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.

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.

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.”