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How do you explain IBS to family and friends?

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#1 aBoutrosBoutros

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:05 AM

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I may need to visit some relatives to help move my grandfather into a nursing home. Having recently had a rough past few months with my IBS, I am on a pretty restricted diet. These relatives aren't familiar with this health issue and have very irregular eating schedules. I must eat every few hours. It's also normal for them to go out to eat a few times when they have guests, and they like diner/Southern-style food, which of course is heavy and often fried. I don't want to inconvenience them; I've figured out how to make energy/protein bars I can carry around with me and eat when things get busy. But I don't want to insult them if we end up going to a restaurant or dining event that features foods I really cannot eat. They have lots of questions, and I want to explain things, but I don't want to completely gross them out. The unpredictable character of the symptoms of course makes things much harder- these relatives are very plan-oriented. And there are some foods that I cannot yet explain why I can't eat, so it'll be hard to give them categories of things to avoid. I've thought of just going to the market when I get there and buying myself some ingredients to make a few days' worth of food, but I don't want to rudely take over their kitchen. I guess I could make enough to feed them too? How do you guys negotiate situations like this?

#2 Goldfinch

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:52 AM

I had to negotiate the same issues this year at Thanksgiving, when we stay with relatives for three days. I offered to make the main dish (a rice and vegetable casserole) for Wednesday dinner so I could eat it, and that was a good idea. I had some leftovers for a couple of meals the next two days. I contributed to appetizers with stuff I could eat. I made a batch of my staple snack--a flourless peanut butter cookie--and kept them in my room and didn't share them until the day we left. I ate a little turkey, and a baked yam and some string beans. There are vegetarians at our Thanksgiving, but their entrees are guaranteed to contain stuff I can't eat: pasta, cheeses, etc. Breakfast was a problem. Usually I eat steel cut oats, but they take a long time to cook and it's too much trouble at a family gathering. My latest thing is tamales--I have no problem eating corn. So I bought some ahead and brought them with me. No one even bothered to ask what I was eating, even when I had one for breakfast. Everyone else was eating pumpkin bread or leftover pie, which of course I also can't eat.

Close friends and some family members I am comfortable telling about my issues. But I find the best tactic is middle of the road: tell people just enough to let them know that if you told them any more they wouldn't want to hear it. In other words stop just short of grossing them out while making them feel glad you aren't going into detail. Once you hint at digestive problems most people really DON'T want more info.

When trying to pick a restaurant I do my best to steer toward Asian food--Japanese or Vietnamese where wheat is not king and the food is often not deep fried or cheesy. One way I cope with explaining that I can't eat fried or rich buttery food is that I tell people I am trying to lower my cholesterol as per my doc's recommendation. It happens to be true, and it is easier for people to grasp.

If I find myself faced with a menu of southern food I order grits, and specify not cheesy grits, or get some kind of shrimp served over rice. No way you can totally avoid butterfat at a down-home diner. Just remember you are doing yourself a favor no matter what diet you are on when you avoid fried chicken and waffles!

#3 BQ

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 12:39 PM

Here is a brochure written by an IBS'er expressly for the loved ones of an IBS'er.
Just print it off for them:

http://www.ibsgroup....es/Aboutibs.pdf

When at a restaurant try salads or order things baked as opposed to fried... if you can. If the everything on the menu is fried... that would be an ideal time to use one of your bars and just order some tea.
Please remember this is a group of folks seeking support on how to live with and manage IBS. THESE ARE ONLY MY OWN THOUGHTS. IF YOU WANT AN EXPERT OPINION, ASK A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL.

#4 aBoutrosBoutros

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:51 PM

Thanks everyone- I think the "less is more" disclosure tactic with regard to informing family and friends is a good plan. And the brochure provides some good ways of wording what I need to tell people. It'll be good to carry around a copy with me. And now that I've been reminded that most Southern food restaurants serve grits, which as Goldfinch said, don't have to be anything more than slightly buttery polenta, as well as shrimp and rice, I feel less freaked out at the prospect of having to eat down-home food.





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