Why do I have gut pain, diarrhoea and constipation?
There are lots of reasons why people have digestive problems, from acid reflux to pain to diarrhoea and constipation. Maybe they have too much sugar in the diet. Maybe they don’t have enough fibre, or they have the wrong fibre. Were they born by caesarean? Did their mothers breastfeed them? Have they had too many antibiotics? Do they eat foods that fill them with gas?
Sugar from sugar beet or sugarcane is called sucrose and is made of two simple sugars, fructose and glucose. Starch, in wheat, potatoes, rice and corn is broken down into glucose. Our bodies were designed to run on glucose. We absorb it from the gut into the bloodstream and convert it into energy. Fruits contain sucrose and fructose. However, in the Stone Age, when we evolved, there wasn’t a lot of fructose around, and we have limited capacity to absorb it into the bloodstream. Some stays in the gut, feeding bacteria, and enabling them to multiply. Some bacteria produce sulphide, and poison the gut wall. Eating too much sugar, honey, fruit, fruit juice, agave syrup, cake, pudding or other sweet things is not a good idea. Eat vegetables and avocados, rather than sweet fruits. I am not saying have artificial sweeteners either. We certainly did not evolve with them, and they can cause major problems. If you don’t have sweet things, you lose the desire for them.
Most people do not realise that milk contains sugar. This sugar is called lactose. Most of us have an enzyme that converts lactose into two smaller sugars, called glucose and galactose, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. Some people aren’t very good at breaking down lactose, and the lactose stays in the gut, feeding unwanted organisms. Even if you can break down lactose, having milk is a bad idea, because galactose is toxic, and damages arteries. Just eat butter, which is fat and water, or hard cheese, which is fat, protein and water.
It was observed that the fibre in the cooked peeled green bananas eaten by Ugandans kept their guts healthy. Unfortunately, Western doctors told people to eat wheat bran, wholemeal bread and pulses like kidney beans. These do have fibre, but they contain lectins which bind to sugars in the gut and elsewhere, causing irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis and other problems. Golden flax seeds, celery and fennel may help with constipation, and if you can buy very green bananas, peel them with a knife, boil them, mash them, and they are tastier than mashed potatoes.
There is a mineral called boron which, when taken accidentally, can cause acute digestive problems. This appears to be because it causes us to excrete the essential yellow vitamin, B2, or riboflavin. This vitamin is involved in making energy, reducing inflammation, making digestive enzymes and hormones, and recycling a vital antioxidant. People who use lots of apple juice, tomato puree, curry, soya, broccoli, peanuts and hazelnuts can consume too much boron. Reducing this can remove their symptoms.
Another issue is with spinach, radish and orange, which slow down the enzyme which carries sulphate around. Sulphate provides a protective layer for the gut, disarms poisons, promotes digestion and reduces inflammation. We make sulphate, but a limited amount. We can put a cupful of Epsom salts in the bath and lie in it for at least 20 minutes. It is magnesium sulphate, and we absorb sulphate through the skin. Epsom salt baths are relaxing, and best taken before bed.
We were designed to be born naturally. Then we could take in good bacteria from the birth canal, which would protect us from infection and allergy. More bacteria should be picked up from the breast when drinking mother’s milk. Antibiotics kill off good bacteria, allowing unwanted bacteria or fungi to colonise the gut, often causing digestive symptoms. There are times when we are very ill, and antibiotics can save our lives, but they should not be used casually. Good bacteria turn the immune system from allergy to its proper job of fighting infection and cancer.
While in the womb, we are introduced to traces of our mother's diet, training us to cope with it. This training should continue during breastfeeding. Then we should be weaned onto our mother's diet, as we are used to this. Bottle feeding introduces us to the cow’s diet, which is not the training we need. Avoiding foods because they are generally thought to be allergenic is unwise because it stops the immune system being trained to accept these foods. When they are eventually encountered, it is too late. The immune system thinks they are alien, and an allergic reaction can take place. Avoiding peanuts has contributed to the peanut allergy epidemic. Of course, if you are really allergic to something, you do have to avoid it.
Lots of people complain of acid reflux, because their sphincter is weak, and allows acid to travel up from the stomach. Vitamin D and manganese strengthen this muscle.
Some people become very gassy when they eat onions, beans, cauliflower, or cabbage. They are more comfortable when they avoid these foods.
The sun provides us with vitamin D, which helps regulatory cells in the immune system calm down inappropriate immune responses. We should not allow ourselves to become sunburnt, but some sun exposure is important, and sunblock should be avoided, except when really necessary. So far north, it is hard to obtain enough vitamin D from the sun, and taking oily vitamin D capsules is protective
Fish and flax provide anti-inflammatory fats, which protect the gut. Excessive vitamin A can itself cause digestive problems. So take fish oil, if you don’t have much fish, but avoid cod liver oil, which contains a lot of vitamin A.
You may be surprised to read of problems with apparently healthy foods like oranges, spinach and broccoli. However, what suits one person is different from what suits another. One person’s meat is another person’s poison. There is no test that can accurately sort out what is good and bad for a particular person. It is hard to sort out on your own what is good for you to eat, and you may need the help of someone experienced to help you.
Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Margaret Moss
Nutrition and Allergy Clinic
11, Mauldeth Close