Hear Lottie Drynan chat honestly to Gemma about why we need to be more open about poo, and share when we’re suffering.
Stream Lottie's episode now...
"IBS is about more than what you eat"
When Lottie Drynan started having gut health problems, there was nowhere to turn: it takes 8 years on average for an IBS diagnosis. But, thanks to her community The Tummy Diaries, nobody needs to feel alone. From disordered eating awareness to #mybloatedwardrobe, there’s no taboo.
Other people’s versions of “wellness” might not be realistic if you’re living with a chronic illness. But, for Lottie, it’s about taking time to make your body and brain as harmonious as they can be.
In this episode of The Wellness Edit, Lottie joins our host Dr Gemma Newman to discuss IBS during pregnancy and seeing the bigger picture in our gut-brain connection.
What we talk about in the episode...
Lottie's experience of trying to work out what was wrong with her will chime with countless women. You just want this magic pill that cures everything. I started realising I wasn't going to get that, even before my diagnosis.'
In her case the problem was IBS, but she underlines it's important to first rule out more serious things, such as Crohn's or Coeliac Disease.
However, one eye-opener on her journey was the realisation her IBS symptoms weren't just related to food. Her GP had told her about the low FODMAP diet – where you avoid, for set periods, plant foods containing fibres that can irritate the gut: otherwise healthy things like onions, artichokes, apples, lentils – but at the time 'it wasn't particularly helping'. [Fodmap stands for 'fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols', these are short-chain carbohydrates the small intestine can be bad at absorbing.]
Eventually, she realised, while the diet has its place, it was just one area to explore. 'Before I'd dismissed as wishy-washy people saying things like stress or sleep or movement were involved. Now I started to look at the bigger picture of my lifestyle, and that's when I really started seeing changes.'
For Lottie, there are five key pieces in the puzzle: diet, stress, hormones, movement and sleep. 'Now if I'm having a flare-up it usually points to one of these things. Whereas before, I'd think “I haven't eaten anything on the list.” I'd get stressed and that would cause even more of a flare-up.'
Too many women with gut problems suffer in silence – enduring cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and much more. For years, Lottie Drynan, the one-woman force behind the Tummy Diaries blog, was one of them, desperately seeking answers for her gut issues.
'I was in my late teens and early 20s when I started experiencing problems. It was a very isolating and lonely time,' she remembers. 'I was in my first job, working on the shop floor as a visual merchandiser for a fashion brand, and I had to start really early, 5-6am. I had terrible gas and needed to go to the toilet all the time, and I was mortified. That was when I realised – this is impacting my life, making me miserable and anxious.'
So Lottie began her quest to discover exactly what was wrong, having tests and learning about IBS (her eventual diagnosis after eight years). ‘I decided to create an online account, using it as a diary and a way to find a community. The first blog post I wrote about anxiety, I remember sweating and thinking gosh, I've really opened up, no one's going to understand this.'
She was wrong – other women did, in their droves, sharing their own stories. The blog exploded and for Lottie, sharing became a form of therapy. 'I thought "Wow, I’m not alone". As much as you don't want anybody else to be suffering too, there is a lot of comfort in knowing that.
'At the time, I was going through my eating disorder so I was talking a lot about body image and how it's affected me, and anxiety. I realised there was also a gap in people talking about that.'
Today she's built a supportive community of 250,000 followers through the Tummy Diaries, her You've Gut This platform and Facebook group.
A big part of Lottie's work is helping normalise conversations about topics like poo or breaking wind, and different body shapes: in her world, there’s no such thing as TMI. 'With most other bodily functions, even being sick, you'd just openly say it. But with bowel movements, it's still such a taboo.’
Lottie is all about being accessible and supportive – she's a new mum and has ADHD, so knows all about the challenges life can bring. Her personal angle on wellness isn’t about fitting in five hours of yoga, but refreshingly down to earth.
'It's not necessarily about living the epitome of the healthy lifestyle, or being free from illness or conditions, because that's not possible for everyone.
'But within that I think you can still find a sense of wellness. For me, it's about finding a balance where I feel good in my mind and body, and I am thriving – not just surviving.'
Listen to Lottie's episode now
Lottie's key IBS and wellness tips
Find a community
Whether that's online, in real life, at work or a friend. You can always find a Facebook group or Instagram hashtag. Being able to talk about it is such a game-changer.
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t have all the answers instantly. ‘Be kind to yourself – take time to understand yourself.'
Lottie finds getting outside helps her mental health enormously. 'Even just stepping into the garden makes such a big difference.'
10 minutes of relaxation
'A few years ago I got into meditation but I can struggle to switch off. Now I just listen to relaxation tapes. Even 10 minutes I find really helpful when I go to bed, or go for a little walk.'