Experts at the British College of Nutrition and Health suggest IBS may not exist.
A really interesting (and exciting!) review of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has just been published. It considers whether or not IBS truly exists!
In the review, the author, Ben Brown (Brown, 2019), explains how IBS is not one disease but an umbrella term or ‘catch-all’ for multiple identifiable and treatable digestive symptoms which may be triggered by a combination of nutritional and lifestyle factors.
While symptoms may include excessive gas, bloating, and chronic diarrhoea or constipation, researchers found that it may not be one condition but a whole range of them. This is why the author poses the question ‘Does IBS exist?’ because it is rarely one thing.
Sadly, what frequently happens is people get labelled as IBS sufferers and told ‘there’s not much we can do about it’. However, doing this doesn’t address the underlying issue or issues and by clustering multiple digestive symptoms under one label risks “lazy thinking” and delays recovery.
Have you been told that you 'just have to live with IBS'?
The paper explores multiple nutritional factors that could be underlying IBS including:
Nutritional Therapy could help you identify the root causes.
Brown concludes that personalisation of treatment, including diet and nutritional support, is essential for supporting people with IBS because everyone will respond differently. He outlines potential management and treatment approaches, including nutritional therapies as a way to address the root causes of imbalance. Find out more here.
Here's a link to the review
Brown, B. (2019). Does Irritable Bowel Syndrome Exist? Identifiable and Treatable Causes of Associated Symptoms Suggest It May Not. [online] Gastrointestinal disorders. Available at: http://bit.ly/Does-IBS-Exist [Accessed 5 Aug. 2019].
Important 'Red Flags' to watch out for.
Please be aware that IBS must be diagnosed by a medical doctor so that serious disease can be ruled out. And if you experience any of the following please consult your doctor urgently:
Explore the 5-stages of gut healing at my 'Learn to Love your Gut' event this September.
Find out more and book your place now.
Sometimes we can get so focused on pinpointing a certain trigger food to our bloating, the simpler stuff gets overlooked. Incorporate these simple steps into your day to reduce your risk of bloating, gas and uncomfortable cramping.
Eat in a 10-Hour Window
To help your digestion you should really avoid lying down soon after eating. Fasting for 12-14 hours overnight can make a huge difference to your risk of bloating. For example, have an earlier dinner with the kids at 6pm and then fast until breakfast the next morning, between 6-8am. Or, if you get home late, eat dinner at say 8pm and then wait until 8-10am to eat breakfast. It will minimise your risk of bloating and the mindless grazing we are all tempted by late at night. This tip also works wonders for acid indigestion, heartburn and slow metabolisms. Give yourself that window to allow your gut microbes to flourish.
How many hours a day are you seated for? Honestly, so many of us are sat for 8-10 hours per day without even realising! The drive to work - often in stressful situations where we tense up. Then at our desk for 8 hours under pressure and dealing with demanding situations. Take mini breaks and move more. It releases gas and aids digestion. Plus, when you are moving your gut bacteria improve and you produce short chain fatty acids which help with the health of the gut lining and repair. Try walking up and down the stairs in your building for five minutes or walk to a different floor to refill your water bottle.
Have Wheat-Free Days
Wheat is hard to digest and a common food allergen. Wheat is found in breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, biscuits and beer, to name a few. Start by having wheat-free days and see how it impacts your bloating. There are far more gentler sources of fibre we can use instead that will alleviate the pressure on our gut. Sweet potato, brown rice and oats are all gentler sources of fibre that are naturally wheat-free.
Alcohol is a major gut irritant and damages the lining of the gut. Sorry, I know! Even if you only drink in small amounts, if you have excessive bloating, gas or loose stools, I recommend going alcohol-free for one month and track the changes in your bloating.
Rest and Digest
When we are eating we want to be producing saliva and enzymes, not stress hormones. Go sit somewhere more mellow where there aren’t distractions like email, an angry boss, or a nail-biting episode of your favourite TV show. Breathe in the lovely aromas, chew slowly, savour the flavours and the wonderful textures. And remember, digestion starts in our mouth, our stomach does not have teeth.
Also, when we eat too quickly, we tend to swallow big gulps of air which can increase risk of bloating and cramps. Sit down, rest and digest, maybe with a friend, or family.
Do you have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth? (SIBO)
If you experience chronic bloating and you have been given the all-clear by your GP and you are still struggling, it might be time to consider Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or “SIBO”.
Find out what SIBO is and how to get tested for SIBO in the UK here. I have also shared a blog post about what do do if you test positive for SIBO and what causes SIBO? I'm always happy to chat on the phone to help explore how nutritional therapy could support you. If you feel confused or overwhelmed please book a free call here!
Do you suffer from excessive gas, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation? If you think you have “just” a digestive problem you might want to think again.
The health of your digestion determines which nutrients are absorbed and which toxins, allergens, and microbes are expelled. As a result, your digestion is central to your overall health and it is connected to everything that happens in your body.
Keeping your digestive system healthy is critical because ultimately you are not what you eat but what you absorb!
Here are a five simple ways to tune up your digestion:
1. Eat more gentle fibre
It's common for many people to reach for bran and wheat when things get sluggish on the inside. Wheat bran is the opposite of gentle fibre. It is often processed (think crunchy (i.e. sugary) Bran Flakes and All Bran). It is a common food allergen and may promote bloating, sluggishness and indigestion, making it the worst choice for someone with constipation or other digestion problems.
Switch to a gentle source of fibre such as pysllium husks and/or ground flaxseeds. Eat them daily for best results, starting slowly. Make sure you drink a minimum of 1-1.5 litres of water each day.
Leave the sugary, processed ‘breakfast cereals’ where they belong: ON THE SHELVES (or give them away if you've already bought them). This one simple swap could keep things moving more regularly for you!
2. Eat more vegetables
Eating fibrous plant foods is a very important step in supporting your gut bacteria and digestion. The diversity and number of vegetables you eat will be reflected in the diversity and number of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut; the more the better. Aim for two to three servings of fruit, and six to eight vegetables daily. Eat the rainbow!
3. Make friends with fermented foods
Fermented foods provide a great natural source of probiotics and prebiotics (see below). Probiotics support the balance of good bacteria (flora) in your gut. Try water kefir or milk kefir, a tangy, slightly fizzy drink that’s packed with healthy bugs. I’m hoping to post a video soon on how to make your own. It’s a really easy and cheap source of probiotics.
Other probiotic powerhouses include naturally fermented sauerkraut and kimchi; they contain both live bacteria and prebiotics that nourish your gut bacteria and support gut healing. The best way is to make your own but if you decide to buy sauerkraut make sure it is raw. The stuff in the supermarket won't do because it is pasteurised. Look for products that say “live and active cultures” on the label.
Organic tofu and tempeh are also good choices. They are made from fermented soya beans.
4. Include prebiotic foods
Prebiotics are a type of soluble fibre found in certain plant foods that act as “food” for probiotics. They are like fertilizer helping probiotics grow and flourish in your gut. Prebiotic-containing foods include Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, leek, onion, asparagus, and shallots. Eat some type of prebiotic food every day.
5. Eat bitter foods
Bitter foods such as watercress, rocket and apple cider vinegar stimulate digestive enzyme production and aid digestion. Stomach acidity shortfalls, and enzyme deficiency could be a root cause of digestive disturbance and is easily supported through supplementation and dietary improvements. Sometimes this is all it takes to see improvements in digestion.
Still having problems with your digestion?
If you have already tried these steps and you are still experiencing an irritable digestive system, contact me for a personalised plan. You have many options for supporting digestion so don't give up! Contact me here
If you suffer from diarrhoea read my blog post natural way to support diarrhoea >>
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Loose stools (AKA diarrhoea)! Not the most glamorous of topics but something most of us experience at some point or other. Most people recover with no ill effects within a few days. But how can you minimise the misery?
What causes diarrhoea to occur?
Diarrhoea may be caused by bacterial, viral, yeast or protozoon infections, irritable bowel syndrome, overuse of laxatives, anxiety, antibiotics or inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
What is diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea is a loose consistency stool plus increased frequency of bowel motions. It occurs when the bowel secretes increased amounts of fluid and the speed at which contents pass through the intestines increases. The problem is usually intermittent and associated with other classic symptoms such as distention, bloating, and excess wind.
Five natural ways to support diarrhoea and digestive complaints
Replace lost fluids and minerals with water and an electrolyte solution.The focus should be on water, or herbal teas if you can stomach them. Avoid fruit juices and prunes, milk and dairy products as sometimes temporary lactose intolerance (to milk sugar) can occur.
Diarrhoea causes large amounts of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium as well as water to be washed out through the bowels, causing dehydration and low blood pressure.
Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes including sodium and potassium. Coconut water is the liquid in the cavity of the coconut when you crack it open. Luckily for us, brands such as Vita Coco and Biona do this for us, (Cocoface even allows you to drink straight from the nut itself) so you don’t have to be lounging by a beach somewhere exotic to enjoy the health benefits. A trip to your local health food store will suffice.
Over the counter electrolyte mixes (example Dioralyte) contain saccharin – a synthetic chemical sweetener, so look for one without.
2. Avoid caffeine
When you have gastric irritation it's best to eliminate caffeine (tea and coffee) as it is highly acidic and will irritate your stomach. Switch to herbal teas or water.
Mint contains an essential oil that has antiseptic and painkilling properties. It aids digestion by increasing gastric emptying stimulating secretion of digestive juices and bile and also relaxes excessive spasm of the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract.
Drink mint tea to relieve indigestion, intestinal cramps and spasms, flatulence and mild IBS and to aid rehydration.
3. Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm, the inner bark of the slippery elm tree, holds amazing soothing properties, thanks to its ability to form a ‘slippery’ lining of the gut.
Slippery elm forms a gummy, mucilage substance when it comes in contact with water and coats and soothes the stomach and intestines, reducing inflammation and irritation, when taken internally, either as a drink or in capsule form.
This curious brown powder is soothing to stomach ulcers, gastritis, acid reflux, heartburn, diarrhoea, IBS or any inflammation of the bowel.
4. Saccharomyces Boulardii
Saccharomyces Boulardii (S. Boulardii) is a natural yeast, extracted from the lychee fruit. S. Boulardii has undergone years of clinical research, demonstrating its ability to bind to and flush out pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella; thereby naturally supporting your gut health in the case of diarrhoea.
S. Boulardii has also been shown to have considerable anti-inflammatory properties, helping to maintain gut health in those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Due to its immense popularity among scientific communities, it is in fact registered as a medicine in over 100 countries. A supplement cupboard essential for episodes of embarrassing tummy troubles. Studies show Saccharomyces Boulardii may shorten the duration of diarrhoea. Read more about Saccharomyces Boulardii here
5. Probiotic supplements
Probiotic supplements containing healthy, digestive bacteria (e.g. Lactobacilli Acidophilus and bifidobacteria) help to keep the digestive system in balance and keep harmful bacteria at bay through a number of mechanisms, including the production of natural antibiotics (bacteriocins). Look for products containing a million to billions of bacteria per capsule (popular, big brand 'yoghurt drinks' do not qualify).
If you need digestive support please contact me for personalised advice.
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It is always recommended to consult with your GP if you experience ill health and before supplementation in case of drug/nutrient interaction.
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