Alyce Crawford
Photo Credit: Instagram / Alyce Crawford

Former “Australia’s Top Model” contestant Alyce Crawford spends a lot of time in a bikini, for both work and play. But while the stunning Australian model may be best known for her spectacular abs and beach-tossed hair, she recently made news for another reason.

In 2013, Crawford began experiencing severe abdominal pain and bloating that affected her mental health, social life, and ability to work. She was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a painful gastrointestinal condition that affects about 11 percent of people around the globe.

IBS can cause symptoms like bloating and gas, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Sometimes the condition lasts for hours or days — sometimes for weeks.

Recently, Crawford shared an incredibly private — and eye-opening — post with her 20,000-plus followers on Instagram. The powerful before-and-after images show the real-life impact of her extreme IBS bloating.

BELOW A very honest & very personal post that I am sharing in the hope that it can help someone else. *NOTE* This story has a positive ending so if you read it, read it all! For the last 3 years, I have suffered with IBS. The symptom I suffer with specifically is severe bloating. It began literally overnight while I was living in America. I woke up one morning, my stomach was extremely bloated & I was experiencing sharp stabbing pains. From that day on, my life was never the same. This illness is often very misunderstood & overlooked a lot by medical professionals & the general public alike. No, it is not life threating, but it is a condition that has caused & had a severe negative impact on my mental & physical health. To me, that alone is enough to be considered an illness. There was never 1 day in 3 years, that I ever felt completely well or healthy. The repercussions of feeling this way not only effected my mental & physical health, but effected relationships & my work as a model. For those of you reading who suffer from IBS or a similar condition (or know someone suffering) will understand & know exactly what I am talking about, & others may scroll past this post. But this is real, it hurts & I am sharing my experience & how I came to get better so it can possibly help someone else. The above photo on the right where I am bloated was the stomach I put up with 90% of the time for 3 years. The photo on the left is my stomach NOW 90% of the time (+ 4kgs of body fat down compared to the photo on the right). No woman or man is ever going feel good about themselves, while physically looking like the photo on the right. Looking this way was just one of the battles, the other was how I felt. Sick, nauseous, sore, unmotivated & very lethargic. Feeling like this often made the smallest thing in my day a struggle (getting dressed for example). All I wanted to wear, was my pyjamas & not move from a laying down position, as sitting upright hurt too much. *CONTINUED IN COMMENTS

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In the post, Crawford says she hasn’t felt completely well or healthy in almost three years, and that the intense bloating forced her to take a break from her modeling work, as she sought advice from health specialists — including two gastroenterologists and two naturopaths. But finding no solutions, Crawford continued to experience both physical and mental complications as a result of her condition, including an inability to even enjoy food.

“Over time, I developed food anxiety,” she writes. “Eating became a fear of mine because it seemed no matter what I was eating or drinking (even water and tea were making me sick).”

Finding a solution

Doctors typically outline several different dietary options to reduce IBS symptoms. A friend of Crawford’s who lives with Crohn’s disease recommended her to a specialist, and a solution for her bloating and pain: the FODMAP diet.

“FODMAP” stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols — scientific terms for a group of carbs that are commonly linked to digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, and stomach pain.

Several studies show that cutting out FODMAP foods can alleviate IBS symptoms. That means steering clear of yogurt, soft cheeses, wheat, legumes, onions, honey, and a wide array of fruits and vegetables.

Crawford is the first to admit that following a restrictive diet hasn’t come easy: “I will not lie, it can be hard to follow as there is a lot of food that you need to avoid (garlic, onion, avocado, cauliflower, honey just to name a few).”

And, sometimes, she allows herself to indulge in a favorite food that might trigger her symptoms — like a recent taste of guacamole, which brought on immediate bloating.

IBS REALITY A long but (hopefully) helpful post below Please read until the end . These 2 photos are examples of me living a balanced lifestyle while also suffering from IBS. Last night I wanted to enjoy some delicious guacamole (which I haven't eaten in months), however avocado, garlic and onion all effect my IBS (high FODMAP foods), and my stomach bloated immediately. . Last Saturday night I was planning on going out to dinner with my friends and boyfriend. We must have called 6 restaurants prior to ensure there was something I could eat. Although every restaurant we contacted tried to accommodate me, none of them could. Situations like this takes the joy out of doing something as simple and enjoyable as dining out with your friends and/or partner, not to mention I hated that I was being difficult (luckily for me, my friends and boyfriend are the best and they completely understand my situation...and love me anyway haha). In the end, we had to compromise so we could still enjoy our night. My friends instead came over to our house where they brought wine, and everyone ordered take away . Situations like this make me realise the importance of positivity and resilience. A part of me was sad and frustrated, but I was determined to make sure it wouldn't ruin our night. The way I often view unfortunate situations areyou have 2 options: 1. Either feel upset, feel sorry for yourself and let that negativity ruin your day/night/month Or 2. pick yourself up, find a way to turn the situation around as best you can and keep going!!!!!! What would have been the use if I chose to be negative and let the situation upset me? We would have probably all ended up doing nothing. *CONTINUED IN COMMENTS

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But Crawford is determined to put her health first, writing: “At the end of the day, feeling well and healthy always makes me happiest, so 80-90 percent of the time I choose my health and happiness over a burger!”

So, with the help of her specialist — and plenty of determination to get her health back — she’s taking control of her diet and her IBS.

“I was not fine with living the way I was and feeling sick every single day, so I chose to do something about it,” she writes.

Crawford is encouraging others who live with digestive symptoms to do the same, even if means short-term sacrifices, like missing a few dinner parties or rethinking your nights out.

“Yes, missing out at times was hard BUT healing my stomach was so important to me,” she writes. “I knew the longer I did the right thing for my health, the faster my stomach would heal and I would therefore be able to enjoy in the long run.”

And the changes she’s put in place are clearly working, as evidenced by her active Instagram feed, filled with snaps of the model enjoying the beach, the gym, and her friends — bloat-free. Taking control of her diet and making the sacrifices she needed to, have allowed Crawford to own her IBS and live her best life.

As she says herself: “If you want it, you will make it happen.”