations and repeat them to yourself – my personal favourites for when I’m out and about are: I am present and I am safe, I acknowledge my fears but they do not serve me now, This food is nourishing for my body
Sometimes I find breakfast or brunch/lunch can be tricky for IBS & SIBO especially if you have a histamine intolerance and react to eggs & grains. So I always look for cafes with a good sides menu so you can build you own!
Be cautious of sauces! Many dressings, sauces & marinades may have hidden ingredients that could set your symptoms right off so a good way to avoid this is always ask for the dressing or sauce on the side or without the marinade if possible. Easy.
Invest in some essential oils. I carry lavender and peppermint essential oils with me in my handbag everywhere I go. Lavender is great to rub on your temples to calm your nerves and peppermint is great for inhaling on the go to lift your mood and ease any anxiety-related nausea. These little angels have saved me in numerous situations!
After what feels like a lifetime of gut healing and self-development work, I’m happy to say that for me eating out no longer causes the anxiety attacks and stress it used to. Although there are still some days when the anxiety gets the better of me, 9 times out of 10 I now feel relaxed and I can actually really enjoy myself, the company and the food…well the food that doesn’t upset my belly anyway! I hope these tips help you too.
So there you have it…it was a long one but I feel it’s important to have all the tools you can get to ensure your quality of life is priority regardless of your digestive condition.
If you need help with your digestive symptoms you can contact me for a private consultation and we can work together to improve your gut health & quality of life!
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Sending you love and healing!