Welcome to part three of this series on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.. In the last two posts I covered the new research showing the involvement of Vitamin D in our gut health and also some of the strategies you can put in place to minimise the symptoms. I also looked at the impact that chronic stress can have on our digestive system and our gut welfare.
The two previous posts can be read here at these links.
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. Keep track of symptoms coming or going and check the foods that you have eaten in the last 24 to 36 hours.
Did you re-introduce a grain or dairy product. Did you eat something new or high in sugar?
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.
Creating a calmer environment.
This programme however, is not going to be effective if you do not eliminate or dilute any triggers that have resulted in mental or emotional stress.
It is tough to deal with chronic stress and there are so many triggers for this condition including family, relationship, financial, health, bullying, school and work.
Having experienced most of these over the years, I know how very hard it is to free yourself from the burden that they lay on you. The one thing I do know is that asking for help is also up there as a stress trigger. However, As I have found out, once you do that and talk through a problem there is a lightening of that burden. Finding the right person can be difficult but hopefully there is a go to person who you trust and who can guide you to find solutions. It does not necessarily cure the problem but it can help you see a way to manage the situation.
Hard as it may be. The burden falls on you to help your body and your mind through a crisis and the one thing you must try and do is to eat as well as possible and to keep hydrated (not with alcohol). If your body is nourished it will go a long way to keeping your intestines functioning efficiently. Doing some form of daily exercise can also be helpful and being with supportive friends. As they say, two heads (or more) can be better than one.
Here are two posts that you might find helpful if you are suffering from chronic stress.
Here are the physical elements to the six week programme.
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.
No alcohol for six weeks or any other processed packets, cans or bottles of sauces of any kind including mayonnaise.
One coffee no milk per day in the morning (suggest decaffeinated but if you are used to drinking four or five coffees a day – wean yourself off them one cup at a time) but note any intestinal symptoms 30 – 60 minutes after eating. Tea – black without milk – Green tea anti-bacterial – 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.
Protein – Red meats are harder to process and I suggest that for the first couple of weeks that you stick to chicken, turkey and 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 or frozen (look for unfarmed deep sea) 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.
Coconut oil – As the intention is to rebuild the good bacteria in your guts, you need to take in healthy fats. It is believed that coconut oil not only helps kill bad bacteria in the gut but also soothes inflammation.
Examples of meals.
Water on rising – leave at least 30 minutes before eating if you can.
Here are some choices.
- 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
Fish or chicken all fresh – green vegetables – carrots and potatoes – use olive oil or coconut oil to prepare and use herbs and spices to season.
Snacks between meals.
Fruit, nuts and seeds. (make a note of any reaction to nuts and seeds that may cause problems once they get to the intestines)
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 tortillas and two tablespoons of brown rice at one meal a day.
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.
I mentioned supplementation with Vitamin D3, Peppermint capsules and Acidophilus in the last post. Although you should be getting most of what you need from the foods you are now eating, it might be a good idea to supplement for this six weeks to help the process.
There is another supplement that helps many people although you do need to start with a low dose until your body has got used to it.
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 suggest starting 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.
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 I find that the new oral sprays that get absorbed directly into the bloodstream suit me best.
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!
I am happy to answer questions confidentially by email if you prefer at email@example.com. If your question is general and might help someone else then please include in the comments. I hope this has been helpful.