Barbecues and IBS

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  • By Robin Westen

    For the estimated 30 million Americans, most of them women, who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), outdoor festivities like Fourth of July Celebrations can create anxiety and special challenges. But if you follow a few easy rules, you’ll be able to enjoy the fireworks after a long day of stress-free picnics and barbecues. Here’s what to do:

    Forget Fatty Meat

    The traditional burger and hot dog might be tempting but these foods are fatty and can trigger gastrointestinal disturbances like bloating or diarrhea. Instead, opt for leaner meat like grilled chicken, steak, or fish.
  • Back Off on Beer and Soda Effervescent and carbonated drinks like beer and soda put air in your digestive system. The result? Bloating and along with it, pain. So skip any bubbly, even if it’s champagne. Water, juice, even wine (in moderation), are good substitutes.
  • Be Careful of Bacteria A bacterial infection can put you at an increased risk of developing a bad case of IBS. So, avoid catching one by making sure all fruits and vegetables have been washed in warm, soapy water (if you’re worried, bring your own) and keep food chilled before cooking and serving. Don’t forget to be sure all meat is well-done.
  • Drink Lots of Water Dehydration is a common side effect of spending a summer day outdoors. But if you have IBS, dehydration can be doubly dangerous because your colon will try to help your body by drawing water away from the stool. The result is a bad case of constipation.
  • Avoid Raw Veggies Any raw vegetable can be a rough food for IBS, but grilled vegetables are a plus because they offer fiber and healthy nutrients without worry.
  • Map Out the Bathrooms There’s usually a shortage of bathrooms in parks and picnic areas, so before you settle in, make sure you’ve located the public restrooms. If possible, place yourself within easy walking distance so you can relax and not stress about any possible emergencies.

    About the Author Robin Westen is ThirdAge's Medical Director. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."