Dining out can be one of life’s great pleasures. It’s a chance to make new memories with friends, add new flavors to your palate or – at the very least – a night where you don’t have to cook.
But for people with irritable bowel syndrome – or IBS – there’s often nothing relaxing about a visit to a restaurant. You may be worried about whether the menu will exacerbate your symptoms, or if you’ll be able to get to a restroom.
Fortunately, there are ways people living with this condition can still enjoy dining out. Here are a few tips for eating out when you have IBS.
1. Study the menu
Most restaurants put their menus on their websites, allowing you to know your options in advance. Some places will even identify their gluten-free or dairy-free choices.
If you’re not sure, given them a call to learn if they can prepare meals that won’t trigger your condition.
2. Be prepared
irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t leave much room for impulsiveness. Then again, you’re reading an article titled “Tips for Eating Out When You Have IBS,” so we’ll guess you’re used to being prepared.
And that’s good. By carefully planning your night out, you can lessen your feelings of stress and anxiety (which in turn, help you deal with this syndrome).
So, before you head to the restaurant, make sure you’ve figured out your route to the restrooms, and told the people you’ll be dining with if you have any special needs. If you know you’ll be dining out on a busy night, you may want to reserve a table close to a restroom.
You should also drive your own car, or arrange for a ride home in case you need to leave early.
3. Don’t eat out on an empty stomach
People without irritable bowel syndrome will refrain from eating before heading to a restaurant to build up an appetite. But this approach isn't the best. Instead, have a few small meals before you dine out.
This will help your body regulate digestion, and let you avoid the temptation to eat foods that could trigger your symptoms. And eating a big meal can lead to intestinal cramping, which could in turn set off an attack.
4. Remain calm
We’ve written before about the link between stress and digestive disorders, and in nearly every blog post we do, we offer the same advice: Try to relax.
On the day of your dinner, spend some time at home practicing deep breathing, meditation or yoga. Picture your trip to the restaurant as a pleasant, untroubled experience.
And stay calm while you’re there. Take deep breaths and relax your muscles, and focus on the world around you, not what’s happening inside. When you start to worry about your symptoms showing up, your brain’s stress response goes into action, which can cause a flare up.
5. Eat and drink wisely
Not everyone with irritable bowel syndrome has the same triggers, but there are some foods that are, in general, a good practice to avoid: sizable portions, fatty or creamy foods, or anything deep fried. Low FODMAP foods, a topic we’ve tackled before, are usually a safe bet.
And while caffeine and alcohol can trigger symptoms, that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck drinking only water with dinner.
Instead of soda, ask for some cranberry juice with seltzer. And while everyone is having coffee with their dessert, order a cup of hot water with herbal tea (you may need to bring your own tea bag). As for alcohol, you should be safe with a single glass of beer, wine, vodka, gin or whiskey.
6. Remember: This isn’t mandatory
If you’re concerned that your digestive issues have made enjoying a meal too uncomfortable, it’s OK to leave. Just put down some money for your share of the meal. Your friends will understand.
And if you’re looking for help beyond these tips for eating out when you have irritable bowel syndrome, turn to Proper Nutrition. Our whole-food supplements such as Seacure and Intestive contain bioactive peptides that work to combat the effects of gut related problems.
With our help, you’ll have an easier time dining out. IBS isn’t invited.