‘Gut’ by Giulia Enders: Book review

I finished reading Gut by Giulia Enders a few weeks ago and I had to share because I think it’s fab. Gut health is definitely the sort of thing we don’t really pay attention to unless there’s a problem and we have to. But of course, everyone has gut health, it’s just more noticeable for some than for others.

This book quite possibly has all the information you ever wanted to know about your gut. It’s written to make science accessible, and it totally ticks that box. I feel like I’ve learned so much about how my body actually works. Enders writes so enthusiastically about the digestive system that I couldn’t help but be excited about it too.

The book talks you through the entire digestive process. I found it really interesting- it’s not just my seemingly irritable bowels that are the cause of all my problems, there’s a whole load of things which need to be working in your favour. Did you know that if you have a bloated tummy at night, you’re better to lie on your left side to create a clearer digestive path? Or that the rumbling tummy noise you hear is actually because there’s a long enough break between meals for your small intestine to start its cleaning process? And just what we all suspected- the more stressed you are, the less energy there is available for digestion and so the more difficult it is for your digestive system to do its job. There’s absolutely loads more covered in the book, from the best positions to poo to the merits of good gut bacteria.

I actually finished this thinking what a wonder the human body is. It’s a very informative read and surprisingly funny too. I sometimes feel like all I think about is food and how my body will cope with it and what I can and cannot eat, so to learn more about what’s actually happening is definitely useful for me. I’d recommend this whether you have digestive struggles or not. It will definitely give you plenty to think about!

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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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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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