While doctors are often fond of using the Fodmap diet as a way of treating IBS at the moment, and it can be extremely helpful, I usually focus on the whole process of digestion from chewing to how much sleep you’re getting.
It seems like a simple place to start, but chewing your food is the starting point for the whole digestive process, stimulating the digestive system and ultimately meaning that there aren’t huge pieces of food passing through the gut and causing irritation.
Not sleeping well and being stressed out is a big cause of IBS. When we’re stressed out it stimulates the fight or flight response. The body can’t break down food in this mode but people are often eating at that time – at computer, at work, or on the move, and all the while food isn’t breaking down properly which ultimately causes inflammation. If we’re not eating in a calm state we can’t get nutrients from our food which over time can leave the body in a state of being malnourished. The body needs energy to digest, so essentially being stressed out or tired puts pause on our ability to digest food leaving undigested proteins in the gut.
Top tips to help with IBS
1) The initial things I say are, chew your food properly and try not to eat when you’re tired or stressed out. When you sit down to eat, make time for it and be present. When and how you eat is extremely important.
2) Have warm water with raw apple cider vinegar before meals – it’s an amazingly good way to stimulate digestion and it’s really simple. Just make sure when you buy it that it’s from a health food shop and that it’s unfiltered or raw – it should look cloudy rather than clear.
3) Don’t eat raw vegetables if you have gut problems, they’re very aggressive, so even when you’re making salads try to blanch any vegetables that you use.
4) Get good bacteria into the gut. Sauerkraut is amazing for this and so simple to make, yoghurt has some good bacteria in it and kefir is amazing, I think this is going to become much more popular over time. People often get put off because it’s a bit like having fizzy yoghurt, but you get used to it and I really like it. It has lots of different types of bacteria in it and really reduces inflammation in the gut, which is what IBS is all about.
5) You can also try Kombucha, which is a fermented tea and is really popular in America where they even have bars dedicated to the idea. These ferments have to be bought raw so if you buy them from the supermarket make sure you look at the label as many of them will have been heated which damages them – look at labels and make sure they say ‘raw’ or ‘uncooked’ on them.
6) Intermittent fasting a couple of times a week for periods of up to 16 hours at a time gives the gut a chance to heal, but build it up over time if you’re not used to it.
7) Try drinking good quality aloe vera juice to heal the lining of the gut, or take a probiotic such as Symprove, which is the only clinically trialed probiotic to be really effective. The good bacteria make anti-inflammatory molecules, which is what you’re aiming for. Some people can’t tolerate it straight away so need to take it in tiny amounts and build it up but there’s lots of information on the website.
8) Anti-inflammatories are generally good for the body and come in the form of fatty acids from oily fish, as well as being found in in Turmeric, in which there’s an active element called curcumin which you can take as a supplement because it’s hard to get enough of it from turmeric in its raw form in the type of diet we have in the UK.
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