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April is IBS Awareness Month

As you may know April is IBS Awareness Month – a time to raise awareness and talk about what life is like with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here at Lifebox, we believe healthy snacks are a critical component of a functional gut. 

It’s thought one in five of us could suffer with it at some point during our lifetime, and it is incredibly important to be in the know when it comes to what you can do to get your gut happy again.

We were lucky enough to catch up with founder of Happy Tummy Co; having suffered with tummy issues since she was a baby, Karen O’Donoghue has been developing healthy snack recipes for the past 7 years which are scientifically proven to stimulate better gut health.

My Battle with IBS

Growing up the daughter of two horticulturists on a farm in the south coast of Ireland was idyllic. There were so many fields of long grass to play in, so much nature to become transfixed by and so much fresh air and space to breathe in. Later in life I would come to discover that my childhood home was intrinsic to my mental state of mind.

The eldest of 3 children my role often became that of a mini diplomat. Breaking up fights between my sister and brother and often playing the role of listener whenever my parents had the odd rant about one other. My home was full of love, music, sport and drama.

As I got older however, I noticed a difference in my body to the bodies of my family. My Mum, Dad, Sister and Brother were all slim with good metabolisms. We ate large portions and food was a huge source of joy and togetherness.

As I grew from a child into a teenager I couldn’t understand why my tummy was so big when compared to the rest of my family. I found it really difficult to pass stools and would sit on the toilet for anywhere up to half an hour. It became a huge source of embarrassment and pain. I began to think I hadn’t been blessed with a healthy functioning metabolism and thought I should probably cut back on food to loose the constantly bloated tummy I walked around with.
And thus began a 2 year eating disorder in which I still ate a lot of food but swam every day and didn’t do desserts and snacks. I became so skinny my Mum began to cry one day and took me to a Dietician. I was still suffering really badly with bloating and as skinny as I got, I always had a “tummy.”

When Mum and I spoke about it, it had gotten so bad that she offered me the laxatives she was on as a cancer patient to keep her bowels moving from all the chemo and radium treatment she was on.

The Dietician addressed my eating disorder but had nothing to say on the topic of my toilet behaviour. And so I went into my young adult years simply accepting the fact that I would never feel happy in a bikini, never mind naked!
I love movement and good food and so continued to move every day and eat with a healthy appetite. However there was always a huge part of me that intuitively knew that if I didn’t address my digestive health the chances of me getting seriously ill in later life would increase drastically!

My Mum who never smoked, never drank, ate a super healthy diet and adored laughing and her family died young. This affected me deeply and motivated me to investigate how we should eat for a longer, healthier life.

Moving to London in my early 20’s triggered a lot of emotion and loneliness and what I then understood was IBS began exasperating my mental health. I went from being a confident woman to one with anxiety, had a couple of anxiety attacks in the underground and I lived with constant shoulder pain. I was still always bloated.

I decided once and for all to take the time, patience, study and discipline to recipe develop my way into good gut health thereby relieving me of my physical and mental turmoil. And thus began the journey to creating The Happy Tummy Co.

I spent 18 months reading science papers every day, fermenting bowls and bowls of dough at any one time and immersing myself in a vision that one day I would be able to eradicate the world of IBS and hopefully prevent the development of colon cancer and other forms of cancer in you and I.

Today I am now on that journey with my deeply special friend and co-founder Amy Clinkard.

If The Happy Tummy Co. had existed when I was a little girl I would have had access to education and products that work. Amy and I are now on a mission to make sure those suffering or those that will suffer with IBS never have to. We are on a mission to make you happy and feel hugely happy in the body you own!

Today I am very happy to walk around my bathroom and bedroom naked and have, over time, come to really appreciate my body. It didn’t happen overnight but it did happen! If you are suffering with low self-esteem, if you don’t like the shape of your tummy, if you’re body is in pain start to really listen to it and go on a healing journey so that you stick around for a good time and a long time. Our bodies are precious. Let’s nurture them and treat them with kindness, love and support.

We’re here for you anytime you need us.

Big love, Karen xxx

If you are interested in finding out more about Karen’s story then please head over to the amazing Happy  Tummy Co, where you can find healthy snack recipes and fermented probiotic food to stimulate good gut health.