Yesterday I outlined the basics of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and today I am going to suggest a six weeks approach to discovering a food or group of foods that may be the cause of the problem. If you can, please read yesterday’s blog to identify at what age you might have begun to experience intestinal problems.
For some people the discovery that their favourite food – bread, pasta etc. is causing their discomfort, will be upsetting. We are lucky that in most cases there are alternatives and for some there is a management solution, where the food can be eaten in small amounts very infrequently.
You can decide to extend this programme to 12 weeks and follow each stage for two weeks. Nutritionally that is not a problem – two weeks without grains may be difficult but provided you are obtaining carbohydrates from other sources you should find you have plenty of energy.
The key is to listen to your body and to keep notes each day on symptoms and how you feel in general – keep a food diary, as this will provide you with the blueprints for your new diet going forward.
If you have children who are already showing signs of intestinal problems and also behavioural issues you might think about removing as much sugar as possible out of their diet including lactose in milk for two weeks and determine if this helps. Use lactose free milk, cheese etc. and keep them away from fizzy drinks and sugary snacks. Check cereals for amounts of sugar and use fruit like a banana and apples.
NUTRIENTS NEEDED TO HELP SUPPORT THE INTESTINES FUNCTION.
A broad spectrum of nutrients is required to enable the body to function and it is important that you eat a broad variety of foods to provide them. This is particularly important when your intestines are not working efficiently and only partially processing the food you eat. There are blogs on some of the nutrients in the archive but here are some that you should make sure you are consuming in food.
I prefer to take most of the nutrients necessary to heal the gut from food including:-
Calcium (helps control diarrhoea) sardines, dark leafy vegetables, tinned salmon, dairy if not lactose intolerant – in which case use lactose free alternative.
Magnesium (helps relieve constipation) Pumpkin seeds, Halibut, beans, spinach.
Fibre, to slow down the digestive process and allow normal absorption of nutrients and fluids from food – vegetables and fruit.
Iron (for energy and blood health) Green leafy vegetables, fish and meat, beans, nuts, bananas.
Also anti-bacterial agents such as green tea, garlic and onions to restrict Candida growth
Peppermint tea 60 minutes after meals to reduce the cramps, spasms and pain if you are not intolerant to peppermint.
Some foods that can be hidden.
There is a link, as I have already mentioned, between certain foods and it is fairly certain that gluten is one of the chief culprits. This does not just mean the accepted grains such as wheat, barley and rye but also the foods that are produced using them such as soups, sausages, processed meats such as ham, crisps and ready meals.
Refined Sugars are a real problem for IBS sufferers, particularly with the strong link to Candida, and it is important that you avoid refined sugar completely and also your intake of processed foods. Even savoury foods contain high levels of sugar as do breakfast cereals, jams, biscuits etc.
Water is important to help hydrate the body, particularly after IBS symptoms such as diarrhoea, and also to flush toxins from the body. However – you don’t need to drink litres as this will only cause a flushing effect. It will push any food you eat rapidly through the system – drinking two litres a day in delayed bursts is fine as most of the fruit and vegetables have a high fluid content too. I use a 2litre mineral water bottle – with tap water and make sure I drink throughout the day at intervals before and after meals.
Drink a glass of water when you get up and then 45 minutes before each meal. Leave at least an hour after eating before drinking anything so that the gastric juices in your stomach have a chance to digest the food you have eaten. It is better to leave two hours if you can.
If you are naturally pressing juices yourself than that is fine – one glass per day. try to stick to vegetable with a small amount of fruit to taste- I actually enjoy a carrot juice with a small amount of blueberries. Store bought tend to have additives but you can find juice bars that will press a selection for you.
ALCOHOL IS SUGAR
I love a glass of wine or a shot of whisky but for this re-establishment of good bacteria in your intestinal system you need to give up for the six weeks. You can re-introduce in week six – just one glass and then limit intake and watch for any increase in symptoms.
The six week programme.
The aim of this programme is to reduce the symptoms that you are currently experiencing and to repopulate your intestines with the healthy bacteria needed for your body to function.
You only know if something is working if you keep a record. So to start you should write down all your symptoms and over the six weeks keep a journal – were there days when you noticed an increase – what did you eat in the last 24 hours. Did you re-introduce a grain or dairy etc?
This will also help you in the future when you perhaps relapse and you can look back and perhaps identify a food or habit that might have crept back in.
WEEK ONE – Aim is to reduce inflammation and cramps and increase intestinal flora.
Grains are all out for the first week. You will be getting sufficient carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit. You will start to re-introduce from week two, one grain at a time.
Dairy is out for the first week – you will introduce butter week two, milk week three and cheese week four. Calcium will come from vegetables, canned fish etc. If you can abide the taste of soymilk then fine but make sure no added sugar!
No alcohol for six weeks or any other processed packets, cans or bottles of sauces of any kind including mayonnaise.
One coffee per day in the morning but note any intestinal symptoms 30 – 60 minutes after eating. Tea – black without milk – Green tea – very good and peppermint tea – great for spasms and cramps.
FOOD YOU CAN EAT WEEK ONE.
Vegetables – for first week or two avoid cabbage or cauliflower as nutritious but can increase wind. At least five a day of spinach, broccoli, watercress, Rucula lettuce, courgettes, leeks, onions, (every day) mushrooms (shitake are excellent) garlic (fresh if possible) carrots, parsnips, swede, potatoes, butternut squash (carbohydrates), tomatoes, (see how you feel the next day as pips in tomatoes can cause a problem if you suffer from diverticulitis), red peppers, peeled cucumber, half an avocado per day. Flavour with a little olive oil and herbs or spices. Balsamic vinegar with some olive oil and herbs makes a good salad dressing.
Fruit – At least two per day – bananas (helps both diarrhoea and constipation) oranges, lemons, apples, pears, grapes, berries of all kinds, plums, melon. Avoid dried fruit in week one.
Meat and poultry – any unprocessed. Lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, beef, duck. Eggs any way you wish. If you are not using milk you can still make scrambled egg and omelettes by whisking the whites first. Use the microwave or a pan with a little olive oil.
Fish – at least three times a week. –Salmon fresh and canned (mash the soft bones in for added calcium) tuna, sardines, halibut and any other fish. Give shelled fish such as prawns, crab and lobster a miss for week one and two and then introduce one a week.
Oils – Olive oil for all cooking and dressings – mix with herbs and spices like garlic to drizzle over jacket potatoes and salad. Use extra virgin olive oil as least processed.
Examples of meals.
Breakfast. Water on rising – leave at least 30 minutes before eating if you can.
Spanish omelette with two eggs, chopped potato, tomatoes and onion (chop the night before and keep in fridge)
Fruit salad with fresh pressed juice on top.
Poached egg on spinach with half an avocado.
Homemade vegetable soup – no stock but you can add seasoning and salt. For example butternut squash and carrot – if you can find a fresh made soup without sugar and preservatives then go for it.
Large salad with egg, avocado tinned salmon or sardines with chopped potato and balsamic dressing.
Jacket potato with drizzle of olive oil and a tin of tuna
Meat, fish or chicken all fresh – green vegetables – carrots and potatoes – use olive oil and herbs and spices over the vegetables.
Snacks between meals.
Fruit, nuts and seeds.
If at the end of week one you are still experiencing severe symptoms drop the fruit and repeat week one.
WEEK TWO – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS
You can introduce oats every other day – porridge with a banana and a small cup of whole milk. You can also put a dash of milk in your tea and coffee. No more than 250ml per day. If you symptoms worsen drop the milk and stay with the oats.
WEEK THREE – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS
You can introduce corn and brown rice – tortillas and substitute every other meal with two tablespoons of brown rice.
You can also start to use some butter to drizzle over vegetables etc.
WEEK FOUR – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS.
Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower (check for increase in symptoms). Also a couple of ounces of cheese every other day.
You can introduce rye – Ryvita will add some variety to snacks and lunches.
WEEK FIVE – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS
You can introduce wheat again – try reduced sugar Irish soda bread – one slice per day. It is at this point that you want to pay particular attention to your symptoms over 48 hours. If you notice an increase you are probably gluten intolerant which means that certainly for the conceivable future you need to only eat gluten free products. Gluten is not just in bread of course, it is in many processed foods and meats such as sausages and in sauces.
You can have good quality yoghurt every other day. Note any increase in symptoms.
WEEK SIX – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS
You can introduce whole grain pasta – make simple sauces from scratch like tomato and basil etc.
You can have a glass of red wine three days apart – watch for increase in symptoms.
By now you should be very aware of how your body and more importantly your intestines are reacting to the food you are eating.This is not a weight loss exercise although those who are overweight will lose some but those who have been starving themselves out of desperation will put it on.
As I mentioned earlier – you can extend each phase to two weeks. The key is to make sure that you keep an accurate record of both food intake and symptoms.
There is a huge debate as to the effectiveness of supplements. You should be now getting most of which you need to obtain the necessary nutrients but there are a few that I find very useful in speeding up the process.
Peppermint capsules – Peppermint tea is great an hour after you have eaten, but I find that two peppermint capsules after breakfast help with cramps and digestion in general. However, in some people peppermint can cause symptoms so note any of these. Also be careful of over the counter IBS medication as they nearly all have peppermint.
Acidophilus capsules at least 3billion active cultures. This helps give your intestinal bacteria a kick start. They are quite expensive and good quality is vital. Take as directed but I have found that 2 per day to start with, after breakfast and dinner are helpful. You can drop this to one a day after a period of time.
Aloe Vera gel – this is highly nutritious and provided you begin slowly you may find it will help with symptoms, reduce the cramping and give you a boost. I start with a teaspoon a day before breakfast and graduate up to a dessert spoon twice a day over a two week period. After that you can increase to the recommended doseage on the product. I take through the winter months as I find it a great help when I am not getting any sunshine. I have a local therapist who supplies Forever Living which is about the best quality. She has an online shop and all the products are available in most countries and will only be charged local postage www.aloe-medical-group.myflpbiz.com.
Multi-vitamin supplement-If you are suffering from a basic nutritional deficiency then do go to one of the larger health food chains and ask their advice regarding the best multi-vitamin that they have. You want one that is yeast and sugar free and liquid might be best to get you started rather than demand your overworked intestines try to process anything else. The liquid will also be absorbed faster and easier.
So those are the basics. Six to twelve weeks to perhaps discover the one or two foods that might be the cause of all your misery. A time to rest your digestive system and encourage your healthy bacteria in your gut and also stimulate the natural muscular activity to restart.
I hope that you will find that this is not a starvation programme but one that you can enjoy, experiment with and learn something about you, as an individual.
Having improved your symptoms – you may well have to make minor adjustments going forward – it might be gluten free – sugar reduced – dairy alternatives – but all are worth the price if you are free of symptoms and stress. If there are foods that will always cause you a problem you will find that there are many that will not. A small sacrifice to have the freedom from the symptoms of IBS.
On that note, as you begin to feel better and have the urge to exercise, find something that enables you to relax and be calm – leave the marathon running and the extreme sports for a while!
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me privately through my website contact page. www.moyhill.com
Next time Diverticulitis.