Tips and solutions for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system. The symptoms tend to come and go, they can last for days, weeks or months at a time. It can be managed with lifestyle, dietary changes, and nutritional support for the digestive system. In a way, you have to be a food detective, or a gut detective to try to determine what is causing your digestive problems.

A common symptom is stomach pain and cramping, which may be relieved by going to the toilet. You might also notice changes in your bowel habits, one minute you are constipated and the next you have diarrhoea. Or you may experience an urgent need to get to the toilet. Some of you have bloating and swelling of your stomach. Excessive wind is common, you may have odour or just noisy wind. Heartburn is a less common symptom.

These symptoms can leave you feeling tired or unwell. They can cause you stress and feeling anxious especially if you have to consider where the nearest toilet is before you even leave the house. This can become a vicious circle as stress can be a contributing factor in you manifesting problems in the first place.

What causes IBS?

Factors that contribute to gut problems include: food intolerances, low levels of good gut bacteria and digestive enzymes, fungal overgrowth, viral infections, or a diet with too many processed foods may all contribute to gut problems. Stress can impact on gut health too. In order to manage IBS you will need to work with any of the above issues that are contributing to the symptoms you are having.

Food isn’t always to blame, but it’s a great place to start. It can be difficult to figure out what foods are causing you problems. A food diary will help as you will notice a pattern forming. Make a couple of columns in your diary, make a column to note how you feel on the day, what time you ate, how you felt after eating, make a not too of the combinations of food too.

Sometimes it could be the cup of tea that you had after the sandwich that is causing the problem. Or, it could be that some days you have too much of the food group and it is the quantity that is causing the problem. For example if you have a wheat cereal, sandwich and finish the day with pasta, that could be more wheat than your body can handle in a day. You could be able to handle one portion per day but not three. Food intolerance is different than allergy, where you will have an immediate life threatening reaction, you must avoid the food. Food intolerance means that something is irritating your gut you may be able to tolerate the food in small amounts but not large. This is where a food diary becomes a useful tool to help you figure out the triggers.

Try leaving out the suspect food to see if it will make a difference. It could be any food but wheat, dairy, yeast, and sugar are common triggers. But over the years I have seen people where tea, chocolate, or lettuce have been triggers for IBS. It could be any food or any combination of food. If stress is the trigger, relaxation, meditation, walking, exercise or supplementing with extra magnesium may help.

Foods to eat

A homemade diet is the best way to go but not easy to achieve every day. Do the best you can to stay away from processed foods. Take a look at the ingredient list on the food you are buying and choose the ones with the leas amount of food additives, colours, artificial flavours, MSG or aspartame, this will be helpful. Add flax or chia seeds to cereal, yoghurt, breads or soup, they can be used to help improve normal bowel function. Many people report better bowel function with these added to their diet. Kimchi, sauerkraut, natural yoghurt or kefir are fermented foods that are great to support good gut flora. Apple cider vinegar can help metabolism and digestion, add one teaspoon to a glass of water and sip with the main meal. Peppermint tea is great to help relieve bloating and the sense of feeling full.

IBS has a wide variety of symptoms and causes; the good news is that most people learn to manage their symptoms. This may be achieved with a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes, working with a nutritional therapist, or taking dietary supplements to support gut health. It takes time and a bit of playing the detective. We are here to help guide you through the many supplements that can support gut health. Email, phone, or visit us for more information.

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