Yesterday I outlined the basics of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and today a look at some of the nutrients that your intestine needs to work efficiently and also some of the triggers for the condition.
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.
To identify which foods are triggers for an IBS episode you need to complete a six week programme or better still extended to 12 weeks following 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.
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 wide 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 rather in supplemental form, as the body is designed to extract what it needs from natural sources rather than pills.
Cook from scratch and avoid all processed foods including sauces, ketchups, mayonnaise etc. Even the savoury kinds are full of sugar and additives that can irritate a sensitive gut. You should be eating lots of vegetables, some sugar reduced fruits and lean protein. Try not to eat very large meals that require a great deal of processing. Smaller portions with a gap of around 2 hours minimum between eating.
Some specific nutrients and food elements that are helpful for your gut.
Calcium (helps control diarrhoea) sardines, dark leafy vegetables, sardines, tinned salmon, beans, fruit such as figs and oranges, nuts and dairy if not lactose intolerant – in which case use lactose free alternative. Calcium needs Magnesium and Vitamin D to be absorbed efficiently.
Magnesium (helps relieve constipation) Pumpkin seeds, Halibut, beans, wholegrain rice, avocados spinach.
Vitamin D acts more like a hormone and is essential for a wide range of reactions in the body. The best source of the vitamin is direct contact on the skin for at least 45 minutes a day (not to burn) but also from specific foods such as egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon and liver.
Fibre, to slow down the digestive process and allow normal absorption of nutrients and fluids from food – all 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. You can also use peppermint oil but it is very strong and just one drop in a large glass of water is more than enough.
Some foods that can be hidden.
There is a link, as I have already mentioned, between certain foods and strong contender is gluten.The clue is in the name and comes from the Latin word for Glue! It is a protein present in wheat and some other grains such as barley and rye. Although not inherently present in other grains such as oats, they can become contaminated if they are processed in a mill that also works with wheat and the other grains. Gluten gives that elastic feel to bread dough and it also helps it rise.
I have not experienced a problem with wholegrain rice but it can be harsh on the intestines if you are going through an episode of IBS.. I suggest that you only have one or two tablespoons I find if I mix wholegrain with Basmati rice that is a gentler mix.
Grains are not just in cereals and bread but in many processed products including hamburgers, soups, sausages, processed meats, 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.
Here is the posts for Candida and sugars that you should read if you have IBS symptoms.
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.
Our body is a rich soup of bacteria and yeasts, many that are needed for all the processing that is taking place continuously. Probiotics are the good guys and are beneficial for your digestive system especially when it is struggling to maintain a healthy balance.
You can find in foods which is obviously the best way for your body to utilise the bacteria. And whilst I would caution the use of some commericial live yogurts that can contain too much sugar and additives you can make your own at home.
I sometimes take Kefir which is a fermented dairy combination of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains. High in lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria and antioxidants you will find in better supermarkets and also in your local health store.
Fermented foods are your other option including pickles,Sauerkraut, pickled red cabbage etc. Also Japanese Miso soup which anyone who is familiar with macrobiotic cooking will be familiar with. It is again fermented and made from rye, beans and usually rice or barley.
I do take certain specific supplements when needed and one of these is a high quality probiotic. Whilst food should always be the first source of the nutrients that we need on a daily basis, there are times, such as during the recovery from an illness, when additional support is needed.
I take one probiotic capsule a day for maintenance and two when I feel I need extra help. You must keep in the fridge when opened and it needs to be of adequate strength. The one I use has 3billion active cultures and ask advice in the pharmacy or the health shop to find the most effective one for your specific needs.
If you are taking broad spectrum antibiotics, you either should wait until you have finished since they are designed to kill off all bacteria including any you might take in supplementation form, or you can get specific probiotics that are effective when taken in conjunction with antibiotics.
Tomorrow’s post – 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 or decrease in symptoms– 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.
I will also give you foods you can eat and when to reintroduce suspected triggers for symptoms.
Here is yesterday’s part one on IBS