Food elimination diets and food diaries are a great place to start when you have gut health issues or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). They're often the place I start with my clients because it helps reduce some of the irritation and inflammation in the gut and provides symptomatic relief, which is great. But the long-game needs to be a multi-pronged approach.
If you've already read my blog post: ‘The single biggest reason you keep getting gut issues you've never realised' you'll understand why simply removing lots of foods from your diet alone is not going to sort your gut health problems in the longterm. It's simply step one. The likelihood is there could be numerous underlying risk factors at play which may need addressing in a step-by-step approach.
If you have been trialling free-from diets like the low-FODMAP diet or gluten and dairy-free diets for a while now, with some, or minimal progress, it’s definitely time to move on to the next step!
Here are FIVE REASONS WHY you need to stop stressing over food elimination diets only and rethink your gut healing strategy.
1. You don’t want to be cutting foods out forever.
If you have food intolerances that trigger digestive problems, including IBS, it suggests you may have a leaky gut. Cutting foods out may help reduce immediate symptoms in the short-term, but it isn’t solving the root of the problem – the leaky gut.
Food intolerance is usually just a symptom of an unhappy gut. The heart of the issue is often to do with a leaky gut, which I've talked about before here.
I'll be sharing my 5-step gut healing plan at my up-coming gut health event, Learn to Love your Gut.
2. The low-FODMAP diet is not a cure-all.
The low-FODMAP diet can sometimes be helpful when there is chronic bloating, IBS and/or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). However, the Low-FODMAP diet is not recommended for long-term use (> 6 weeks).
This is because the low-FODMAP diet is a low fibre diet and gut bacteria need fibre to flourish. Long-term use of the low-FODMAP diet has a negative impact on the diversity of bacteria in your gut. It's also incredibly challenging and it can make food anxiety much worse. It really worries me when clients tell me they have been following a low-FODMAP diet for months on end in a bid to control their digestive symptoms. Book a call and we can chat through some options!!
3. Acid-blocking drugs are not a long-term solution.
Many clients need to take acid blocking drugs, for example, to control digestive symptoms in the short-term or to control the side effects of other medications*. However, acid blocking drugs are really only meant for short-term use.
We need acid. It is our first line of defence against infection and helps us absorb protein and vitamin B12 from our food. Long-term low stomach acid increases the risk of bacterial imbalance in the gut e.g. ‘gut dysbiosis’ or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, (SIBO) because opportunistic bacteria thrive in low acid conditions.
If you are on acid-blocking medication such as Omeprazole or Lansoprazole, purely for acid reflux or acid indigestion and not for any other reasons it is totally possible to balance stomach acid naturally. Check out my blog post on acid reflux or get in touch to find out more.
*Do not discontinue any medication especially without speaking to your doctor first.
4. You're Experiencing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
Restrictive diets, including the low-FODMAP diet, can greatly increase the risk of social anxiety. Many people understandably worry about what they can and can’t eat, and where the nearest loo is. So much so they start to fear going out with friends. Eating out starts to feel like a huge no-go. I don't want you to feel like you're missing out on life. My 5-step gut healing plan will help you wave bye-bye to FOMO.
5. You've been told "there's nothing you can do".
This recently published review points to several treatable underlying triggers for IBS which if given the right support (i.e. personalised care) can be identified and addressed!
My learn to love your gut event is designed to help you get to the root cause of your digestive problems and support your gut health in five clear steps. Get your ticket now before it's too late. Can't make it? Get in touch with me here instead and we can arrange a chat. Don't normalise your symptoms any longer.
I'm absolutely ecstatic to share with you that my name has been published in an academic paper accepted for publication in the highly coveted BMC Public Health!
What is the title of the research paper?
Evaluating differences in the clinical impact of a free online weight loss programme, a resource-intensive commercial weight loss programme and an active control condition: a parallel randomised controlled trial.
(I love how it rolls off the tongue so easily).
What was my role in the clinical trial?
As the Nutritional Therapist, I was responsible for a group of individuals in a commercial weight loss programme. I supported the participants through a 12-week weight management programme which included:
What was the aim of the study?
The aim of the research study was to compare the efficacy of three different (commonly used) approaches to weight loss. We divided volunteers into three different groups and measured the results.
The three different weight loss groups were:
What are some of the health markers we measured?
The markers we used to measure the volunteers' progress and compare results included:
So what is the best way to lose weight?
Ah yes that age old question that everyone wants the answer to! Well the findings of this study suggest that both the online and face-to-face group approaches to weight loss are more effective than simply going it alone when it comes to short-term weight-loss.
Both interventions were superior compared to the control group (going to the gym only) at achieving a reduction in body mass.
For more tips on losing weight effectively in the longterm, check out my top tips here.
What is the key takeaway message?
Don’t go it alone when it comes to losing weight, getting fit and making lifestyle changes. Whether you find support online or offline, by being part of a supportive group and experiencing that sense of community, accountability and encouragement, may make all the difference.
Find your tribe.
Your supportive community could be your family, a Facebook group, your Registered Nutritional Therapist, or a commercial weight loss group (although choose this one wisely - no fads please!)
I offer a range of nutrition packages which are designed to give you regular accountability and support. Book a call if you'd like to chat through your health issues and find a nutrition plan that will work for you.
Massive congratulations to Mr Aidan Innes who wrote the academic paper and my colleagues and co-authors involved in this exciting project.
Here is a link to the full paper:
What is the BMC Public Health?
BMC Public Health is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on the epidemiology of disease and the understanding of all aspects of public health.
Why is it that our favourite foods, the ones we have enjoyed freely since a young age suddenly start to trigger digestive problems? Symptoms may include:
Suddenly we are eating these every day foods knowing that we’ll spend the rest of the night either in the loo, or trying to conceal embarrassing gas, uncomfortable bloating, or even mysterious skin rashes.
There are many reasons why gut health problems, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), come about and I've talked about that before in another blog post here.
But the single biggest reason you keep experiencing gut health issues could be that you’ve got a leaky gut. Have you heard of 'leaky gut?'
The single biggest reason you keep experiencing symptoms could be your 'Leaky Gut'.
What is leaky gut and how can I help prevent it?
Put simply, our gut is delicate and is easily damaged by our lifestyle (diet, stress, partying, medications). Our entire gut is protected by just one layer, which is only one cell in thickness (the epithelium). And this covers a surface area the size of two tennis courts! That’s huge!!
When this barrier becomes damaged over time (known as “leaky gut”), our immune system can start to overreact and produce inflammation. And this in turn may lead to symptoms like indigestion, excessive gas, bloating, intestinal cramping and food intolerances.
Our immune system is expecting to see fully digested foods (like proteins broken down into amino acids) but suddenly it sees foreign, (partially digested) molecules. So it does what it is designed to do – attack and defend. Our body may start to produce IgG antibodies which make us feel unwell, inflamed and anxious. Often it is these IgG antibodies that are measured in a food intolerance test.
Removing trigger foods and keeping a food journal is a helpful place to start on a gut healing journey but simply cutting out foods or starting a low-fodmap diet is not addressing the underlying issue, the lining of the gut!
Is it possible to heal a 'leaky gut'?
The good news is that the cells of the intestinal lining replace themselves every three to six days. Given the proper nutritional support your gut can repair itself quickly and you may reach a point where you can happily reintroduce your favourite foods.*
*(This refers to food intolerances only and not allergy. If you have a true IgE allergy continue to avoid the food for life). I explain the differences between food allergy and food intolerance here).
Discover how to support a leaky gut at my Learn to Love your Gut event in Edinburgh.
At my ‘Learn to Love your Gut’ event, I’ll show you how to support the lining of your gut so you’re really getting to the heart of your gut health problems for good.
You will receive:
If you're unable to make it along to any of my live events, check out my packages or book a call and we can discuss how best to support you going forward.
Three questions I'm being asked more and more frequently are:
Following a colourful plant-based diet can lead to more creativity in the kitchen (which I love) and can be a great way to increase variety in our diet (which our gut bacteria love)! But more thought may need to go into meal planning to ensure we're getting the right balance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. And in some cases supplementation is definitely advisable.
So below are my top six nutrients to really focus on when eating a plant-based or vegan diet.
If you feel you could benefit from some help and support getting this balance right or some expert advice on supplementation, get in touch with me.
Iron is essential for the formation of healthy red blood cells and it carries oxygen to tissues all around our body. When we don’t eat sufficient iron, we are at increased risk of experiencing:
Low iron levels and anaemia are very common, especially in women with heavy periods, menopausal women and those that follow a plant based or vegan diet.
Iron is most readily available in animal produce such as red meat, eggs and fish. Iron is also available in many plant based foods including:
If you're cooking from scratch and using whole foods (like legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds and whole grains) daily, then the chances are you're following a well-balanced, plant-based or vegan diet and you should be getting sufficient iron. However, if the diet is not well planned, or you're relying heavily on processed vegan products, you could become susceptible to iron deficiency.
If you are unsure, get your iron and ferritin levels tested. Ferritin levels are helpful because it’s an indication of your stored iron levels. Digestive problems, such as low stomach acid can also impair iron absorption.
Best sources of plant based protein
We need protein for our skin, cell and muscle formation and as fuel for our bodies. When we aren’t getting enough protein, symptoms may include:
These are called incomplete proteins as they don’t contain all the amino acids and we need to ensure we get a good mix. Getting the balance right, can sometimes be difficult especially when starting out on a plant based diet. An issue I see regularly is the over-reliance on mass produced ‘fake meat’ products. These are highly processed foods. Focus on natural sources of protein where possible.
Vegan sources of vitamin B12
This important B vitamin helps to support our blood cells and without it, we’re at increased risk of memory problems, mood disorders, and fatigue. Joint pain or digestive problems such as diarrhoea and nausea are other common symptoms.
Animal produce including yoghurt, fish and meat is the best source of vitamin B12 and it will be very difficult to maintain good vitamin B12 status from plants alone. It can take a few years for vitamin B12 levels in the body to deplete so get your levels checked regularly.
It can be helpful to supplement with vegan B12. Ensuring you have optimal stomach acid will also help with vitamin B12 absorption and reduce the risk of deficiency. As a Nutritional Therapist, I am trained in nutritional supplementation and can tailor a supplement plan specific to your unique needs. Find out more about how we can work together here.
Where do vegans get calcium?
Well known for its role in healthy strong bones, calcium is also involved in maintaining healthy teeth, nerve and muscle function. Most people think of dairy products when they hear the word calcium but other great sources of calcium include:
Vegan sources of vitamin D and DHA
Without vitamin D, we cannot absorb and utilise calcium. Vitamin D deficiency isn’t just a risk for vegans and vegetarians. Most of us are at risk and the advice is to test once yearly and to supplement, especially during winter months. If you are vegan double check you are using a vegan vitamin D supplement as many are sourced from lanolin, which is from sheep’s wool.
To support a healthy brain and memory, we need DHA which comes directly from oily fish. If you are plant based, vegetarian, or vegan I recommend using a plant based supplement from sea algae which will support optimal brain function, memory, concentration and learning.
Recipe ideas for plant based or vegan eating
We definitely don't need to be eating meat at each meal or even on a daily basis but you don't need to go vegan to benefit from eating more plant based meals. Having meat-free days is a great way to incorporate more variety into your diet and increase your fibre intake.
Here are a few recipe ideas to help you incorporate more energising and balanced plant based meals into your life.
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