Intestinal Disorder: Developing Self Management Skills

Image(s): Studio Cl Art /

Image(s): Studio Cl Art /

Being diagnosed with digestive disorder can make your day-to-day routine quite a challenge. You could be doing the right things but still have days when you feel worse. Self-management of intestinal disorders, be it Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), gaseous, diarrhoea or constipation is highlighted in 4 points; food choices, eating behavioural, lifestyle activities and stress management.


Food Choices

The key is to listen to your own body and the tool would be a simple Food and Symptom Log of your day. The basis can be the food pyramid but you may want to customise the pyramid to include food and portions you can best tolerate. Ideally, whole grain food is very nutritious but if it causes pain, there is no point. White bread and white rice can provide the valuable carbohydrate needed.

Remember, the goal of eating is to get a balanced and varied diet. You should consider adding new foods to your diet even if you have digestive disorder. In order to do that, add one new food at a time and try to increase gradually as your system begins to tolerate. For instance, someone with digestive disease may only be able to handle one tablespoon of vegetables at one time. So it is better to start small and add one more bite each time. If you are dining out, it is wise to call ahead to see what the chef can do to make your meal gut-friendly and when travelling, it is wise to have a food survival kit of your own.

Eating Behavour

When you eat, just eat – do not indulge in other activities at the same time. If you eat while watching television or commuting in the car, you are more likely to eat more quickly and your gut will pay the price for that. Eat smaller amounts of food, spacing meals and snacks at regular intervals and eat in peaceful manner, to provide more comfort for the gut. Put the meals on hold if you are in rush for something but have small snack instead. For children who like to rush around, engage them in proper sitting mealtime by reading a story to them or by just talking to them.

Lifestyle Activties

Physical activities can help with symptom management as it can serve as a distraction. Going out for a walk, cycling or doing Tai-Chi helps as it makes you focus on the activity, not on your colon. However, ease into any physical activity gradually in terms of duration and intensity as you do not want to end up putting more strain on your bowel. Too often, people with digestive disorder adopt a more sedentary lifestyle because they are afraid they may not be able to get a bathroom in time. Take Carol for example. Carol was always active in sports. After retiring she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis which required surgery. Post-operation, she was left with chronic diarrhoea and she stopped exercising for fear of not being able to get to a bathroom in time. Thankfully, her husband came up with a solution by being her SOS call – when she is out and feels the urge to get to the bathroom, all she needs to do is to call her husband to rescue her. Where there is a will, there is always a way.

Stress Management

On a daily basis, incorporate a relaxation activity in your schedule. In addition to that, support networks are also crucial. For example, children with IBS may find it necessary to leave the classroom in the middle of the class to go to the bathroom. So, it is better to explain about your child’s condition to the teacher to prevent embarrassment when your child’s need for an urgent bathroom trip arises.

In a nutshell, developing self management skills is important for the betterment of your gut condition.


  1. Bonci, Leslie. (2003). American Dietetic Association Guide to Better Digestion. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken.
  2. Norton, J. G; Roanne, W . (2009). 4 week to Healthy Digestion: Introduction. US: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.