Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects 10-15% of the worldwide population, but it's not the kind of topic many people feel comfortable talking about openly over lunch with a friend. It's not exactly glamorous.
Symptoms of IBS - which can include bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea and constipation - can rear at any time. They're unpredictable, and they can make you feel rubbish. One person who knows this is blogger Scarlett Dixon, who runs the Scarlett London blog.
She's been suffering from IBS since the age of 8 (although it then took until she was 14 to be officially diagnosed with it), and she's spoken openly about having the condition in various blog posts and vlogs.
For Scarlett, she's endured embarrassment, depression and anxiety as a result of having IBS, so she's shared some easy ways to manage having IBS - both in a physical and mental capacity.
1. Go running
"This is the key that, in my eyes, unlocks the door to wellness. Going for a run when you've got stomach cramps is probably the last thing you want to do, but I promise it helps. Exercise is particularly good for those who experience constipation as a result of their IBS - it gets things moving! Remember: find a type of exercise that suits your lifestyle and make the time each day, or every other day to enjoy it."
2. Stress less
"IBS is an extremely stressful condition to live with, so it’s ironic that a condition which causes stress is often triggered by stress. Invest in a book or multiple books that tackle the topic of stress and teach you how to change your frame of mind when faced with stressful situations. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your stress levels are affecting your everyday life and subsequently worsening your IBS, talk to your GP to find a solution that works for you."
3. Understand fibre intake
"It’s no secret that fibre is a bowel’s best friend - for people who don't suffer from IBS, that is. But the value of fibre for IBS sufferers is dependent on your symptoms. For someone who's suffering from constipation, more fibre is better; but for those with the opposite problem, fibre in moderation is best. Read up on what foods are full of roughage by investing in a good fibre-focussed cook book."
4. Forget about everyone else
"Stop thinking about what other people are thinking. Easier said than done, I know, but the moment you realise that other people’s opinions don’t matter, you'll feel a weight lifted from your shoulders and will be able to get on with living. Remember: you will never see the stranger in the cubicle next to you again, so just let it out."
"Feeling tense and on edge can provoke constipation, which can then lead to bloating, (and with IBS, who knows what else). Make time in your day for a small relaxation session, even if it is just for half an hour. Download an album of chilled out songs you like, take up yoga, master the art of meditation, paint – basically just do anything that relaxes your mind, body and soul. And remember: breathe!"
6. Talk about it
"Often a way to relieve pent-up stress is to talk through your feelings with someone, but if you're keeping the condition a secret, this can be hard to do. So be honest about what you're experiencing. If you're too embarrassed talking about it in person, then try writing it down. Any way to get talking about it is a step in the right direction. It might feel embarrassing, but your friends will still be your friends - no matter what the state of your bowels."
7. Keep a diary
"This is especially important at the beginning of your IBS diagnosis. There will be many troublesome foods out there just waiting to give you a flare up, so buy yourself a pretty diary (any excuse to purchase stationary) and take note of the foods and drinks that make you want to scream. Likewise, take note of the ones that make your tummy smile. If you notice that dairy, wheat or lactose products triggers a flare up, go to your GP; you may have an allergy."
8. Turn up the heat
"Bloating can be one of the worst parts of IBS. When mine reaches its worst, I can bloat to the size of a basketball. When this happens, I find great comfort in applying some heat to the stomach by curling up with a hot water bottle. The heat soothes the discomfort and helps you feel a little more normal again."
9. Drink tea
"I love a cuppa, but for me, gone are the days of cup after cup of builder’s tea because the creaminess of the milk is a no-go for my stomach. If this is the case for you, then try sipping on peppermint, ginger fennel, or chamomile tea. These are much less harsh on the stomach. Ginger tea is especially great for easing stomach cramps and pains and encouraging bowel movements. And take small sips, not gulps."
10. It’s okay to have a bad day
"Of course, all of the above tips are perfect for relieving symptoms, but IBS is sometimes unpredictable and some days may be worse than others. So accept that sometimes you're quite frankly going to feel awful. It’s okay to have a bad day with IBS; spend one day at home binge watching your favourite Netflix show in bed, but then make plans for tomorrow. Tomorrow will be better. Remember: Everyone has bad days."