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IBS & Restrictive Eating: First Things First

So I’ve written about this before, but no matter how many times I say it, I feel like I need to say it again:

Despite the fact that I chose to do an elimination diet because I have a very pronounced digestive disorder, I do not believe that the majority of people need to eliminate anything from their diets, nor should they.

This is especially true if you have any kind of history with restrictive eating.

I do think researchers should consider how IBS aggravates disordered eating. However, it is also undoubtedly true that disordered eating aggravates the digestive system.

I don’t want this blog to suggest that the “correct” approach for dealing with IBS is to go low-FODMAP–especially not for anyone with any kind of disordered eating. I’m not saying it’s the “incorrect” approach either–obviously, it’s what I did, and it worked for me. I know it worked for me because I eat more and more freely on a modified low-FODMAP diet than I did when I had such intense GI pain before I went low-FODMAP.

But I also know how disordered eating works and I know that for many people, any kind of rule around food, no matter the reasoning for that rule, can become an obsession. And I don’t want to promote that, either. Try other things first.

The very first thing you should try if you’re experiencing digestive issues and you restrict your diet in any way–even if you don’t meet the criteria for an eating disorder–is to eat more. More fats, more carbs, more proteins. More variety. More regularly. More volume. More calories. More fruits and veggies. More ice cream and potato chips. Eat more.

Kylie is one of my favorite bloggers who writes regularly about GI distress and how people with a history of disordered eating tend to have more GI distress. She also reminds us frequently how GI issues don’t mean we’ve done anything wrong and aren’t something to sweat in a big way. There are much, much more important things in life than feeling bloated. (As I wrote about yesterday.) Even if feeling bloated stinks.

Kylie also talks a lot about what I know from experience: that restoring regular eating will (often) heal the gut by itself. Eating more and more frequently has done a lot to help me manage my icky gut bleck. In my case, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

I feel like, as a blogger, I’m constantly balancing fighting both the “GI issues aren’t that bad/food intolerances don’t exist” line I sometimes encounter in the ED recovery community and the “The solution to all your GI problems is to cut stuff out of your diet” line I sometimes encounter in the IBS management community.

GI issues are bad. For some people, they’re moderately uncomfortable. For some people, they’re godawful. And for some people, yes, they’re caused by food intolerances.

Before you go cutting stuff out of your diet, though, know that your gut will never heal if you’re not eating enough. And simply getting in the habit of eating enough, and often, may do the trick for many people.

Why try to solve a problem by limiting your diet when you might be able solve the problem by eating more? I know which one I’d prefer to try first.


And on that note: here’s some random pics of what I’ve been eating lately.

I got a really good deal on bacon a bit ago and I need to use up the second package, so I’ve been eating a lot of BLTs. Open-faced, with real mayonnaise, of course, on gluten-free oat bread. Grapefruit on the side.

I made Meg’s kohlrabi fritters–with a few slight modifications–a few nights ago. Definitely using the other half of the kohlrabi to make a second batch. These are so good! I forget how much I like savory fritters. Kohlrabi from the farmer’s market!

I’ve also been keeping frozen convenience meals around for when I don’t want to cook.

This one was ‘meh.’ But ‘meh’ is okay. Sometimes food is just to fill you up. It doesn’t always have to be a gourmet experience, to quote Kylie.

Speaking of food not being a gourmet experience, on Saturday evening, the Fuzzy Face and I went to Noodles and Co. and I got stroganoff on gluten-free noodles, which I expected to be exactly what I was craving.

Weirdly, it really didn’t hit the spot as much as I expected. But that’s okay. It filled me up.

I eat a lot of beef for someone who just posted a rant about climate change. I’m a very contradictory (potentially hypocritical) person in so many ways. Definitely human, in any case.

On Sunday afternoon I didn’t want to cook, and I was craving something cold and fresh, so I made what a lot of y’all in the blogging world call a “snack plate”; fresh veggies with homemade hummus I made for a party on Friday night, Nut Thins, cottage cheese, and V8.

This was followed by a beautiful bike ride…

…which was followed by a green smoothie…

…followed by Qdoba (unpictured.)

I’ve been snacking on these gluten-free “Mint Thins” my mom found–at Walmart of all places. Go Mom! I’ve said so many times how they need to make gluten-free Thin Mints, and here they are! These are seriously just like the Girl Scout cookies in taste and texture. ?In other snacking news, I made some Beaming Baker chocolate peanut butter banana popsicles with these adorable popsicle molds I got on sale last year. Especially good because I’ve been biking everywhere, and it’s been hot, so these totally hit the spot when I get back from my errands.

I don’t have any cereal in the house, which is weird for me, so I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal for breakfast. Pictured here is oatmeal cooked in almond milk topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries, with runny eggs on the side.

Linking up with Amanda to share these thoughts for Thinking Out Loud Thursday.


If you’ve dealt with disordered eating, were GI issues a part of that at all? To what extent were they resolved by establishing regular eating?

Favorite thing that you ate lately?


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  1. Cora says:

    Well it seems we are on similar wavelengths yet again today, my dear. If you get to the post I put out today, you’ll see that I’m having some questions about my own digestion. Lots of stomach discomfort. Without much rhyme or reason. I really do think that my digestive system is more screwed up than I thought, from my years of restricting. I’m actually somewhat embarassed/surprised that I didn’t realize this before, or think that it was even a possibility. Only now am I starting to think, “huh…maybe…”

    Your thoughts about eating more to heal your digestive system are really interesting. I feel like that’s 100% true, but I also feel like that is SUPER hard! Because if you eat more and your digestive system is having a hard time, you are going to experiencing increasing discomfort…. until you don’t….

    Anyways. This was great. You need to guest post on my blog.

    1. Joyce says:

      Oh my gosh, yes. Eating more is more discomfort at first. I should do a post about that. And I’m happy to guest post on your blog any time Cora. 🙂 Just shoot me an email.

  2. Diane Wahto says:

    You’re correct, Joyce. Trial and error is the best way to figure out what you can handle and what you can’t. I’m glad you found what works for you. It helped me a lot when Pat decided to eat more healthfully. No more potato chips on top of the refrigerator calling my name. As for me, switching to lactose-free milk solved all my problems. I guess I’m just lucky.

  3. Quill says:

    I see a lot of this restrictive-diet thing even with people who don’t have digestive issues or disordered eating (though if they take it far enough it could turn into that). Our hypochondriatic society gets this idea in mind that certain things are bad and must be avoided at all costs, things that are harmful for people with certain conditions, but are perfectly fine and healthy for most people. In particular, gluten, while some people have problems with it, going gluten free was a popular fad diet, probably peaking about 5 years ago, thankfully subsiding since. I knew a lot of people who did it, somehow perceiving it as healthy, better for them. They did feel better, but surely that was just due to placebo. I see a lot of other things like that, pseudoscience articles with headlines like “NEVER eat this again!” See similar with “chemicals” and GMOs – I’m sure Fuzzy Face has said plenty about the absurdity of that. Some try to cut fat, sugar, or carbs out entirely – compare with trying to cut gasoline out of your car’s diet, see how well that works! The key thing is everything in moderation, unless you have a specific condition nothing is bad in finite quantities.

    1. Joyce says:

      I don’t know about the gluten-free thing being entirely placebo. It is true that wheat–both the protein and the carbohydrate in the wheat–are hard to digest, and research is showing that more people have sensitivity to FODMAPs than we realize. But yes, the gf fad diet trend totally drives me bananas! Especially when people think it’s somehow healthier or going to help them lose weight (weight loss and health are not of course related, but we know they’re related in a lot of people’s minds.) I’m like wrong, wrong, and wrong again. And yes. The Fuzzy Face has strong feelings about GMOs and how they’re safe for human consumption.

  4. Emily says:

    Ooh those gluten free mint thins look so good! And GI distress is difficult, because some of it is produced by stress for me. So if I’m stressed or I eat too fast or drink too much water at a meal I can think some food made my stomach feel bad, but it didn’t. 🙂 I’m so thankful that God has so mercifully enabled me to figure out with the help of a dietitian the reason for a lot of my digestive distress the past 7-8 years and that she is helping me with a digestive healing protocol.

    1. Joyce says:

      Yes–for many people it is triggered by stress, which adds this additional layer of complication too. Disordered eating, dieting, GI distress, and elimination diets are all sources of stress! I’m so glad that your dietitian has been a help to you, and I hope you find your symptoms starting to reduce. 🙂

  5. Evangeline says:

    I don’t want to minimize anyone’s struggles with digestion and GI issues, but I think it can be a lot more difficult to deal with it if you’ve had a past of restrictive eating. Even just dealing with the mental aspect, feeling bloated all the time, not wanting to eat because you’re worried you’ll feel bloated, makes it that much harder. Also, I’m using “you,” but I really mean me 🙂 It’s a slow process, but I think, like you said, it’s important to first focus on eating enough.

    Also, I’m super curious about kohlrabi. Those little cakes look mighty scrumptious. And hallelujah for the creative geniuses who create all the GF remakes that people need.

  6. I appreciate this post because it’s what I’ve always suspected about eating disorders. I think they can legitimately screw up your gut so badly it makes eating regularly hard. It’s almost a validation for the disorder, like a self fulfilling prophecy.

    I’m so glad you like the fritters. Snack plates are my jam, and now I have popsicle stick envy. I need monkey molds too.

    1. Joyce says:

      This popsicle set is so cute! One monkey, one tiger, one frog and one bear!

  7. Kaylee says:

    Though not the same in any regard as what you are struggling with, with my allergy issues that have appeared in the last few months, the dietitian I have been seeing has actually recommended I go gluten free. She thinks I have a leaky gut–not quite sure if there’s a more technical term for that but… At the same time, she and I both know that trying to cut components out of my diet won’t be good for my ED self. It’s definitely a tricky balance. So right now, I am focusing on just eating and eating and eating.

    Thanks for sharing your insight once again!

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