Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a term frequently used to describe a type of digestive disorder that affects the large intestine (colon) and is identified by a group of common symptoms, including changes in bowel habits, bloating and abdominal pain. IBS symptoms vary from person to person and tend to come and go with stress and other lifestyle changes. Each person’s experience with IBS is a bit different, and certain symptoms often seem to be more frequent or severe than others. 1 in 5 people in the UK are reported as suffering from IBS. It’s most common among young to middle-aged women.
While the symptoms may vary from person to person the most common ones include:
- Feeling like you haven't finished a bowel movement
- Alternating between diarrhea and constipation
- Cramps or shooting pains in the abdomen
- General discomfort in the stomach area
IBS can cause a lot of stress to the sufferer and can make life uncomfortable. There is no one size fits all solution, however there are some simple, natural strategies you can try as an alternative to prescribed medications.
1. Avoid all gluten
Removing all gluten from the diet is often the first thing that is recommended. While it is commonly known that this means avoiding all forms of wheat, you also need to be aware that there are many other hidden sources of gluten in your diet, such as:
Usually two weeks is enough to see significant improvement.
2. Support your gut
The gut is very sensitive and optimal gut function supports general health and wellbeing too. Eating too many irritating foods, causes the gut lining to becoming permeable (‘leaky’) and inflamed. When the gut wall becomes weaken, our digestion also is compromised.
Ensuring that you have enough healthy bacteria in your gut can be crucial. Fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut and tempeh are excellent sources. The next step is to cut out common gut aggravators such as alcohol, caffeine, where possible non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, antacids, and processed sugary or spicy foods which may help to support the growth of bad bacteria and diminish growth of good bacteria. Balance needs to be restored before healing can occur.
3. Get tested for allergies
Allergies are one of the most common causes of digestive problems. Studies have found that IBS sufferers have significantly raised levels of IgG antibodies to specific foods So, if you think you are reacting to foods, you can see a trained nutritional therapist who will work on a personalised food elimination protocol and test for common allergies.
4. Make friends with fibre
Soluble fibre soaks up liquid in your intestines, helping to prevent diarrhea. Some good sources include beans, oats, apples and strawberries. If you are unable to get enough soluble fibre in your diet, take a daily supplement of psyllium husks, a plant-based ingredient found in some dietary fibre supplements. Unlike chemical laxatives, psyllium isn’t as harsh on the digestive system and is safe for long-term use. You can also add psyllium to smoothies and sprinkle on breakfast oats or yogurt.
If constipation is your issue, load up on insoluble fibre such as oat bran, wholegrain rice and lettuce. Insoluble fiber adds ‘bulk’ to the stool, which speeds its passage through the intestines.
Make sure you increase your fibre intake gradually as adding too much fibre all at once can result in flatulence, cramping and bloating. You must also remember to drink six to eight glasses of water each day to keep fibre moving smoothly through your system.
Written by CNM Nutritionist Eva Killeen
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