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.

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Food Reactions Demystified

Is the food you’re eating sabotaging your health? You might not even be aware of it because sometimes it’s hard to directly connect a reaction to a food. What are food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities, and what are the differences between them?

FOOD ALLERGIES

Many people are clear that a nut allergy is a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition. But apart from this, food allergy isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. As it’s Food Allergy Awareness Week this week, I want to give you the lowdown on food allergy and intolerance, and what to do if you suspect there are foods that don’t agree with you.

What Is a Food Allergy?

To start, let’s get clear what a FOOD ALLERGY is …

The job of the body’s immune system is to identify and destroy germs (such as bacteria or viruses) that make you sick. A true food allergy happens when your immune system overreacts to a harmless food protein—an allergen. The body mounts an immune response by releasing IgE antibodies which stimulate the release of certain chemicals such as histamines which cause physical symptoms.

The symptoms can be restricted to one area (your digestive system, skin and so on) or the whole body, where the immune system triggers widespread inflammation and swelling – which can result in anaphylaxis and can be deadly. Symptoms usually show up immediately or within the first two hours after eating the problematic food.

The most common food allergens are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

Mild food allergy reactions may involve only a few hives or minor abdominal pain. The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives, itching or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, light-headedness or fainting

Severe food allergy reactions can lead to anaphylaxis which can cause life-threatening signs and symptoms, including:

  • Constriction and tightening of the airways
  • A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, light-headedness or loss of consciousness

If you think you have a food allergy, you can often get tested free of charge via your GP, but private tests are also available.

Clinical Pearl

One clinical pearl I’m going to share with you is that, if you’re struggling with the symptoms of a true allergy (itchy eyes, swelling and the like), yet testing reveals no problem foods, or the test shows you have low grade reactions to a number of foods, the answer might be in the gut. For example, parasites also cause the body to produce high levels of IgE antibodies, yet these are not often considered by conventional medicine as a potential cause of allergy-like symptoms.

FOOD INTOLERANCES

With food intolerances your immune system isn’t involved and symptoms may not appear until hours or days later.

When a food intolerance exists, the problem is at the level of the digestive system –it can’t digest the food which causes uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. In contrast to a food allergy, a person with a food intolerance can typically eat small amounts of the identified food without experiencing symptoms.

Food intolerances are most commonly due to lactose, gluten, preservatives, additives, histamines in foods, salicylates, fructose, impaired complex carbohydrate digestion (the body’s enzymes simply can’t handle the volume of carbohydrates in the digestive system) and tyramine (common in cured meats, aged cheeses and smoked fish).

They can produce low grade inflammation throughout the body and symptoms that are far ranging, but altogether less dramatic. These can include the following:

  • Weight that won’t shift
  • Bloating
  • Migraines
  • Headaches
  • Coughs (frequent)
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or overly waxy ears
  • Stomach ache
  • Irritable bowel
  • Hives
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Blocked nose
  • Ear Infections
  • Eczema
  • Sinusitis
  • Urticaria
  • Colitis

Why it’s important to deal with Food Intolerances

Although the symptoms might seem less dramatic, it really is worth dealing with food intolerances, especially if you’ve had niggly issues for years. This is because the low-grade inflammation created throughout the body when you’re repeatedly eating foods the body doesn’t like, frequently progress to more problematic issues. ALL chronic disease is caused by low- or high-grade inflammation of one sort or another.

Although you can do your own elimination diet, cutting out foods you suspect you might have a problem with for a period of time, then reintroducing them and seeing what happens, this can be time consuming if you are not entirely sure which foods might be problematic. Testing can help you pinpoint which foods might be problematic for you- this can save a lot of time, remove the stressful guesswork and help prevent the unnecessary exclusion of too many foods.

Intestinal inflammation caused by a food intolerance may also impair your body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals. This can lead to serious nutrient deficiencies down the road.

FOOD SENSITIVITIES

Researchers are finally validating what many of us have known for years: Certain foods just don’t agree with some people. Although food allergies are well-recognized because firm diagnoses can be made through the use of blood tests for the presence of IgE antibodies, food sensitivities fall into a grey area. Experiencing unwanted symptoms after eating certain foods are not as easy to diagnose, but it doesn’t mean that they’re any less real.

Some people can eat tiny amounts of these foods and not always have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they are a lot less severe than allergies but can be just as debilitating and include migraines, brain fog, inflammation, digestive problems, and bloating.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP WITH FOOD ALLERGIES, INTOLERANCES, AND SENSITIVITIES?

The Gut Connection

Studies have increasingly found that food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies are associated with arthritis, autoimmune disease and a leaky gut (or increased intestinal permeability). So it’s important to not just avoid the food in question but to address potential underlying root contributing factors such as leaky gut and inflammation.

It’s not enough to just take the food out and not do anything about it. Because symptoms are another way of your body telling you that your gut needs some TLC to heal, restore and rebalance itself. Without this vital step, no matter how many elimination diets you do, if you don’t work on healing your gut you’ll likely end up fighting symptoms all over again. And also likely to eventually end up with more intolerances and symptoms.

Once you have really healed your gut, you may find that foods that once gave you problems are tolerable again. But it’s important to remember that many of the foods that we become reactive to are inflammatory in nature, so while you may be able to tolerate them, it’s good to eat them in moderation.

Food Allergies

Currently, there is no cure for food allergies themselves. The only way to prevent food allergies reactions is to completely avoid the food you are allergic to. So if you have a food allergy, you will need to avoid the food forever. That’s because part of the immune system works on the basis of memory. In exactly the same way your body remembers its response to, say, the polio vaccination you were given as a child (and can prepare its attack should it come into contact with polio again), it remembers its response to nuts, dairy, or whatever food you’re allergic to. However, making sure the integrity of the gut lining is intact is important to help reduce inflammation associated with food allergies and help prevent further potential complications developing in the long-term.

Food Intolerances

If you have a food intolerance, you don’t necessarily have to remove the food forever, it depends on the underlying cause of the reaction. Digestive support can often help alleviate many symptoms.

Food Sensitivities

Since 80 percent of your immune system is found in your gut, it makes sense that by healing your gut you could reverse sensitivities. Now, that doesn’t mean that every person and every single food sensitivity will be able to be completely eliminated forever—but you don’t have to think of it as a life sentence!

MOVING FORWARD

If you are wondering whether you have a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity, please do get in touch. I can help by offering a variety of testing options where necessary to help get to the bottom of the problem, and my gut restoring programmes can help bring your body back into balance. Book your free call here: https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=14670092

 

 

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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.

 

 

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