When you come away from the doctor's surgery with a diagnosis of IBS and you're told that life will always be uncomfortable, it's hard to see where to go next. You might be making some mistakes trying to fix your own gut symptoms, so I thought I'd write a blog post to help you.
It's understandable that many of my clients try to take matters into their own hands once an "expert" has told them that there's little to no hope for recovery.
However, I want you to know that there is hope. You CAN have the freedom to love life again.
Read on to see if you're making any of these mistakes...
1. Cutting everything out
This is something I see all the time. Often people cut everything out and eat the blandest diet they can bear because they don't know what else to do. It can be what ends up being recommended, after serial investigations and only as a last resort, however cutting everything out is pretty pointless if you don't work on the underlying issues.
Usually, there are problems in the gut that need fixing or healing. And I always look at those factors before any diet decisions are made. For example, we'd look at how you can reduce stress, which is often a contributing factor for gut health by focusing more on foods which have a calming effect on the nervous system. Sometimes clients are taking anti-acids like Omeprazole or Rennies to ease digestive symptoms rather than solving the actual issue, which could be a vitamin or mineral deficiency, or even too little stomach acid.
Working with a qualified nutritional therapist means you're not on your own. Find out more here.
2. Following a low FODMAP diet
When I meet clients who are following a low-FODMAP diet, it's usually a strategy that's been dished out by their GP willy-nilly. (This isn't a criticism as such, because GPs are underfunded and have limited time and resources to support their patients. I get it!) But if you're recommended to follow the low-FODMAP diet, you have got to do it properly.
What often happens is people think onions and garlic are fodmaps so they cut those out but they don't do the diet appropriately and unfortunately it doesn't work like that. Excessive bloating, industrial gas and foul smelling stools are often associated with specific bacteria--Desulfovibrio spp and methanobrevii smithii—both of which can be picked up in a comprehensive stool test, and I can organise this. If you want to know more head here.
Following the low-FODMAP diet long term with no support can cause a depletion in microbials and friendly bacteria. Which is (in case you've not realised...) a bad thing. A healthy gut needs those things to do its job properly.
Instead of following a low-FODMAP diet, you should join my new 5 week programme. We'll follow a much more enjoyable anti-inflammatory diet, with recipes that you can try and we'll even do a cook along. The focus is on healing, nourishing and rebalancing your gut, not making you miserable! You can live a happier and healthier life!
3. Taking supplements without support
In the grand scheme of things, taking supplements isn't altogether a bad thing. In fact, they're a resource I often recommend to my clients. Under expert guidance, supplements can be incredibly beneficial. With a careful approach your therapeutic needs can be met.
However, I've seen an increase in clients who are taking supplement advice from influencers—who have no nutritional training—they've seen recommending them online. Or perhaps friends who've noticed improvements in their symptoms saying, "you should try it! It's worked wonders for me!". Sadly, supplements need a really personal approach. What works for one person might not work for another person. It can be an expensive waste of time!
The same goes for probiotics. Often my clients tell me they've "tried that; it doesn't work" but there are may different strains of probiotic, all with different abilities. And many probiotic rich foods are actually quite strong and can be overwhelming on a gut that is out of balance. So my approach is to look at healing the gut first, fixing any issues and then adding in probiotics to build gut health.
4. Believing that you have no problems because your colonoscopy is clear
So you've had a colonoscopy and it's ruled out the Big C, and numerous worrying illnesses, but hasn't given you an answer to your questions. That's not to say you don't have a problem, though. It just means that your problem can't be seen by a camera. Enzymes and bacteria are invisible to the basic cameras used in these procedures. And they're also unable to pick up how you feel and any bloating you might have.
So while these tests can be vital to rule out life-threatening illnesses, it's important that we acknowledge other ways of investigating gut health. A great example of this is using food journals like we keep on the "Ease your gut, beat the bloat" group programme. By recording what you eat and when, we can work through your diet, identifying triggers. Ones that can't be picked up by a camera!
Another avenue of investigation, beyond a colonoscopy, is comprehensive stool testing. This provides information on bacteria, yeasts and parasites that can become problematic if they become too dominant in an imbalanced or unhealthy gut. These bacteria, yeasts and parasites can be more easily detected because the tests use technology that can measure bacteria's genetic material so they are more easily detected. Find out more about that here.
5. You're trying to do it alone
It can be really lonely working through gut health problems by yourself. Investigating triggers and symptoms with no support is hard! But it doesn't have to be like that. According to research, about 20% of the UK adult population have IBS at any one time. So you're truly not alone!
Having to face all these difficulties on your own means that often you might face an information overload. You might end up Googling for ideas and getting caught up in searching down an endless rabbit-hole of info. Simply put, it is super-overwhelming. And it can cause you to give up.
So one easy fix is to look for a trusted and reliable community to share the journey with you. Love or hate social media, it's a place where you can meet fellow sufferers and compare and contrast your symptoms. You can share resources, develop strategies together or just hang out. But it's hard to know where to seek support and who you can trust online, isn't it? Joining a group programme like mine is a fantastic way of creating community.
Life doesn't have to be lonely!
Have you made any of these mistakes?
Are you at the end of your tether?
Tried every option with no success?
Time to try something brand new!
I'd love you to join my 5 week programme “Ease your gut, beat the bloat”. Each week we work towards your optimal gut health so you can feel better.
Find out more here on this post, or here. Feel free to email me any questions you have about the programme and how it works.
Hello! Welcome to Stellar Health.