No one hates my IBS more than me. Life would be so much simpler if I could eat garlic, onion and gluten (and cauliflower, chickpeas and more than a minimal amount of lactose). Beyond avoiding tasty foods and dealing with painful symptoms, I spend a good chunk of time ensuring my gut issues don’t destroy my social life.
I don’t want to annoy my friends when they are excited for a delicious feed. I hate the attention a restricted diet brings, and it is awkward explaining the ins-and-outs of my gut health. Not wanting to be a nuisance nor end up sick, I try to meet my dietary needs as discreetly as possible.
Watch: Here's 7 tips to reduce bloating and puffiness. Post continues after video.
Still, friends try to make my life easier. Occasionally their efforts are helpful, sometimes they are funny, but often I am left embarrassed and hurt. While their hearts are in the right place, their naivety can add to the stress of navigating life with IBS. I end up bloated and socially anxious. Win-win!
It’s more exciting to hang out when no one’s health is at risk - and I’m sure you don’t want to make life harder for someone you love. I have prepared a (wish)list of things you can do to spend time with your friend in a way that is supportive and sensitive to their dietary and emotional needs. Some of these tips counter a flexible and spontaneous social life but will avoid unnecessarily straining your relationship.
If you are the friend with the fussy gut, use this list as a prompt to better communicate with your friends.
Knowledge is power.
1. Not all cafes, pubs and restaurants are created equal.
As a millennial living in Melbourne, most of my social invites centre around food. People assume all food venues cater to dietary needs these days. In my experience, most don’t.
Whether you’re planning a one-on-one or a larger gathering, tell your friend about the venue in advance so they can check the menu. Alternatively, ask them what places suit their dietary needs. I have a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet of IBS-friendly restaurants stretching Melbourne of all cuisines that I share with friends. It’s much better to discuss and plan ahead of time than leave your friend worried about whether they can actually eat with you.