I've talked a little bit about listening to your body. It's like a yoga or meditation practise, you have to notice and listen and acknowledge the different sore-nesses. If you're disciplined (not me), keep a food and tummy feeling/emotion journal - this should help you to identify things that are affecting your gut (and consequently the rest of you).
Giulia Enders is a scientist who has written this amazing book about gut health. I would highly recommend giving it a read if you have IBS, a stomach, or bowel movements... In it she describes a study in which participants' brains were scanned while a small balloon was inflated in their stomach. Participants that did not have IBS showed no change in their brains when the balloon was inflated. When the balloon was inflated in the stomachs of the participants with IBS however, the parts of their brains associated with negative emotions were activated. Fascinating!
For me, understanding a little more of the science behind the link between the gut and our brains has been crucial in learning to manage my emotions in relation to my body and what I put into it. It is incredibly freeing to know that the reason I feel randomly sad is because I have a bit of a tummy ache, or to know why bad moods have often been associated with hunger, or the wrong meal. Sometimes it's not even that my stomach is hurting all that much, but it feels out of balance and that throws everything off a little - especially my energy levels.
For days like this, I have a few tricks up my sleeve:
1. Kombucha! I have two (!) Scoby babies that I keep alive. Each day around 5 or 6pm I sit down with a glass of kombucha and a handful of rice crackers, and I think about my day. The probiotics in the kombucha perk my stomach up no end, and taking the time to be still and reflect also does wonders.
2. Turmeric. I know, you're sick of it. My consumption of turmeric to fix a stomach ache is not glamorous, sorry. I put a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of water and down it. It's great for pain relief when things have gone south. Slightly more appetising is munching on fresh turmeric, pickled turmeric, or I think people mix it with milk and maple syrup (although that does not appeal to me). Fresh turmeric in your kombucha is pretty much a recipe for heaven.
3. Yogurt - another probiotic yes. I have coconut yoghurt because of the dairy allergy but most people with IBS can handle cow's milk yoghurt. It's a great snack to keep you in balance.
4. Cold brown rice. Doesn't sound appetising BUT my research tells me that we don't only need PRObiotics, we also need PREbiotics and apparently these can be found in brown rice that has been cooked and cooled. Science eh. To motivate my consumption of cold brown rice I'll often make a sushi bowl to take to work for my lunch. I defy food safety rules and keep in at room temperature because refrigerated cold rice is terrible!
5. Ginger. Another great anti-inflammatory. You can add it to soup, stir-fry, tea, poached rhubarb, or even (you guessed it) your evening kombucha!
So there you have it, a few quick-fixes for when the cramps set in, but also a few ideas for keeping on top of your gut health. Stay regular my friends! (too far?)