Your favourite treats have left you constipated and bloated with excruciating cramps and regret. “Why did I eat all those things?” you wonder.
Unfortunately, some foods just hit our digestive tracts the wrong way and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the price we pay lan messenger. Understanding the triggers of tummy troubles will help you cope.
Irritable bowel syndrome, known as IBS or spastic colon, can be a major source of discomfort. Symptoms include irregular diarrhoea, stomach cramps, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain that intensify throughout the day.
Know your layers
The small intestine in your stomach makes up about 60% of your digestive tract. This is where all the nutrients and minerals from food are absorbed.
It is one layer away from the colon (the body sewer) where the final stage of digestion happens. When this lining becomes more permeable from excessive antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, an intestinal infection, a low-fibre and high-sugar diet and alcohol – foreign invaders from food bacteria will find a home in your immune system.
Your body reacts to this (badly!) and activates an immune response that will result in allergies, an irritable bowel, an irritable brain, arthritis, mood disorders and autoimmunity.
Eat gut-friendly foods
Before you rush for the pills, take a stab at treating IBS naturally. The FODMAP diet has been shown to improve symptoms for more than 80% of people who switch to this diet. At its core, FODMAPs are carbohydrates found in a variety of foods. These sugars (Fermentible Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides And Polyols) are not absorbed very well. They pass through the small intestine and enter the colon. Here they are fermented by bacteria, produce Gas, and can also cause water to move into the colon, leading to diarrhea, constipation or both.
You can either follow a strict FODMAP diet, or make sure to apply the following principles to your eating:
- Be picky. Avoid sugary treats and sodas, caffeine, alcohol, and fried or processed foods. These are the main digestive tract stimulants and common triggers of IBS. Skip foods that produce gas, they may make you feel more pain from gas build-up.
- Check your food combinations. These can directly influence how quickly and efficiently food is digested. To really get a handle on which foods trigger your IBS, keep a food diary. Simply writing down what you eat will help you get used to writing in the diary. Once you’re well practised, you can be more detailed and note times and quantities e.g. 250ml glass of water and half an orange at 8am. Make a note of when you experience IBS symptoms. After keeping a food diary for a while, you can look back to see which foods are your triggers. With this information, you and your dietician can work out a diet that will work best for you,
- Chew, and chew again. Saliva helps break down food thoroughly in your mouth. This sets the digestive process in motion. Fluids may also dilute stomach acid, making digestion ineffective.
Stop the pain
- Avocado is a good fat for digestion.
- Aloe Vera juice is beneficial on an empty stomach as it soothes the digestive tract.
- Glutamine (an essential amino acid)heals the gut lining.
- Slippery elm powder soothes the lining of the stomach, intestines and reduces irritation.
- Live probiotic cultures found in yoghurt are good bacteria that keep your gut healthy.
- Digestive enzyme supplements will help break down complex fats and sugars, proteins so they can be made into amino acids and help with the digestion of starches and lactose.
- Magnesium supplements will relax the colon muscles, help stomach movements and act as an antispasmodic to relax the smooth muscle of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Vitamin C powder with magnesium ascorbate and potassium will help bowel movements if passing of food through the digestive tract is slow.
Medication isn’t the only solution. If you can work on moderating your food choices, good digestion should be a breeze!
But if your IBS symptoms persist, chat to one of our doctors for some advice. They’re available 24 hours a day!