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March 24, 2016 ~ Scroll down for full newsletter or follow the links:

Such a Touching Reader Letter » IBS More Than Ten Years Later...

IBS Recipe » Easy Buffalo Chicken Fingers

Ask Heather » Five Constipation Frustrations - Part 2

Heather Van Vorous, IBS Patient-Expert    Have questions? Call toll free (866) 640-4942.
Outside the US (206) 264 8069.

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Easy Buffalo Chicken Fingers

This is an oldie but goodie that has stood the test of time! Thanks to ShellMarr and our fabulous Recipe Exchange Board for this delicious recipe! The trick to making the chicken extra crispy-crunchy is to lightly spray the chicken itself with cooking oil before baking.

Makes 8 servings

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder (divided)
1 teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper (divided)
1/2 teaspoon salt (divided)
3/4 cup bread crumbs or crushed Rice Krispies
2 egg whites, beaten

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Coat a baking sheet with a nonstick spray. Cut chicken into finger-sized pieces. In a bag, mix together flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. On a plate, mix the bread crumbs with the rest of the garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.

Shake the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour. Beat egg whites with 1 tablespoon water, and place egg mixture in a shallow dish or bowl. Dip seasoned chicken in egg mixture, then roll in the seasoned bread crumb mixture.

Place chicken on prepared baking sheet. Spray chicken with nonstick spray. Bake for about 8 minutes. Use tongs to turn pieces over. Spray with nonstick spray. Bake 8 minutes longer, or until chicken is tender.

For oodles of other delicious recipes, come visit the IBS Recipe Exchange board!

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divider More Than Ten Years Later...

Hi Heather - It's been a long time. Today, I was at Powell's bookstore in Portland. I ran across a copy of your first book and I was taken back in time. I had to sit on a step stool for a few minutes to gather myself. Remember.

I had just graduated from law school and I was in hell. I couldn't keep a job in a firm due to my persistent stomach problems and I was at my wit's end. I won't bore you with the details of the agony of those days, but suffice it to say, they sucked.

I was first diagnosed with IBS in college at age 21 and hadn't really accepted it or found a way to manage it. My boyfriend (now husband) found you on a message board in 2000 and thought your symptoms sounded similar to mine. I was addicted to your boards back in the day. They became my lifeline. It's not an understatement to say your site, books, cooking demonstrations, cheat sheets and hypnotherapy recommendations saved my life.

You might remember me as the girl that showed up to your cooking classes with your book all dog-eared and worn out claiming it was her "bible." It was. The thing is, I never have strayed from the philosophies I learned from your book and site. I stopped drinking alcohol, caffeine and carbonation cold turkey. I stopped eating red meat and cheese, smoking socially, and all kinds of things I thought I could never live without all because I felt connected to what you were saying.

I've listened to the hypnotherapy tapes off and on when I needed to and just sort of gotten through. The years fly by. Weddings, vacations, big jobs, little jobs, etc.

One of the hardest things was maintaining my social life while staying sober and eating stable. People made judgments about why I didn't eat or drink and that did have it's effects both personally and professionally. After awhile, I realized it just didn't matter. The people in my life would either accept me or not as I now was and that was okay, either way.

Back then, I never could have imagined being able to take care of kids with the kind of tummy agony I have, but now I have two wonderfully healthy and happy young children. Pregnancy helps with IBS, your body changes. Your perception is irrevocably altered. I was so scared to be pregnant and to then be responsible for raising people all (and mostly only) because of my stomach issues, but I now know it works out. I don't think it will ever go away for me, though. It just changes.

This is probably more stream of thought than I would've liked, but I think you'll understand the force to share. I was sitting there in that bookstore and realized I hadn't even thought once... not one single time.. that whole day... or the day before... about where the bathrooms were... or about if my stomach was going to betray me... or about where we'd eat dinner... because I've been so many years beyond that stress and discomfort and it's all thanks to you.


Thank you, Heather! Really.

Your Biggest Fan,
Jenn B.

My goodness, Jenn, thank YOU! I could not be more thrilled to hear this!! ~ Heather

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divider The Five Constipation Frustrations - Part 2

"What if you think you're doing everything you're supposed to do for constipation, but nothing is working?!"

Well, first of all, take a deep breath, relax, and realize that you're not all alone here - and you're definitely not helpless, even if it sometimes feels that way. Constipation tends to be one of the more frustrating IBS symptoms, and it does take longer to resolve through lifestyle changes than diarrhea. But - there are many, many ways to help alleviate constipation successfully, it just takes a little patience and persistence.

Last week we tackled the first two Constipation Frustrations (Soluble Fiber Supplements Are Overnight Wonder Drugs, Right?, and Insoluble Fiber Foods Are IBS Triggers, So I Won't Eat Any!). This week we address the last three:

3. I don't eat anything at all when I'm constipated, because I don't want to make things worse.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, you actually need to keep eating in order to help resolve constipation. The very act of eating, in and of itself, triggers your gastrocolic reflex, which in turn signals your colon to start contracting. The rhythmic waves of contractions - called peristalsis - are necessary to produce regular bowel movements. If you simply stop eating, your bowel will lose its signals to contract, and constipation will worsen.

What's most helpful is to eat small amounts frequently, making sure that you safely incorporate insoluble fiber foods. Try to keep to a regular schedule of light meals and snacks, so your body becomes accustomed to (and expects) food at predictable times. This will help get your gut in tune with a regular schedule of elimination as well.

As an aside, making sure that you're also on a consistent bedtime/wakeup routine will also help constipation. Your gut normally "wakes up" with you, and peristalsis increases shortly after you get out of bed and start moving around in the morning. Keeping to a set schedule of sleep (and getting enough of it!), plus following the same wakeup time every morning, will help your gut stay in a properly functioning pattern. With IBS, you're waging a daily battle against bowel dysmotility, so your goal is try and make every factor that influences bowel function - diet, stress, sleep, excercise - a gentle but persistent nudge towards regularity, in every sense of the word.

4. I drink eight glasses of water a day - that's plenty, right?

For most people without IBS, yep - this much water can be plenty. For people with IBS, it may take twice as much water - every single day - to help reign in constipation. It's not just your bowel, actually, but your entire GI tract, that needs water to function properly. Soluble fiber, the foundation of the IBS diet and a terrific tool for managing all IBS symptoms, needs plenty of water in order to regulate bowel function. Soluble fiber also normalizes water levels in the gut, which in and of itself helps constipation. But, there has to be enough water in the gut in the first place for soluble fiber to work its magic. Together, fiber and water maintain gastrointestinal muscle tone, dilute toxic wastes in the GI tract, bind irritants, bring oxygen to the tissues, and help maintain the correct balance of intestinal flora.

With constipation, the slower your gut motility is, the longer it takes for the transit of matter through your colon. The longer this takes, the more time there is for the colon to absorb too much moisture out of the matter, and this makes constipation even worse. Drinking plenty of water (especially in conjunction with a soluble fiber supplement) will help alleviate this.

It's pretty difficult to drink too much water, so make it your goal to drink 16 full glasses of water each day, and if you can make it a little bit more, even better. It's easiest to just space out your water throughout the day, especially between meals. Keep a water bottle or glass at hand at all times when you're at home or work, carry a water bottle with you if you're out and about or at school, and keep water bottles in your car for when you're on the go.

If you're suddenly increasing your water intake, then yes, you will be running to the bathroom an awful lot. But hang in there, because it won't take more than a week or so for your bladder to adjust. The really interesting thing is that you'll likely find if you don't keep up with your new water increase once you've adjusted, you will suddenly find yourself very irritable and thirsty. Most people function better overall when they're drinking quite a bit more water than they may think they need.

5. I know exercise is important for constipation, so I get at least 20 minutes of walking in each day.

Exercise is more than important for constipation-prone IBS folks - it is absolutely critical. Exercise in general regulates bowel function and increase the efficiency of your entire digestive process, and it also reduces muscle tension. Exercise works your muscles (including internal muscles, like your colon), releasing the energy stored from involuntary contractions under stress, and allowing relaxation. With IBS, a relaxed colon is a happy colon.

The catch here is that moderate activity - which would help regulate constipation in a normal person - might not be nearly enough for constipation from IBS. You may well need a solid hour - or two - of exercise on a daily basis. You might also need a strenuous aerobic exercise, and not just walking or gentle workouts. This is particularly true if you are sedentary throughout the rest of the day (desk jobs are not good for the gut!).

Why would an intense workout be better for constipation than a series of shorter, lighter activities? The production of adrenaline that fast-paced, vigorous exercise produces actually results in something close to the "fight-or-flight" reaction of your body. Part of this reaction is an increase in peristaltic movement and a bowel movement. Light exercise won't necessarily produce the same results.

I know it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find this much time on a day-in, day-out basis for exercise. But if you can make the attempt, please try. Obviously, any exercise is better than none at all, so don't give up shorter, lighter workouts if that's all you can fit in. However, if you are able to try at least a couple full-fledged, all-out, hard-core workouts each week, even if it's just for a trial run, you may see such benefits to your bowel that you become determined to find a way to make this a habit. Just make sure to drink plenty of water afterwards!

~ Heather

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