6 Ways I Take Care of My Tummy

It’s still April, which means it’s still IBS Awareness Month which means I’ve still got more tummy talk! Today I’ve got a little list of ways I take care of my tummy. Given that Easter is an opportunity to eat all of the chocolate, which might upset even the toughest of guts, I thought this post could come in handy whether you’re an IBS sufferer or not. 

Before starting the low fodmap diet plan, I was bloated every day. I’d wake up looking quite slim but by the afternoon I’d have to unbutton my jeans to feel comfortable. I have to laugh at just how swollen my tummy can get by the end of the day- I feel like if I was in water the buoyancy of my bloated tum could keep me afloat! Thankfully I’ve now got my symptoms much more under control, but any little changes or too much stress can knock things off.

 

Managing IBS symptoms involves a bit of a lifestyle change, so I’ve included some things I do preventatively as well as my go-tos when my tummy gets uncomfortable. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, just a few simple but effective ideas.

1. Drink some peppermint tea

I have a cup or two of peppermint tea most days and it does wonders for soothing my tummy. It’s fab for a bloated belly. One of my friends says she finds it quite zingy because of the mint, so you might also find it wakes you up in the morning like her!

2. Exercise

I am so much more motivated to exercise than I ever have been becauseit really helps my gut! Running is great for getting things moving along. I also like to do a bit of yoga. I go to a Les Mills Body Balance class which is a yoga and pilates combination. Sometimes I follow yoga videos on youtube. If I’m feeling bloated and crampy, a particular favourite is Yoga for Digestion Flow from Yoga with Adrienne. Whatever you fancy, a bit of exercise can help. 

3. Use a hot water bottle

The comfort of a hot water bottle is not to be underestimated. Sometimes I use a stick-on heat pad if I need to be out and about or somewhere like the library where I don’t really want to sit with a hot water bottle under my jumper. There are ones which stick directly onto your skin and others which you stick onto your clothes. I jokingly said to Craig that I was going to use these when we were in Berlin in December to keep me warm during the day and I wish I genuinely had!

4. Get enough sleep

I aim for 7-8 hours a night. I feel like a little old lady going to bed at 10pm but it’s 100% worth it to feel fresher and have less funky tummy stuff to deal with. 

5. Drink plenty of water

It keeps things moving along nicely. I try to drink a glass before I go to bed and again first thing in the morning as well as throughout the day. I’ve seen these HYDRATEM8 bottles with a tracker down the side so you can keep track of how much you drink throughout the day and I think they’re a fab idea (and now I’m really tempted to get one!).

6. Try to relax

This is definitely one of these things that is easier said than done! I like to watch something funny like Modern Family, read, paint my nails, or recently I’ve been using the Calm app for meditation. I think it’s useful to set yourself time (I literally put a timer on my phone for 15 minutes or however long) and just commit to whatever it is you’re doing. But even if I’m out and I’ve had something that’s not agreeing with me, I find it helpful to try to be as calm as I can be. I’ve learned that panicking about my symptoms only makes them worse!

Is there anything else you would add to this list? I’d love to hear any more suggestions!

 

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Reintroducing FODMAPs: I can eat avocado and maybe beans too!

I’m finally getting round to trying a more systematic introduction of fodmaps into my diet. The low fodmap diet is not a long term solution, but I’ve been stuck in the elimination stage for ages.

 I tried to reintroduce foods without much success a few months ago, and my GP just told me to stick with the restrictive stage indefinitely. It took me so long to manage to eat entirely low-fodmap in the first place, as I was so wary of eliminating foods and still managing to eat somewhat healthily. Then I wanted to give my tummy a chance to recover after Christmas and going to Paris in January. After that I was onto my second placement. The nerves and stress of placement had my tummy all over the place, so there was no point in trying to reintroduce anything as I wouldn’t be able to tell whether my body was reacting to what I’d eaten or just to my general stress.  So, here we are at last, in April!

The idea is that you reintroduce FODMAPs one at a time so you can try to work out what your triggers are. Hopefully you find that you can handle some of the foods you’ve eliminated, and then you can gradually reintroduce them and modify the low fodmap diet to suit you.

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The Worst 6 Things About Living with IBS

April happens to be a very exciting month…it’s IBS awareness month! I’ve found that people can have a few misconceptions about IBS and the impact it can have on someone’s life. And it’s no wonder, because it’s so taboo to discuss digestive health. I would like to think of myself as being quite an open person, so here I am ready to break that poo taboo and share with you the worst things about living with IBS.

    1. It’s not just having an upset stomach.
      There are all the digestive symptoms to deal with- constipation, diarrhea, cramps, bloating, flatulence, indigestion, a gurgling tummy- but then there’s also the nausea, back pain, headaches and fatigue. Pick a few in combination.
    2. It’s unpredictable.
      If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I follow a low fodmap diet to relieve my symptoms. The majority of the time this really makes a huge difference. However, I’ve still occasionally been surprised by a flare up- so for me that’s cramps and spasms with extreme bloating and either constipation or diarrhea. And prior to eating low fodmap, every meal was a gamble to see what it would do to my tummy.
    3. Stress makes it worse.
      Healthy mind, healthy body. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If I am stressed, there is no telling what my tummy will do. This year I have actually aimed to get all my uni work finished a few days before I normally would, so I can factor in time for my tummy to turn against me. I also struggle with anxiety and this only exacerbates any IBS symptoms.
    4. It impacts your social life.
      It’s all about the FOMO. I know you don’t need to drink alcohol to have fun, but it’s quite isolating to be 21 and it just not be an option for me. Going out for drinks is tricky to navigate when I can literally drink water or orange squash. I also have had to cancel plans if I have a flare up, which is frustrating and makes me feel very guilty.
    5. Eating out is a nightmare.
      I just hate sitting there saying ‘Can I have this, but without…’ and reeling off the list of ingredients I can’t eat. I’m quite a picky eater anyway but felt like I was finally getting better, and now I feel a bit sidelined by the restrictive low fodmap diet. I suppose I’m lucky in that I’ve never been a foodie, but I do love the social aspect of food. Now it just causes me stress. And that takes us back to point 2.
    6. It’s an invisible illness.
      If you have a sports injury, the assumption is that it hurts. But all the nights I’ve woken up in crippling pain, or the times I’ve sat through a lecture counting down from 10 over and over again to try to cope with the pain, nobody sees that. This of course is also a benefit, because at least I look healthy. Someone actually said to me ‘I don’t know how you can look so healthy when you eat such a restricted diet’ as if they were suspicious about the validity of my health or my restricted diet, I’m not sure which. Granted, sometimes I do look six months pregnant by the end of the day, but apart from this you wouldn’t know the impact it has on my life. And as with other invisible illnesses, it’s very tricky for people to understand or take seriously.

I don’t want this to be all gloom and doom. Living with IBS is limiting, potentially embarrassing and just downright unpleasant, but I am relieved that it’s IBS and not something life threatening. I think it’s great that I’m now much better informed about what exactly I eat and what goes into my food. I’m also much more in tune with my body and how I’m feeling. If I’m following the low fodmap diet my symptoms are under control and I can feel ‘normal’. I do try my best to stay positive, because like it or not this is now part of my life!

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Review: Brunch at Urban Angel

Where? Urban Angel, Hanover Street, Edinburgh.

I came across Urban Angel in a blog post from one of my favourite free-from bloggers, Becky Excell at Gluten Free Cuppa Tea. Luckily I have two kind friends who were more than happy to try out the brunch menu at Urban Angel with me.

We arrived at about 10am on a Saturday morning and were lucky to be seated straight away. It was very busy so I’d anticipate a wait if you arrive later. I don’t want to spoil the anticipation of the review, but I think it’s worth the wait!

I was absolutely delighted to find out that everything on the brunch menu could be made gluten free. How amazing is that? I love love love not feeling like a problem customer! Gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean fodmap friendly, but I was still spoilt for choice. Despite this, I went for my favourite: gluten free toast, poached eggs and avocado. I know it’s very simple but it’s very tasty. Also, I just can’t poach eggs so it’s actually a very special treat for someone to do it for me!

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Allergy and Free From Show, Glasgow 2017

Oh my goodness, I had an absolutely brilliant day out at the Allergy and Free From Show at the SEC in Glasgow yesterday.

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The face of a happy fodmapper.

With all of my diet changes being fairly recent, I’ve never been to anything like this before. I was very excited, and very impressed!  It was great to see (and sample!) a huge number of brands, some of which I recognised and some of which were totally new. I’ve seriously stocked up on things I do buy anyway because of the savings, and combined with all the freebies between the five of us we came back with quite the haul…

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Ta da! Should be sorted for a while…

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World Book Day: My Favourite Books

Happy World Book Day! 2017 is an extra special year, as it’s the 20th anniversary of the day dedicated to the excitement of reading.

I’ve always loved books. I was that child who was constantly reading. At night, I used to wait until Mum and Dad went downstairs then sit by my door so I could read from the light in the hall (sorry if this is a surprise but I’m sure I wasn’t as sly as I thought I was). I read anything and everything. Some of my earliest memories are going to the library with my granda and him taking books out on his card for me. Now, whilst I don’t have as much time for reading as I would like I rarely go anywhere without my kindle and try to squeeze reading time in whenever I can.

I love World Book Day and that it exists, because reading has been such a huge and formative part of my life and it’s wonderful to see its importance being celebrated! I thought I’d share a few of my favourite books to mark the occasion. Here they are, in no particular order at all.

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5 low-fodmap food flask lunches


I’ve always been a packed lunch fan, mainly because I’ve always been a picky eater and I’m afraid of finding nothing I like. However, it’s also a great way to keep costs down. Since I’m very lazy, I plan my meals for the week so that I can basically eat leftovers for lunch every day. I heat them up the following morning and I’m good to go!

My go to meals are:

  1. Paella – my favourite is this Tesco recipe with adjustments to make it fodmap friendly. I usually add some chorizo (which I know means it’s rice and chorizo and not paella!) and sometimes some spinach or kale too. If adding chorizo, Lidl have one without any garlic or onion which I’ve been fine with but if you’re in elimination stage you might need to be extra careful.
  2. Sausage casserole – I actually think this tastes better the following day from my flask! I use an adapted recipe from the Nosh student cookbook but I’m sure there are lots of recipes available.
  3. Sweet and sour chicken– I think people sometimes think I’m eating leftover Chinese takeaway for my lunch! Works well with quorn chicken style pieces too. Any kind of stir fry with rice noodles works.
  4. GF Gnocchi BakeBecky Excell’s recipe is delicious and easy, and tastes fab on day two or three!
  5. GF Pasta – I usually have this with a tomato sauce, sometimes with salami or some fodmap friendly sausages too. But you could add pesto or whatever takes your fancy!

Bonus: I couldn’t not include soup! Occasionally I’ll make and freeze some soup at the weekend to last me a while, in case my during the week cooking plans don’t work out. Two of my favourites are tomato and carrot or carrot and coriander. Extra lazy Lisa does this in the slow cooker, for minimal effort.

If you’re looking for a food flask recommendation, this Thermos Food Flask was recommended to me by a friend and it’s fabulous. It’s pricey, but I’ve undoubtedly got my money’s worth out of it! Remember to preheat it with boiling water first. During placement I make my lunch about 6:30am and it’s still fine to eat after 1pm.

If you have any more fodmap friendly lunch suggestions, please let me know! I’m always keen to add something else to my repertoire!

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January Update

This is a fairly quick post from me, as this month has flown by! In January I…

  • Cooked more 
    This was one of my goals for 2017 and so I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen. Cooking is not my thing at all, so I’ve got plenty of room for improvement! I’ve tried out a couple of new recipes this month. I made a lowfodmap version of these delicious chocolate and raspberry brownies and they were fantastic. The recipe in the BBC Good Food Gluten-Free cookbook is identical to this but with GF flour, and then you can use a fodmap friendly spread instead of butter and all dark chocolate. Definitely not something to make if you’re trying to keep healthy but they were absolutely delicious. They did take ages to cook (like an hour instead of the recommended 35 minutes) and they were better enjoyed with a spoon as they were super gooey, but honestly these might be the tastiest chocolate brownies I’ve ever had. No bias from me whatsoever 😉 
    I also tried Karljin’s healthy strawberry crumble recipe. She recommends it as a breakfast but I made it as a quick dessert. It was super easy to make and I thought it was really tasty, but had to eat it solo over two days myself as the cooked strawberry wasn’t for Craig (all the more for me!).

    chocolate and raspberry brownies, strawberry crumble, courgette pizza


    My absolute favourite meal is pizza, and I’ve been exploring various gluten free pizza bases. One of my uni friends mentioned courgette base pizza to me, and so I gave it a go! Pre courgette-crisis, this is a fairly simple alternative base. I can’t remember what recipe I used but there are loads if you have a google. Mine turned out to be a fail because I didn’t make it thick enough and it totally stuck to the tinfoil and had to be scraped off by Craig (he stepped in at this point to save the day), who then rolled it so it was like a courgette burrito instead. The photo above makes it look quite revolting but it was delicious, I promise! It was a bit of a faff squeezing the water out of the grated courgette but it was so tasty that I think it was worth it. A lot tastier that some of the GF pizza bases I’ve tried!
    I tried yet another pizza base alternative, from Emma Hatcher’s The Fodmap Friendly Cookbook. I was so so excited for this to arrive because I love the recipes on her blog. She has included a recipe for a buckwheat flour pizza base which was another success. I’m excited to try more recipes from her cookbook!

  • Went to Paris!
    Paris! My favourite! We had a (last minute for us) weekend trip to Paris to celebrate my Dad’s 50th birthday.

    Opera Palais Garnier, chocolate mousse at Chez Janou (for two!), the Pantheon, Place des Vosges


    I spent my Erasmus year in Paris and absolutely fell in love with it- I’ve been back once but this is the first time my family have. Paris is wonderful any time of year, winter included, which I feel isn’t necessarily the case for everywhere. There are countless museums to visit, but this time we did a guided tour of the Opera Palais Garnier and went up the Tour Montparnasse again (I think this is a fantastic alternative view of Paris- you can see everything and miss out on nothing!). We also ate a lot. I tried to at least stick to being wheat free as I knew it was going to be tricky to be totally fodmap friendly. I thought I might as well enjoy myself for the weekend and suffer the consequences armed with peppermint tea and peppermint oil capsules. This was manageable but uncomfortable for the weekend but I arrived home on the Sunday with an incredibly bloated and painful tummy. Was all the delicious food worth it? Definitely! And if nothing else, I suppose it serves a reminder of why I’m bothering with this super restrictive low-fodmap diet: it really does make my life so much more pain free.

  • Fodmapped fairly successfully
    I’ve been doing well on the low-fodmap diet, apart from the weekend I was in Paris. Over the next few months I want to try a more systematic reintroduction of foods, in the hope that I’ll have better success. The basic idea is that you have a little bit of something that only contains one kind of fodmap on the Monday, see what your symptoms are, a little bit more on the Wednesday if you can, see what your symptoms are, then if you’re fine have a larger portion on the Friday and see how you manage. So there’s a reintroduction week for each fodmap type. I’m reluctant to try this while I’m on placement so I think it will probably be March until I do so properly.

Until next time, all the best from me!

 

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My 2017 Goals

Happy New Year!

With the start of a new year comes the inevitable new year’s resolutions. Resolutions are a bit much for me because, realistically, I just know I’m very unlikely to keep them and I don’t like to put unnecessary pressure on myself. Actually there was one year when I was nine and I totally stopped biting my nails overnight, after years of trying, but I think that’s the only time I’ve ever managed. However, I’m a big fan of setting smaller goals for myself and whilst I know you don’t need to wait until the new year, there’s just something about the clean slate that makes me put a bit more effort in.

In 2017 I will…

Run 10K
It turns out I really like running and I’ve settled quite happily around the 5km mark. I want to give myself a challenge this year to make it up to 10km.

Go on Duolingo more often
I used to be really good at going on Duolingo but I’ve since had to start my Danish and German trees from the bottom again because I just couldn’t remember enough. I’d like to better at it this year!

Read 20 books
I love reading, and I’ll never manage to read as much as I want to. I use goodreads so I’m now very aware of how many books there are on my ‘to read’ list! 

Watch The Godfather trilogy
I’ve just never watched The Godfather and it feels like one of those films that you should have seen, so 2017 is going to be my year to get that sorted out!

Try to like broccoli, rocket and salmon
I used to be the pickiest eater ever (or at least that’s what it felt like to me). I’ve got much better, but have now had to cut a whole load of foods out again with my low fodmap lifestyle. I just don’t like any of these but I know I should, so I’m going to try. 2016 was the year of the courgette for me, so who knows what I can achieve in 2017 😉

Write in my journal 3 times a week
I’ve kept journals on and off for years, and it’s so nice to be able to flick back through them. I’m going to try to write something at least three times a week. It’s actually a really therapeutic way to end the day- depending on what your day’s been like I suppose!

Cook more
Craig (voluntarily) does most of the cooking, and now that I’m basically having to make everything from scratch it is quite the undertaking. It’s not something I particularly enjoy but it’s something I need to get better at.

Be kind to myself
I think I’ve been getting better at self-care this year, and it’s something I know I’ll need to keep making a conscious effort to do when life is super busy.

I know it might seem silly to set goals like this but I just think that if you don’t at least try to make a change, then nothing will change. And really, all you can do is your best. I’m excited!

Let me know if you’ve set yourself any goals! Wishing you all a wonderful start to the year and all the best for 2017.

image via

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December Update

I hope you’ve all had a fun, relaxing Christmas and that you’ve enjoyed plenty of chocolate and mince pies! I’ve finished my lactose-free advent calendar and survived my first ‘fodmap friendly’ Christmas much better than I’d expected to!

I cannot believe how quickly 2016 has flown by. Can you remember being little and how six weeks of summer holidays felt like forever and ‘a year from now’ felt too far away to comprehend? I can remember sitting in my flat in December last year with one of my best friends talking about how fast our final year of uni was going and wondering ‘is this it from now on?’- would time just continue to get faster and faster? I know people say time goes faster as you get older, but I thought I was still too young to notice!

This year I graduated, then started another uni course to train to be a teacher. I was lucky enough to travel to Paris, Copenhagen, Nice, Florida, London and Berlin. I also said a (hopefully temporary) goodbye to wheat, lactose, onions, garlic, beans, as well as a whole load of other formerly loved foods, and tried to embrace a fodmap friendly lifestyle. In a bid to better look after both my physical and mental health I started running, which turned out to be very good for my poorly tummy, and I’ve actually managed 288km this year! I was hoping to make it up to 300km by the end of the year, but I’ve not been very well since I got back from Berlin so I don’t think it’s on the cards this year. However, in the excitement of all the Black Friday sales, I bought a half price place in the Women’s Running 10K in Glasgow next year! It’s not until August so I’ve got loads of time to get up to that distance, but I thought it would be motivating for me.

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