Impact on social life is so important that it is one of the main reasons why my patients consult me for their digestive disorder (with pain).
Digestive issues make us uncomfortable, sad and scared. We tend to decline more and more often invitations because either 1) we arein our bed, suffering from cramps, bloating, abdominal distension etc. or 2) we are on the toilet, 3) we no longer want to be “the-girl (or boy)-who-can-eat-anything”.
The mind has a big role to play in the context of irritable bowel syndrome, due to the strong communication between the central nervous system (brain) and the enteric nervous system (“belly brain”).
Moving away from loved ones often makes the situation worse.
Here are two tips I would highly recommand to try:
Number 1: talk
To avoid being embarrassed in front of the plate your host has prepared for you, explain beforehand your situation. You can either give to your friend/family a list of all the foods you can or can’t eat, or offer to bring a dish. It’s quite unusual in France, but I’ve notice in New Zealand it’s much more commun. I find this habbit very friendly, and you’ll have at least something you can eat!
Number 3 : don’t be afraid to say no
Yes I know, it’s not very polite, but it’s better to say no than to be sick the next day. In addition, this could prolong the diet, which we wish to be as short as possible. Your friends and family will understand.
Now, let’s see what you can do if you plan to go out for dinner
Go to their website or call them
By calling them beforehand, you will be able to explain your situation briefly and to know their menus. Informations are precious. Knowing what you are going to eat will allow you to anticipate by eating low-fodmap meals and snacks for example the day before.
Let’s say you are in phase 3. If for example you tolerate fructans in moderate amounts and you plan to go for a brunch in a cafe must-known for its incredible sourdough bread, avoid fructan foods the day before.
Install an app on your phone.
Monash University is the app you should have on your smarphone. If you are in phase 1 or 2 of the diet this app will be your life-saver (or at least, will make your life much more easier)!
As you may already know, stress has a huge impact on symptoms. Studies show that yoga and walking can improve symptoms. Try a mediation session, self-hypnosis, or any activity that relaxes you.
Choose carefully the restaurant you go to
According to our culture we do not cook in the same way (my boyfriend being from an Indian descent, I know what I’m talking about! ;)).
Also, there are some restaurants where it will be easier to find dishes that you can eat safely, or where it will be possible to ask for some modifications.
Here some tips:
Ask for gluten-free pizza and topping with low-FODMAPs ingredients. Risottos are ok but ask for no onions or garlic (even in the broth). Some salads can also be a good choice as they moslty make in demand, so they can be modified easely.
Avoid dips and moussaka
Often made from rice noodles, beware of the shiitakes often added to soups.
Ask for a dish without garlic or onions. The green part of spring onions are often use in thaï food, but make sure it’s the case.Peanuts, often very present in thaï recipes are ok.
Sushi and soy sauce are naturally low in FODMAPs. For makis, the amount of avocado should not be a concern.
Ask for a piece of meat or a fish with low-FODMAP sides (rice, potatoes, carrots ect)
Tortilla, tacos or nachos are the basics of Mexican cuisine. Watch out for guacamole, red beans and spices. Salads are often made with red onions. Don’t hesitate to ask without.
Onions and garlic are very present in Indian cuisine. Therefore, indian restaurants are better to avoid.
Naans and chapati contain wheat. Prefer southern Indian cuisine if you can’t eat gluten. In South Indian cuisine, dishes are mainly served with dosas, (fermented rice and lentil crepes naturally gluten-free).
Keep in mind that spicy foods may trigger symptoms.
If you do not have the choice, go for tandoori chicken and steamed rice.
Ask for some changes
For example, ask for having sauces separattly (they often contain garlic and onions), swaping a high-FODMAP side to a low-FODMAP one, not too spicy (mild) etc.
“A gluten-free and onion/garlic-free dish” is a simple way to summarize and make the waiter understand your needs.
I have worked in few restaurants (as a chef and as a FOH). Dieatary requirement are very commun. As they always say, “the customer is king.” . Staff including waiter and chefs, are there for you, and their job is you to have a great time. Dare to ask.
Go easy with alcohol.
Although there are no clear studies, alcohol is known to be a trigger. If you really want to have a drink, better go for an organic red wine. Avoid beer, which is often poorly tolerated and increase abdominal distension and bloating.
It’s the best moment to use your favourite remedies
Essential oils (unless contraindicated, check with your registered naturopath or dietitian), ginger or chamomile infusion, peppermint rablets, iberogast, digestive enzymes.. quick-fix or natural digestion fix exist. Feel free to take your favourite ones with you!
Fatty, spicy and salty foods are not your friends. Ask for a take-away box to avoid waste. It’s better to eat small portion than finish the evening sick. Try to not come super hungry at your dinner. This will help you to not overeat.
Despite these tips, some people will prefer to put their social life in brackets, or at least, avoiding restaurants. It’s up to you. Nevertheless, it is important that you feel psychologically good. If this involves eating with your loved ones, follow these tips.
Otherwise remember that the low FODMAP diet is temporary, and dinning out with friends are not the only thing you can do to socialize. Offer other ideas (go to a museum, to the beach, to a see a movie…).