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.
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 10 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!
Select the VIP group programme option and you'll have the option to include a comprehensive stool analysis test as well as a 1-2-1 session with me during the group programme. This is by far the cheapest way to access my expert knowledge as well as stool testing without having to commit to my 1-2-1 90-day gut health plan.
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 10 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. Feel free to email me any questions you have about the programme and how it works.
Tired of misdiagnosed or dismissed tummy troubles?
Frustrated with endless nights searching the web for answers?
Sick of your digestive system dictating (and often ruining) your day?
Fed-up playing a guessing game with your gut health?
There’s no denying that gut health issues can be debilitating and frustrating.
Especially when your GP gives you the “all clear” or your test results come back “normal” despite ongoing symptoms.
Chances are, if you are reading this article, you can resonate with some or all the above. And, you are not alone. In fact, as a registered nutritional therapist, I work with individuals like you every day. Individuals who are seeking answers, who feel they have tried everything and are eager to regain control of their gut health once and for all!
In most cases, comprehensive stool testing is the next step.
What is stool testing?
When it comes to gut health, I’m a big advocate for testing and not guessing.
Why? Because blindly making changes to your nutrition or lifestyle could lead you in the wrong direction and sometimes do more harm than good.
Functional Stool testing is one of the best and most comprehensive gut health tests available and can give a snapshot of what’s going on inside your gut. By assessing key digestive markers, this test can provide an overview of all aspects of digestive function. It can offer much-needed clarity, demystify symptoms and help bring peace of mind.
A comprehensive stool test acts as an important tool, measuring (good and bad) bacteria levels, detecting markers for inflammation, immune or digestive issues, and gives a general overview of an individual’s gastrointestinal health.
Contrary to what you might think, taking a stool test is quick, mess-free and easy to do from the comfort of your home. Each test requires just three swabs from one sample, which is then posted back to the lab for analysis.
What can comprehensive stool testing show?
There are two main types of stool tests used in the UK: the kind doctors use to screen for certain diseases or conditions and the type registered nutritional therapists use to inform nutritional therapy recommendations.
If you head to your doctor with symptoms like diarrhoea, constipation or bloating, or if you’ve been passing mucus or blood in your bowel movements, they may ask you to do a stool sample. This test may rule out serious diseases like cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or H. Pylori but often these tests fail to identify the root cause of what is causing your symptoms.
Instead of digging deeper, individuals get labelled with a diagnosis of "IBS" (irritable bowel syndrome) - a BS "umbrella term" which is not a real diagnosis. More on that here.
Private gut health tests via nutritionists - like Stellar Health, provide a more comprehensive overview of the gut’s health. A comprehensive stool analysis test looks at the microbiology in your gut, and indicates where there are imbalances or even absences of particular bacteria.
It can also provide information on:
✔️ gases produced by bacteria (e.g. methane or sufidogenic) which may be contributing to SIBO, bloating, and/or constipation
✔️ inflammation, e.g. calprotectin
✔️ immune, e.g. secretory IgA
✔️ digestion, e.g. enzymes and bile acids
✔️ mucin degradation, e.g. leaky gut
✔️ yeasts including candida
Armed with this invaluable information, we can begin to paint a picture of what’s contributing to your symptoms and determine what dietary, lifestyle and supplemental interventions might be most effective.
While stool tests can be an important tool in assessing potential digestive imbalances, it’s important to remember that they are not a magic bullet. However, when used alongside a client’s case history, it can be a really helpful guide to inform next steps and a more targeted and personalised nutrition plan.
Why should I consider a comprehensive stool test?
The health of our gut is closely linked to the health of just about every organ in our body, including the brain, bladder, heart, skin, and even vaginas! With this in mind, I believe that anyone can benefit from comprehensive stool testing and that gut health testing should be a standard part of preventive care.
As already discussed, stool testing can vary depending on whether it is carried out by a doctor or a nutritionist. While both tests have a place in your journey to better gut health, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Doctors should be your first point of contact should you start to experience issues with your gut. When a doctor is examining your stool sample, they are looking to rule out specific diseases. However, frustratingly these tests do not uncover the root of the problem and can often come back “normal”, leaving the patient confused and without answers.
A typical result from a basic lab stool culture (from your doctor) might look something like this:
Not only does this result provide little information, but it can also lead you to believe your gut is healthy or balanced, even though your symptoms are telling you it isn’t.
I’ve had so many clients that have received “normal” basic stool culture results, only to do comprehensive stool testing and find that they have severe fungal or microbial imbalances.
Comprehensive stool testing differs because it allows us to cast a wider net, looking at chronic disease-related microbial (bacteria, fungal, parasites) markers and information regarding digestion efficiency. When you suffer from symptoms like bloating, foul wind or alternating bowel movements, the issue is functional and not visible to cameras, endoscopes or the naked eye.
Functional stool testing isn’t about “yes” or “no” results. It’s about looking at patterns in the entire gut ecosystem, your health history and current health and using this information to get to the bottom of the problem and inform personalised diet recommendations.
Ultimately, a comprehensive stool test can give you answers, clarity and the foundation for a gut health roadmap.
How much does stool testing cost?
Comprehensive stool tests are highly specialised and currently not offered through the NHS. At present, the only option is to pay for them privately.
There are many different stool tests on the market, and while cost can vary from test to test, there’s no denying that it can be an expensive procedure. However, when you suffer from persistent debilitating symptoms that affect your daily life, finding an answer can outweigh any cost and make it worth every penny.
Imagine; no longer stressing over food labels, worrying where the nearest loo is or choosing clothes based on what you want to wear, not how bloated you are.
Ready to reap the benefits of comprehensive stool testing? The good news is it is available as an add-on to my 90 Days to Better Gut Health plan.
90 days to a happier, healthier gut (yes, really!)
🎈 Bloating 🤢 acid reflux 😲 unpredictable bowel movements 🥴 indigestion
😞 constipation 💨 foul wind 🥱 fatigue 💩diarrhoea 😩 stomach cramps…
It’s time to break free from never-ending tummy troubles for good with my 90 Days to Better Gut Health 1:1 Programme!
For an investment of £897 or 3 monthly payments of £315, this 90-day programme provides a window into the goings-on of your gut and is the only way to get a full scope of clinical tests carried out through the trusted labs I use.
By joining my programme, you’ll receive:
This programme can fine-tune any imbalances, address symptoms and get you on the path to a happy, healthier gut 🙌
Ready to get to the bottom of your gut health issues and FINALLY feel like yourself again?
You've probably found this blog post because you're struggling with constipation and it's making your life really miserable. The pain from being backed up can include back ache, cramps, bloating and it can impact on your mood. You want to get to the bottom of the problem and feel better, right?
Many of the people I've worked with over the years have come to me with painful constipation and have been offered laxatives as a solution. Sadly, it's a temporary fix and unlikely to solve the root issues at play.
In this post, I'm going to share the 3 main causes of constipation and I'll explain what you can do to start to feel better. Sound good? Let's go!
1. The foods you're eating
Something we've grown up hearing is that you should eat bran when you're constipated. Don't do it! It's actually really difficult to digest and possibly going to make things down there worse.
So what should you actually be eating?
2. Stress is a major cause of constipation
Not many of us are aware of how our bodies work and how in sync our brains are with our digestive system. There is something called the "gut-brain-axis (GBA)" which is a two-way communication between our brain and our enteric nervous system, (neurons in our gut that control the function of our gastrointestinal tract). Basically what this means is that when you're stressed, your digestive system reacts.
You might not think you're stressed right now, but your body has been living in fight or flight mode for a year during the pandemic. You might be working from home and trying to juggle home schooling, but if you're a key worker and have been on the front lines, that is a whole other level of stress.
And what happens is the body "holds on to" waste because of the stress (the bowel is unable to relax fully) and we risk the reabsorption of toxins from the colon back into circulation in the body.
So what can you do to reduce stress in the gut?
Try the above strategies, which can all be used together, and I bet you'll feel calmer and see a change in you gut sooner than you might think.
3. You've got high levels of a certain bacteria linked to constipation.
If you keep getting constipated or you've had life long constipation, and haven't found a solution yet, it could be that you have a particular bacteria (Methanobrevibacter smithii) taking up too much real estate in your large intestine. It's associated with IBS-constipation (IBS-C) because it produces methane, which delays gut transit time. This can be investigated by completing a comprehensive stool test.
Stool tests can be carried out through a qualified nutritional therapist (like me!) and then after a thorough analysis, we'd work on addressing the balance of bacteria in your gut. This would be through dietary changes and tailored supplementation advice.
I hope you've found this blog post helpful and there's some things in here that you've not tried yet. It can be so hard to see the wood for the trees when you're in pain and no one is listening to you. But I urge you to try some of the options I've listed, because they will help heal your gut for good rather just than temporarily easing your suffering.
If you're suffering from constipation, there is light at the end of the tunnel! “Ease your gut, beat the bloat” is my new 5 week programme where we work towards your optimal gut health. Email me to join the waiting list for the next start date.
Need a little more support? Get in touch with me about working 1-2-1 over 90 days or book in for comprehensive digestive stool testing.
Living with tummy pain shouldn't be considered normal. I want to change the way we look at our digestive health. Find out more about my work and passion for helping you feel better over on Instagram!
Nutritional Therapy helps identify the underlying causes of IBS symptoms and personalises a gut-healing plan that addresses:
You can also find out more about IBS here. I think you'll find it refreshing!
Nutritional Therapy works alongside medical treatment and should not be misconstrued as a replacement for medicine. I always work with your GP to ensure you get the best support and results. I can also write to your GP if necessary and/or advise you of tests available on the NHS so you can discuss further with your GP (if you are in the UK).
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:
Hello! Welcome to Stellar Health.