Nutritional management for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
IBS is a considered a functional disorder, which involves recurrent symptoms of bloating, abdominal discomfort, abdominal pain, cramps and change in stool frequency, appearance and form (Hotoleanu et al., 2008). Before diagnosing IBS, more serious conditions need to be ruled out, like inflammatory bowel diseases (which have an auto-immune origin), colon cancer and diverticulitis.
IBS affects about 15% of the population in the western countries and its aetiology may vary from person to person. Some studies have reported a genetic causation. Others link IBS to stress, dysbiosis (imbalanced gut flora), food intolerances and sensitivities. Some research has also identified the occurrence of persistent IBS type of symptoms following a “tummy bug” (Spiller, 2007). Other most probable IBS land marks are low grade inflammation, which sees mast cells activity in the gut lining, gut hyperpermeability (alias “leaky gut”) and dysregulation of the gut-brain axis (Lee and Lee, 2016).
These are just some of the symptoms and causes linked to IBS, which is a very complex and multi-factorial condition.
Nutritional management for IBS:
First and foremost, there will never be a “one size fit all” approach, if considering the complexity of IBS causes and symptoms, but also the bio-individuality of every single human being, with their past and present health history, emotions and personal believes, socio-economic status, ethnicity, genetic polymorphism, age and gender etc.
Here are my 10 tips that may help to alleviate some of the symptoms, and these are:
- Listen to your body! Be mindful of the symptoms and bodily sensations before, during and after a meal.
- Look out for symptoms like low energy, headaches, abdominal discomfort, burping, flatulence, anxiety and low mood. Then link these back to what you have eaten, how much and how, so that you can make some adjustments.
- Eat in a relaxed state, take time to eat and chew thoroughly.
- You should be cooking the food you eat, which will increase your digestive enzymes secretion, so the food will be easier onto your intestine and better absorbed.
- Eat smaller meals, but keep your body weight in check, in order to stay in the healthy BMI range.
- Limit or avoid high sugar content products, including alcohol, fizzy drinks and refined carbohydrates. Limit or avoid trans fats and everything deep fried.
- Drink good quality water. One to one and a half litres per day - a bit more if you exercise.
- Eat as much organic food as you can afford.
- Avoid wheat and gluten, which may disrupt tight junctions between your gut lining cells and lead to “leaky gut”.
- Avoid dairies. Cows milk is meant for baby calves, not for grown up humans. You are not intolerant to lactose. The fact is that your body naturally stops producing lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, around the age of five years old. Without this enzyme, lactose may become a problem. If you have concerns about calcium intake, please get in touch.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and if symptoms do not improve with these adjustments, my advice will be to consult with your GP or a nutritional therapist, whose intent is to understand the causes of your symptoms, through an accurate health screening. The use of some functional tests might be needed, which will offer a more detailed clinical profile in order to create a personalized, effective and easy to implement nutritional and life style plan.
Remember that you only have one body to get you through life. Take good care of it.
Kindest regards and much love,
Hotoleanu, C., Popp, R., Trifa, A., Nedelcu, L., Dumistrascu, D., (2008). Genetic determination of irritable bowel syndrome. World Journal of Gastronterology; 14, 43:6636-6640.
Lee, K. N., Lee, O. Y., (2016). The role of mast cells in irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology Research and Practice; volume 2016.
Spiller, R., (2007). Serotonin, inflammation and IBS: fitting the jigsaw together? Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition; 45:115-119.