Sunday 17 February 2019

'It's completely debilitating. My life was on hold' - fitness coach who suffered from acute symptoms of IBS

Do your research, know your triggers and always have peppermint oil capsules on hand, says Galway-based fitness coach Brian Keane, who suffered from acute symptoms of IBS in his teens and early twenties

Brian Keane
Brian Keane

'My gut problems started when I was 13 and became progressively worse as the years went on. I was always on these different diets to try to fix my stomach. I was the only one in Junior Cert year who was eating gluten-free food. There was no Google then and it was still dial-up internet so you couldn't research your symptoms. It was only when I got older, and particularly when I got into the fitness scene, that I realised I had irritable bowel syndrome.

As soon as I recognised it, I was able to do my own research and I've since been able to help a lot of people in my programme coming through with it. But the only reason I was able to help others is because I've spent years trying to fix it myself.

When I got attacks I would be really badly constipated for a period of time. Then I would get cramps that felt like someone was twisting my intestine like a rope. Then there would be diarrhoea afterwards.

When I had it at age 23 and 24, I'd be curled up in pain for days. Sometimes I'd have to take two or three days off work. It's completely debilitating. It puts your life on hold, and your mood is off too.

Doctors used to prescribe psyllium husk and fibre supplements but it just made it 100 times worse. I was undiagnosed IBS at the time so the doctors, thinking I was just constipated, weren't differentiating between soluble and insoluble fibre.

I've since realised that treating IBS is 90pc diet. I now have knowledge of sports nutrition but in my early twenties I was eating 'healthy' breakfast cereals and breakfast bars that were actually really processed.

I'm 30 now and these days I stick to whole, clean, quality food and I avoid anything processed, which is a hidden demon for people with IBS.

I haven't had a bad IBS attack in 12 to 18 months but I know my triggers and I avoid them at all costs. If I take a strong antibiotic or a Nurofen, it sets off a terrible attack. Certain wheats, certain dairy and red wine are my other triggers.

I can feel that little bit of discomfort and I think, 'right, I have to back off now'.

Peppermint oil capsules are absolutely incredible at times like this. If I eat a trigger food or feel something coming on, I can pop a couple of capsules and it relaxes that initial spasm. I always have peppermint capsules in my kitchen or in my bag, just in case.

Stress is a huge trigger for some people but I'm very good at noticing the onset of it.

I train five days a week and I'll do some form of mindfulness or meditation so that I can hit the onset of it before it turns into something else. Saunas and ice baths are great too as you feel so much calmer afterwards.

It's a case of prevention rather than cure. And it's about having the little things that work for you on hand so you can nip an attack in the bud.

I don't personally think that you can ever get rid of IBS - but you can massively manage it so that it doesn't affect your life negatively."

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