In only my first few weeks of college, I was thrown into a rigorous architecture curriculum-ranked #3 in the country. The program is made up of nearly impossible deadlines, endless all-nighters, strict professors, and the smartest, most intellectual, group of colleagues I’ve ever met. The stressful atmosphere took a toll on my lifestyle, and, at one point, made me fall backward in school and my overall health. 

Fast-forward “College Lilith” (me), months ahead, where my doctor finally diagnosed me with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) after a colonoscopy and endoscopy during my spring break (a hell of a ride if I must add).

Whether I was destined for IBS eventually in my life or not, I knew that stress had a huge effect on my health, to the point where my body couldn’t take it anymore. No matter how hard Kimmel (the campus late night drunk eat place) wanted me to, my body was yelling “enough.” I’ve always been a stressed out person, but I never knew it would make me miss weeks on end of schoolwork in order for my body to physically destress. 

Long story short, IBS affects almost “20 percent of Americans, more than 58 million people.” If we were to hone in on adolescents, “6 to 14 percent of the teenage population” are affected with IBS. Although we can blame poor genetics, poor immune health and terrible digestion, “roughly 60 percent of individuals with IBS experience psychological symptoms including anxiety and depression…”.

However, after a couple of months of struggling through IBS, I have a game plan for college students who are struggling just like me. Here are a couple of health tips to keep in mind when you start your college year off this fall.

Best of luck, Lilith xo

**DISCLAIMER: My friends may be reading this article and laughing hysterically, because I am not one to look up to for health advice. I think I’ve visited the infamous Crouse Hospital 4 times in total my freshman year. In no means am I a health expert, but I’m hoping that after 5 months of battling with IBS, I’m starting to learn a thing or two about what’s right for the body. 

1. Manage the Stress 

If you’re finding yourself stressing out over a ridiculous deadline with only hours to spare (which has happened to me way too many times to count), remember to breathe. Some of you may be asking, “But can’t stress sometimes be healthy for the body?” And yes, sometimes stress can motivate you to work harder and act as adrenaline. But too much stress? That’s just detrimental. Emotional stress can sometimes even weaken the immune system and cause anxiety/depression.

So the best thing to do if you’re stressing-- whether it be over what to wear out to DJ’s or what to study for first-- is rewind. If in any way you can find time for yourself to clear your mind for just a couple of minutes, do so.

Meditate, go for a run (ha jokes), listen to music, snuggle with your roomie, walk down to Carnegie Library and cry at how silent it is, lie down on the quad (jk bc Syracuse is the tundra) or just freaking take a 10 minute nap and clear your head. If in any way you can destress for just a couple of minutes, your bowel will thank you.

2. Plan Ahead

If you don’t do well under pressure, try not to get yourself to that point! If you can help it, plan as much in advance as you can. If you can plan your schoolwork ahead of time, you won’t be crying in the Bird Library basement at 10pm wondering how you’ll get everything done by tomorrow. 

3. Snack, Don't Binge 

As much as I’d love to pig out after my workout, I can’t. It’s crucial for people affected by IBS that they snack throughout the day, eating frequent, yet tinier, portions of meals. This is not only better for your digestion and bowels, but better for your metabolism.

4. Keep Track 

If there’s any way you can keep track of what you’re eating throughout the day, do so! I live by the “MyFitnessPal” app in order for me to remember what foods I’m eating. If for some reason I’m getting abdominal pain later in the day, I can look back at what I ate for future reference. If you keep track of your diet, you’ll thank yourself once you’re not calling in sick for class.

5. Keep Calm and Carb 

Let's say you have a flare-up (sudden outburst of IBS symptoms) and have a day filled with classes and things to do, have no fear. If abdominal pain is coming out of nowhere, eat easy foods on the stomach for the rest of the day. There are many ways you can still stay nutritious without eating raw fruits and veggies (these can irritate your digestive system). For the benefit of your stomach, eat easy carbs like toast, rice, saltines, pasta. Yes, maybe you’ll hate yourself for being a carb queen, but until your stomach stops contracting and freaking TF out, this is for the best.

6. Don't be Bad and Boozy 

If you’re being a stellar and literal queen of a health nut during the day only to drink your body weight out at night, no wonder your body's freaking out. It’s because you're not only dehydrating your body, but making your digestive system the most acidic and pissed off place. If you want your stomach to be content, give your body a chance. Yes, you can drink (trust me I would know). But don’t drink to the point you’re puking blood and being diagnosed with gastritis (I’ve been there). Set some limits if you can help it.

7. Hydrate or Die 

It’s simple. Hydration cures all. Alcohol and caffeine are probably two of the worst liquids you could be feeding your body. Those liquids are overstimulating your intestines! Water effectively flushes out your system. P.S. If you’re looking for some ~trendy~ water bottles, check here. :)

8. Ease into Fiber Diet

By gradually acclimating to a fiber diet (whole grains and vegetables), your digestive system will ease into moving food through your body faster. If your body isn’t regularly used to fiber, ease more fiber in your diet as each day progresses. But always hydrate while you’re eating fiber; fiber tends to draw water from the body! 

9. Snack Out 

If you complain constantly about not being able to find quick, reliable snacks in the dining hall, don’t give Ernie Dining Hall the light of day. Treat yo'self after a long day of hard work and keep some snacks you know your stomach is fine with in your dorm. Stock TF up this fall. My go-to: saltines or dry Cheerios (especially during a flare-up). If your body can handle raw fruits, snag some bananas from Pages Café in the library. If your body can handle fiber, go nuts for almonds.

10. Get Moving

It’s the social norm that eating a healthy diet and exercising are important for overall health. Exercising is even more crucial for IBS. No, it’s not a cure. But it can alleviate stress and help your digestive tract to get things moving. This doesn’t mean you have to run or lift as hard as your f*ckboy next door, but getting active and doing a mile on the elliptical every once in awhile wouldn’t hurt. For me personally, exercise is the best stress killer. If you have any extra time in your schedule, listen to music, tune out, and get active!