Take Control of your IBS: Author Interview with Kirsten Jackson

Learn to take control of your IBS from expert dietitian, Kirsten Jackson, BSc Hons

Take Control of your IBS: Author Interview with Kirsten Jackson

Q&A with Kirsten Jackson, BSc Hons on her new book, Take Control of your IBS

In this exclusive interview Kirsten shares a preview of the invaluable insights and advice in her new book, Take Control of Your IBS, a road-tested, practical guide to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) management. Take Control of Your IBS offers simple, fad-free professional advice to help you diagnose issues, bring comfort and reduce symptoms and flare-ups.

With so much misinformation out there on IBS, it can be hard to know where to start. Drawing on scientific research and personal experience, consultant dietitian Kirsten Jackson guides you through each step in this must-read book.

Let’s get into our Q&A.

Congratulations on the new book and the incredible reviews to date. Thank you for joining us to share your knowledge. To kick things off, could you share your background and expertise? How did you first start working in the field of digestive health and nutrition?

Thank you! Yes of course. So my passion for IBS actually started 12 years ago when I had just graduated as a dietitian and I sadly got IBS myself. In theory I had all the skills and knowledge to control my own symptoms and yet I couldn't work it out - I tried probiotics, the low FODMAP diet and even some mindfulness techniques but nothing gave me long-lasting significant relief.

This is where I realised it wasn't a one size fits all approach and actually I needed to understand how and when to apply different techniques in a more systematic way. This (alongside a diagnosis of coeliac disease) spurred me on to work in gastroenterology in the NHS and after a few years I left to set up my own private practise helping people with IBS using my 'Take Control Method.' Luckily I have also been able to use this experience to support The IBS Network (a charity) and Forbes Health as a expert advisor.

What inspired you to write this book? How could you tell patients needed a science-backed guide like Take Control of your IBS?

So many people are diagnosed with IBS each year and then left to fend for themselves with no next step.

“The consequences of uncontrolled IBS can be devastating for people's lives.”

Whilst some people are able to access a specialist dietitian this is not the case for most. So a book really bridges that gap as something which is accessible for most people. There are already many 'IBS Books' on the market but what I found was that many are written by doctors who have no training in medical nutrition or psychology which makes most of how we control IBS.

Whilst other books focus mostly on the low FODMAP diet and this is only 1 piece of the IBS puzzle. So it was time for a book to made on IBS which literally holds a person's hand from the time they get symptoms right through to point they are through the other side and have good symptom relief.

Take Control of your IBS is for those with IBS, but could you elaborate on who the book can help?

The book will help any adult who has IBS. It contain information that is useful for someone who is at the beginning of their journey but also for those who have had IBS for many years.

Tell us more about the 'Take Control Method.' How did this approach evolve? What makes it so impactful in reducing IBS symptoms and flare-ups?

The Take Control Method has 4 key principles which underpin how we tackle IBS - nutrition (both in terms of identifying triggers and using nutrition to improve gut health), movement, sleep and mental wellbeing. By concentrating on all of these areas as opposed to just nutrition we are able to improve gut sensitivity and function.

We love how you share real-life experiences from people who have found lasting relief using these principles. What are common examples of gut health issues you've helped readers resolve?

I commonly see people with IBS-C where all their symptoms are coming from constipation. However, to overcome the constipation we need to get enough calories and fiber in their gut.

Simply following a high fiber diet or being told to eat more will trigger other symptoms of pain and discomfort so instead I used the Take Control Method to help them navigate specific types of fiber to help their bowels open regular at which point we can introduce more foods that they will now tolerate as their underlying constipation is resolved.

Another example is with people who have IBS-D where simple mindfulness techniques and sleep optimisation can play a huge role in reducing their gut sensitivity. And of course there are people who don't have IBS and have been misdiagnosed such as in the case of a condition called bile acid diarrhoea which is commonly misdiagnosed as IBS-D.

What kind of strategies can readers expect from the book?

There are larger strategies such as the low FODMAP diet process to identify triggers and then micro strategies specific to certain situations. For example if someone finds they have issues when travelling, there is a full protocol in the book to resolve this. Or if someone is struggling with intimacy issues then the book covers scientifically backed strategies covering both the psychological and physical issues. It is extremely practical rather than just being 'more information.'

A common approach to managing digestive issues is an elimination diet. Why is cutting out foods not always the right approach to managing IBS? What are the risks of following an elimination diet without the right support?

It is a common misconception that everyone with IBS has a food intolerance and therefore doing an elimination diet can help resolve this. However IBS is more about the gut itself not working properly rather than 1 food causing all your issues. Yes in some cases an individual will find that some foods may be more difficult to digestive but this will not be the only cause of a person's symptoms.

The way to identify triggers is to using an elimination diet process rather than avoiding a set of foods forever you are supposed to reintroduce them after 4-6 weeks. The reason for this is that the only way to diagnose food intolerances is through seeing symptom relief on elimination and then seeing symptoms worsen again when they are reintroduced.

“Any elimination diet, like the low FODMAP diet, is generally not very sustainable long term and research has shown it does increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies."
We know many readers have tried 'everything' to manage their IBS and there is so much misinformation online about gut health. What are the biggest misconceptions you'd like to clear up?

Most people I work with come to me feeling like they have already tried everything so they are not alone if they are feeling like this! The good news is that these people do not have some rare, undiscovered condition, they simply haven't tried a systematic approach to their IBS using science backed information.

“There are many incorrect gut health claims online which we cover in the book in detail such as the idea that dairy and gluten are triggers for people with IBS which is just not true.”

Or the latest craze is suggesting that people who can't control their IBS have SIBO which means many people with IBS who just never got the help they needed are having unnecessary antibiotics. This is such a huge issue in IBS that I have written an entire section on SIBO in the book.

There are also many "gut health" tests out there that are not evidence-based. Tell us about how the book provides a guide for readers looking for support during diagnosis and testing.

It is so confusing for people! The book covers all the tests that would be required as per the medical guidelines and you should not be paying some nutritional therapist for these tests. All the tests suggested in the book would be covered by medical insurance or your usual health provider as they are in the regular guidelines. The book also covers some of the fad testing that I am commonly seeing people fall victim to when they are just innocently trying to get the bottom of their issues.

The advice you share in Take Control of your IBS comes from your deep professional experience and scientific research, as well as from personal experience. How do these all come together in the book?

There is so much information to consider in IBS when we are trying to get to the bottom of an individual's issue. But I wanted to be very careful that this book didn't become a scientific text book that was interesting but not overly practical and a bit overwhelming.

Instead, the book is set out in a very step-by-step structure which someone can follow at their own pace, with summary sections and action points at each part. The initial stages are about laying the foundations of IBS as we look at mental health, movement, sleep and some areas of nutrition. Within these sections readers are asked to consider where their diet and lifestyle is now and then make realistic goals to improve this. Therefore it is not a one size fits all approach.

Is there any other advice you’d like to share with readers as they learn about mental well-being, sleep optimization, movement and nutrition for IBS?

Controlling your IBS is not an overnight thing. It does take time, some effort and there are errors along the way. I always suggest that people write a list of what IBS control would mean to them which they can then refer to if they lose sight of the end goal as a way of motivation.

Where can our readers learn more about you and pick up their own copy of Take Control of your IBS?

Readers can check out my Instagram @the.ibsdietitian and the book is available in any major book shop across the world.

And that's a wrap!

Thank you, Kirsten, for joining us to share your expertise. We have learned so much and know our readers will have, too!

Congratulation again on the book. We can't wait for our readers to dive in!