Heal Your IBS

 

If you’ve just been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence! There’s a lot that can be done with nutrition and lifestyle to help support you because they are tailored to your individual needs, depending on the underlying causes of your IBS. Each person will have different root causes, unique triggers and struggle with different symptoms so an individualised, holistic approach is especially helpful.

IBS symptoms can include bloating and gas, cramping and abdominal pain, diarrhoea and/or constipation, and changes in poop colour and appearance.

Causes of IBS Symptoms

  1. Imbalances in the composition of the gut bacteria in the colon (large intestine). Specifically, those with IBS tend to have decreased levels of “good” bacteria, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, and increased levels of harmful strains such as E. coli and Clostridia.
  2. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) -a kind of bacterial imbalance where the small intestines harbour an abnormal number of bacteria. Compared to the colon, the small intestine should have a bacterial concentration that is considerably lower.
  3. Increased Gut Permeability (or ‘Leaky Gut’)– the gastrointestinal tract is lined with a single layer of tightly packed cells designed to keep unwelcome visitors and large undigested food molecules out of the bloodstream. If the barriers between cells become permeable or ‘leaky’ undigested protein molecules and bacterial toxins can pass through and trigger immune reactions and inflammation
  4. Gut infections– many studies have confirmed a link between bacterial gastroenteritis and future development of IBS.
  5. Food Intolerances– are extremely common in IBS patients and include gluten dairy, seafood, and soy. But bear in mind that food intolerances themselves are often symptoms of deeper causes like SIBO, gut infections, and/or gut permeability.
  6. Gut-brain Connection– The digestive tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation—all these feelings can trigger symptoms in the gut. That’s because the brain and the digestive system are intimately linked through a two-way communication channel. It makes total sense. When we’re nervous we feel “butterflies” in our stomach. When we’re full, the stomach sends a message to the brain to stop eating.

What You Can Do About It

Here are some of the approaches that have helped my clients who have suffered from IBS symptoms.  

Testing for Root Causes

Testing is extremely useful as it helps identify root causes of IBS, and saves a lot of time.

Stool testing can be very helpful in determining how well you’re digesting your food, whether you have a bacterial imbalance or unwelcome visitors such as parasites or yeast overgrowth contributing to your symptoms.

A SIBO breath test can be done to determine whether there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. 

A simple elimination diet or food intolerance test can be used to help identify potential offending food.

Once testing identifies imbalances, nutritional approaches can be used to help rebalance gut bacteria and support healing of the digestive tract. Below are some of the tools I commonly use in my clinic.

Digestive Support

Digestive enzymes and stomach acid– can be used to help support optimal digestion, which in turn helps reduce IBS symptoms. Stomach acid is vital for protecting against infectious agents and digesting food but also for preventing bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, especially important when addressing SIBO-related IBS.

Probiotics– can help boost levels of friendly bacteria and thereby help support optimal intestinal motility (to reduce diarrhoea and constipation), reduce gut permeability and intestinal inflammation. The most appropriate probiotic will depend on your specific issues- in SIBO for example, certain strains are better tolerated than others.

Low-FODMAP Diet– clinical trials have consistently shown that adopting a diet low in FODMAPs can significantly reduce the severity of IBS symptoms. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols and is a kind of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by humans. These unabsorbed FODMAPs are fermented by intestinal bacteria, resulting in gas, bloating, and abdominal distention. FODMAPs also draw liquid into your intestines, which can contribute to abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea. However, it’s important to realize that a strict low-FODMAP diet is not for everyone, and it is primarily a way to manage symptoms in the short term. Maintained long term, it can lead to reduced bacterial diversity in the gut, which can actually contribute to IBS.

Mind–Body Approaches

As I mentioned above, the digestive system is connected to the brain. Stress signals along the gut-brain communication pathways can actually affect stool transit, increase sensitivity to abdominal pain and discomfort, increase intestinal permeability, and disrupt the delicate balance of intestinal bacteria. Having effective ways of managing mental stress is not only important in itself but also helps other approaches to be more effective- this could be walking in nature, meditation or yoga for example.

Juicing and Smoothies- How Healthy Are They?

Smoothie vs juicing Fruit and veg is good for you. No one would argue with that.

There has been a great deal of research in recent years to support the claim that eating more fruit and veg may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer, while also helping to manage your weight. It can be a challenge to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day, even when you like vegetables. And now a new report suggests that eating 10 portions is what we need to stay healthy for longer. Most people don’t come nearly close to having enough, and I bet you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to manage that!

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of juicing and smoothies. Both are trending right now and there’s a huge debate. But what is better for your health – and losing weight- and are there any downsides? I’m going to give you the lowdown on both so you can get the hard facts from a nutrition professional and make an informed choice.

SMOOTHIES

The Benefits of Smoothies

When you make a smoothie, the whole lot is whizzed up in a blender. The juice and the pulp go in. This means that smoothies contain fibre. Fibre is good for you for so many reasons. It’s great for the digestive tract, helping to bulk out stools which helps you ‘go’ more regularly. Fibre supports weight loss because it helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the body, meaning that fruit and sugar-rich vegetables like beetroot and carrots are less likely to give you a blood sugar spike – ­ albeit a natural one. Fibre absorbs cholesterol in your digestive tract and flushes it out of your body, which is helpful for reducing risk factors for heart disease.

Dietary fibre also activates a few hormones really helpful in weight loss (called PYY and CKK and GLP-1, since you ask). These are appetite suppressors, meaning you’ll want to naturally eat less the more veg you consume. Fibre also decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and increases another hormone called leptin, which tells your body you’re full. So, all in all fruit and veg are the good guys.

Fibre isn’t the only good thing in a smoothie. In a 2012 study in which scientists blended and juiced grapefruit, researchers found that the blended fruit had a higher concentration of the beneficial phytochemicals than juices because that compound is primarily found in the fibrous membranes of the fruit.

Given a smoothie can be packed with fibre, it can even serve as a meal replacement if you’re smart about what you add in it- more on this next (breakfast would be the perfect example).

The Downsides to Smoothies

When you eat fruit and veg you have to chew them which helps breaks down the fibre This in turn slows down the release of the sugars, helping to prevent a blood sugar spike which can lead to fatigue, low mood, increased hunger, weight problems, sleep problems etc.

On the other hand, when you blend fruits and vegetables in a machine, although the smoothie still contains fibre, it’s been broken down (literally pulverized) super-fast during the blending process- basically, the blender is doing the work your digestive system should be doing, which takes both energy and time to digest.

Even if you’re making your smoothie at home, using only fruits and vegetables with no other added ingredients, you can drink it in just a few minutes, compared with the time it would take to eat the same fruits or vegetables whole. It’s very likely that you are also getting more calories and sugar when you drink a smoothie than when eating whole fruits or vegetables. Research shows that we don’t register liquid calories as accurately as food we’ve chewed. So, smoothies enjoy a “health halo” that can be misleading.

The Best Way to Have Smoothies

If your idea of the perfect smoothie is only fruit and some liquid … Well, that’s a sugar bomb waiting to happen and is likely to upset your blood sugar balance. Plus, if consumed too frequently, this will have you start piling on the pounds.

But, if you combine a little bit of fruit and mostly veg, with a healthy source of protein such as yoghurt, a handful of nuts and seeds, nut butter  or a protein powder that would be best. Why? Firstly, with the addition of protein you’ll have a healthy, nutritious and filling meal to take with you on-the-go. And secondly, you’ll help avoid the blood sugar spike.

Also, quantity is important. To give you an idea, according to the national Eatwell Guide, we should only be having one serving of smoothie or juice, which is 150ml. That’s the same as a “mini” can of cola and less than half the size of a standard can of soft drink. If you’re using mostly veg in your juices and smoothies, and adding protein to your smoothies then the amount can be increased.

JUICING

The Benefits of Juicing

When you juice, your juicers extract the water and nutrients from what you feed it, leaving behind the pulp. Many juicers will also have a filter attachment, so you can remove even more ‘bits’ from your juice.

Given the lack of fibre, juices provide an almost immediate energy boost. The bulk of the vitamins and minerals found within a fruit are typically in the juice rather than the fibrous pulp. And without the fibre, the nutrients are absorbed into the body more efficiently. Additionally, the digestive system doesn’t have to work hard at all to process what you’re consuming. The cherry on top is that juicing allows you to eat a far higher range of nutrients from leafy greens and vegetables you wouldn’t normally eat in such quantity or blend – like cabbage and wheatgrass! Typically, juices (rather than smoothies) are a great way to detox.

 Downsides to Juicing

When you juice, the fibre is usually removed. And without the fibre slowing digestion of the sugar in fruit, the juice drives up your blood sugar rapidly which can lead to symptoms discussed above. This can also contribute to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

If you juice mostly vegetables, you’ll get a potent dose of phytochemicals and disease-fighting compounds without all the sugar. But do it incorrectly, and you can get more sugar than a soda. Thing is, many “green juices” actually do have more sugar than a can of soda. Why? Because people don’t like bitter green juices and so most contain lots of fruit juice, carrots, and beets. A study in 2014 found that, on average, fruit juices contain 45.5 grams of fructose per litre, not far off from the average of 50 grams per litre in fizzy drinks.  If it has more than 5 grams of sugar, stay away.

Verdict

Which is better depends very much on what your health goal is. Juicing offers the possibility of getting in a greater concentration of nutrients, increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption, and possibly making it easier on your tummy if have a hard time digesting the fibre in vegetables.

On the other hand, fibre IS super important in your diet, and in juices you are missing out – plus you could also be losing other important elements like antioxidants.

For weight loss, energy, mood, PCOS, high cholesterol the added fibre is a huge bonus for balancing your blood sugar levels. Smoothies provide this. They also bring the possibility of adding other beneficial ingredients, like collagen (for arthritis suffers), protein powders, prebiotics, nuts or seeds.

Ultimately, you need to consume more fruit and veg than you are currently eating. Both smoothies and juices give you options to consider.

 HEALTHY JUICES

Green juice

2 apples

4 stalks celery

1 orange

½ lemon

5 handfuls spinach

½ thumb ginger root

Start with the spinach. A good tip is to try to roll it into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Peel the orange and lemon, then juice. Cut the apples into halves, then juice the rest.

Green goddess

3 cups spinach

6 stalks celery

2 pears

½ cup parsley

½ lemon

Start with the spinach and parsley, rolling them into a ball in your hands before feeding through the juicer. Follow with the lemon (peeled), then juice the remaining ingredients.

Liver cleanse

1 apple

1 beetroot

3 beet leaves (or a small handful of spinach)

4 carrots

1 stalk celery

½ thumb ginger root

Cut the beetroot and apples in half to juice. Add the ginger and celery. Roll the leaves into a ball (makes it easier to juice). Cut the skin from the pineapple (but leave in the core – it has extra enzymes), peel the orange and then juice.

HEALTHY SMOOTHIES

Put all the ingredients in the blender with a cup of liquid (water or almond milk, etc.) to start with and increase liquid to desired consistency.

Berry nice

½ avocado

75g fresh or frozen blueberries

1 tbsp chia seeds

½ tbsp coconut oil

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ banana (ideally frozen)

Small handful of ice

Water, as desired

Hidden greens

25g vanilla protein powder

1 kiwi, peeled

Handful of strawberries

Handful of kale

Handful of watercress

1 tbsp cashew butter/cashews

2tbsp broccoli sprouts

Small handful of ice

Water as desired

Blueberry + kale

Handful blueberries

Handful kale

1 small banana

1 tsp cashew or almond nut butter

1 tbsp sunflower seeds

Small handful of ice

250ml coconut or almond milk

Hidden Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a problem I see so often in clinic and it is problematic on many different levels. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may well have been suffering with it for years. While a diagnosis can – at first– offer comfort in finally having a recognised problem, the satisfaction is frequently short-lived because often that’s where all support ends, and you’re left no further forward in actually getting to the root causes and resolving the symptoms.

The difficulty begins because IBS is a catch-all term used to encompass a huge variety of digestive issues, including stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, easily feeling full, nausea and heartburn. There are also non-digestive symptoms which often accompany IBS such as anxiety, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, an unpleasant taste in the mouth and a frequent need to urinate. Each person’s experience with IBS is a bit different, and certain symptoms often seem to be stronger or more frequent than others.

In my experience, some of the underlying causes of IBS symptoms are likely to include one or more of the following five conditions.

1. SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth)

Around 60% of people with IBS will have SIBO. Though you might have heard about good (and bad) bacteria in the gut, really what experts are talking about is the balance of bacteria. While bacteria naturally occur throughout the digestive tract, in a healthy system, the small intestine has relatively low levels of bacteria, whereas the highest concentration should be in the colon in the large intestine.

Bacteria are moved down into the large intestine during fasting at night and between meals, clearing them from the small intestine (SI) on a daily basis. This flush is called the ‘migrating motor complex’. For a huge variety of reasons (historic food poisoning being the most common, but also low levels of stomach acid or adhesions play a role, among others) the bacteria are not swept away. The trouble is that with SIBO, as food passes through the small intestine, the bacterial overgrowth actually consumes some of the foods and nutrients, leading to unpleasant symptoms, including gas, bloating and pain.

A breath test can establish which gases are present, and we can devise an action plan based on your results.

2. Lactose intolerance

This is when your body is not able to tolerate lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products. Essentially, bacteria in your intestine feed on these milk sugars, leading to a host of IBS symptoms, like bloating and gas, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea.

It can go hand in hand with other digestive complaints, such as coeliac disease or increased intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’). Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed via a simple at-home breath test.

3. Fructose malabsorption

The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance. Fructose (which is found in fruit, honey and many processed foods) is a sugar, which, like lactose, is digested in the small intestine. Some people cannot absorb fructose, and what is not absorbed is fermented by intestinal bacteria, causing bloating, cramping, gas and distension of the stomach. You might also experience brain fog and headaches. A breath test will diagnose the condition.

4. Dysbiosis

This is an imbalance in the levels of beneficial (good) and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the large intestine or colon. This is now common due to overuse of antibiotics and alcohol, an increase in high sugar diets and stress.

Symptoms can vary from a sluggish bowel or diarrhoea, pain, bloating and flatulence, to chronic bad breath, joint pain, fatigue and food sensitivities. Dysbiosis is also implicated in a variety of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A stool test can help establish whether your gut bacteria are out of balance, along with a host of other markers that are very useful in getting to the root of your digestive problems.

5. Yeast overgrowth

When it’s at proper levels in the body, candida is a fungus that aids with nutrient absorption and digestion. But when candida overproduces it becomes a fungal infection that can affect men and women of all ages in various parts of the body. Symptoms include thrush, gas or bloating, fatigue, bad breath, white coating on tongue, cravings for sweet foods, UTIs, weak immune systems, joint pain and brain fog.

Antibiotics, Birth Control Pills, a weakened immune system and diets high in sugar feed the yeast. A stool test can establish the presence of candida or other yeast overgrowth.

PS: Some people struggle with digestive problems for years. If you are ready to take the first step in getting to the bottom of your digestive problems, I invite you to book to book your FREE 30- min IBS Empowered to Thrive Call now by clicking HERE.