Although digestive health has become less taboo with the introduction of TV shows such as Embarrassing Bodies and TV adverts such as Activia with Martine McCutcheon, many of us are still embarrassed to talk about our digestive complaints. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects nearly 1 in 4 people in the Western world and is three times as common in females than males, yet many of us still do not understand it.
IBS is a catch-all name used to describe digestive complaints with one or more of the following symptoms: bloating, stomach pain, diarrhoea, flatulence, headaches, nausea, constipation, cramps, anxiety and even depression.
There are three well-known causes for IBS, the most commonly discussed are food intolerances however an equally important trigger is high levels of stress and the most overlooked contributor is parasites. As the symptoms of IBS are very generalised it is important that before trying out any of these natural remedies you consult your GP first to make sure there isn’t an underlying condition that may need treatment through more conventional methods.
For those of you who believe diet and food intolerance is the cause of your IBS please see below for a bullet point cheat sheet of what to eat and what to avoid.
Fill your storecupboard with:
- Millet, buckwheat, quinoa, rice cakes, lentils
- Buckwheat or rice pasta and/or noodles
- Rice, almond or soya milk
- Lean poultry and meats
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Peppermint, fennel, nettle, chamomile teas
- Low sugar diluted apple, pear or pineapple juice
- Pickled ginger and wasabi (as seen in sushi)
- Nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin, sunflower and chesnuts)
- Vegetable and/or fish based soups
- Probiotic yoghurt
- Aloe vera juice
Things to bin:
- Refined carbohydrates (flour, wheat, white bread, yeast etc.)
- Refined sugars
- All dairy products
- Citrus fruits
- High tyramine foods e.g. cheese, port, red wine, beef and liver
- All processed food
These lists are just a guideline, for all you S (sensory) types, the lists are not prescriptive and you may find it useful to keep a food journal slowly re-introducing foods you enjoy to see how they affect you. The human body is complex and therefore many of you will be able to introduce some of these items back into your diet in time. For you N (intuitive) types, to see proper results you will need to stick to this list for at least 7 to 14 days so do make sure you attempt such at a time when your stresses are at their lowest.
Whether food is a factor or not, much research has shown that stress is a major contributor in most gut problems. In most anxiety-induced situations our body goes into the “fight or flight” response which in lay terms means our digestive processes shut down and therefore our digestive juices are not in the right quantity to carry out the functions required. This leaves partially digested food particles in our gut and these particles cause irritation. To help combat this, I have a few suggestions as bullet pointed below:
- To ensure your food is thoroughly digested, make sure you chew each mouthful 20 times as this produces the digestive enzymes needed that are often inhibited by stress
- Consider eating more alkaline foods or using an alkalising filter as this allows your gut to work in optimal conditions
- Use oil of peppermint either as a massage oil or as a peppermint tea to further aid digestion
- Increase your exercise (not directly after eating) as this in general will help regulate bowel function
If you are in a situation where the external stressors are too much to overcome on your own then I suggest either talking to a close friend that you trust to help lighten your load or, if that is not applicable, a therapist or counsellor should be able to give you productive coping strategies to deal with your unique situation.
As a clinical hypnotherapist myself, I have seen many clients for stress-related issues of which over 50% had some gut or eating disorder. Hypnosis is an extremely successful tool in combating IBS whether one uses visualisations, parts therapy, relaxation techniques or neuro-linguistic anchorings and suggestions. I personally have had 100% success using hypnosis to aid IBS symptoms for those patients who it was wholly produced by stress. If you think this is the cause of your IBS, do look into hypnotherapy as an option but please make sure your therapist is not only registered but has trained in clinical hypnosis or has at least taken the IBS course in hypnosis.
For the last category of IBS sufferers where you may have been at risk of parasite infection, do check out the website www.smartnutrition.co.uk as they can test for levels of bacteria (good and bad), candida and a whole host of other parasites.
Those of you who want a more in-depth analysis of food that can aid in IBS look no further than The Intolerable Food Co. which can be found at www.intolerablefood.com. Sue Widdecombe, who founded the company, is a chef who fought through her own food intolerances and has now brought ready meals created by herself to local farms and other delicatessens nationwide.
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