Saturday, 28 February 2015

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and How Diet Changes CAN Help

What is IBS?

IBS is a disorder of the large bowel in which the bowel overreacts to small stimulus such as eating by going into spasms characterised by alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation. It is usually a generic diagnoses by doctors when unable to identify the true cause of abdominal discomfort. A frustrating diagnosis for many as they are told there is nothing which can be done.
Affects 1 in 5 in population

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·         Abdominal pain, varies in severity

·         Unusual bowel movements – alternating diarrhoea and constipation

·         Bloating

·         Excessive flatulence and belching which may be alleviated by a bowel movement.

·         Mucus in stool


Not fully understood – appears to be due to abnormal response of the muscles.

Aggravated by diet, hormonal, genetic, stress and psychological factors.

How to control it

IBS symptoms can be greatly improved by changing diet habits and managing stress.

IBS and Gut Flora

Your gut is made up of it’s own colony of bacteria. Roughly 70% of your immunity is housed in your gut with healthy levels of gut flora helping to protect against foreign bacteria and viruses. A large proportion of inflammatory bowel conditions such as IBS are thought to be related to a shortage of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Including fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee and kefir will help increase this good bacteria and prevent the development of other opportunistic bacteria, viruses and yeasts. If you are unable to make your own you could include a good quality probiotic supplement.

IBS and Food Intolerances

IBS has shown strong links to food allergens. In one study, 50% of participants experienced marked improvement in symptoms while following an elimination diet. Of those experiencing improvements, 50% identified 2 or more foods as allergens with dairy and grains being the most common allergens identified. (Nanda et al 1989)

A strict elimination diet may be a good way to identify possible allergens or food intolerance test which I can arrange for you. 

Dietary Recommendations

·         Focus on well cooked, nutrient dense foods to help replenish depleted nutrients lost through diarrhoea. Include soups, stews ad slow cooked foods which are easier to digest.

·         Make and eat/drink bone broth regularly for it’s gut healing properties. It also contains glycine, an amino acid which has an important role in aiding digestion and regulating the synthesis of bile acids and gastric secretions.

·         Increase soluble fibre such as butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, orange, mangos, turnip and flaxseed – this type of fibre helps proper stool mobility and helps to feed your good gut bacteria too.


·         Gluten containing foods such as wheat, spelt, rye, pasta (see gluten free hand-out provided). Gluten is a very common allergen and may contribute to gut issues such as IBS.

  • Any known triggers or allergens. A strict Paleo diet may be helpful to help identify allergens.

·         Large quantities of insoluble fibre such as cabbage, brussel sprouts, potato skins, bran and legumes such as kidney beans, whole beans and lentils as these may flair up the small intestine.

·         Raspberries, strawberries, nuts especially almonds, pistachios and walnuts as these tend to aggravate the symptoms of IBS. Ground nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia may be better tolerated

·         Alcohol, chocolate and caffeine – these foods can contribute to leaky gut (where the walls of the bowel lining become too permeable and allow proteins into the bloodstream. These undigested proteins are then viewed by the bodies as foreign invaders and it launches an attack on these foods causing intolerances) and IBS symptoms.

Relaxation Techniques

Stress levels have a huge impact on IBS symptoms:

·         Take up Yoga or Breathing Techniques to help to counteract the effects of daily stress.

·         Take regular walks to alleviate stress and wellbeing.

If you have issues with IBS and need some help with changing your diet, contact me on for a consultation.

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