Smorgasbord Health Column – Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Nutrients and strategies to manage the condition


On Monday 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.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/smorgasbord-health-column-nutrient-in-the-news-vitamin-d-and-irritable-bowel-syndrome/

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.

As I do with most disease I look at three fundamental key triggers. Physical, mental and emotional. The body has one role in life and that is to survive. But stress of any kind creates a chronic condition that impacts more than your nervous system.

Think about some of your own reactions to extreme stress be it physical, mental or emotional.

  1. You stop eating and drink too much tea, coffee or alcohol.
  2. You binge eat on ice-cream, chocolate and carbohydrates.
  3. You eat irregularly and probably don’t do any exercise or drink enough fluids.
  4. You feel hyped up with cortisol the stress hormone and your heart begins to beat rapidly. Your imagination is working overtime as you pour fuel on the stress flames
  5. You feel nauseated and feel that you would not be able to keep any food down.
  6. You don’t sleep and lie awake worrying about the cause of your stress.
  7. All of the above or one that is particular to you.

Most of these will immediately have an impact on the digestive system which includes the intestines and the way they function. Within a couple of day you have an imbalance of good and bad bacteria and your body is not receiving the nutrients it requires to bet back to normal. If you have been eating at odd times and foods that are quick, easy and out of a packet, you will start to have cramps and other symptoms related to IBS.

Today I am looking at the nutrients needed to support the intestinal function but in the next post on Monday, I will be outlining some strategies to help you get back to normal function as quickly as possible. This includes some that are helpful in alleviating stress.

During this time it is key is to listen to your body and to keep notes each day on symptoms and how you feel in general. This includes any physical, mental and emotional triggers that are present on a daily basis that might be playing havoc with your body and its normal functions.

It helps to keep a food diary, as this will provide you with the blueprints for your new diet going forward. If you can look back 24 or 36 hours and spot a suspect food you can eliminate for a couple of weeks and then reintroduce. If you get the same reaction you will know to avoid this trigger in the future.

First however.. the nutritional aspect.

Nutrients needed to help support the intestinal 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. If you cannot obtain Vitamin D from sunshine then you might think about supplementing.

In Monday’s post I shared the new research that has identified Vitamin D’s role in IBS.

For fast absorption straight into the bloodstream I use a Vitamin D oral spray. I have been using throughout this winter and have noticed a marked difference in my general health.

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.

You can also buy peppermint capsules that dissolve in the intestine and if you take daily may help to relieve the symptoms.

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 brown and white 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.

I have tested most of the gluten free bread available on the shelves and found that most tasted okay, but most tend to use a lot of seeds. Seeds are pretty indigestible and large varieties such as pumpkin seeds may cause you problems.

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 are the links to the Candida posts.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/smorgasbord-health-top-to-toe-the-digestive-system-candida-albicans-an-opportunistic-pathogen/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/smorgasbord-health-2017-the-digestive-system-candida-albicans-feeding-the-body-starving-the-fungus-our-daily-bread/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/smorgasbord-health-2017-digestive-system-candida-albicans-mushrooms-and-cheese/

Fluids

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 – most vegetables an any fruit you eat have a high fluid content. If you are drinking a cup of peppermint tea after meals and other herbals such as Green Tea, you should be able to drink a glass of water when you get up in the mornings and perhaps one mid-evening after your supper has digested to achieve your 2 litres of fluid a day.

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.

Probiotics

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.

Supplemental probiotics

I do take certain specific supplements when needed and one of these is a high quality friendly bacteria including acidophilus and bifidus. 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  capsule a day for maintenance and two when I feel I need extra help. Some must be kept in the fridge when opened and it needs to be of adequate strength. The one I use has 25billion 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 specifically formulated capsules that are effective when taken in conjunction with antibiotics.

Next week – A six week action plan to help reduce your symptoms long term including the physical, mental and emotional triggers.

I am happy to answer questions confidentially by email if you prefer at sally.cronin@moyhill.com. If your question is general and might help someone else then please include in the comments.  I hope this has been helpful.

Smorgasbord Health – The Digestive System – Candida Albicans an opportunistic pathogen.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

It is not possible to do a series on the digestive system without spending time covering our intestines and the delicate balance of bacteria that populate it. More and more research is showing that an imbalance has a profound effect on our overall physical and mental health. There are many diseases that have their root cause in the gut brain of our body.

It is not my intention to lay the blame for all diseases at the feet of Candida Albicans but it is I belief important to understand how an overgrowth of this pathogen can result in a lifetime of health issues. I will share how this impacted me later in the post.

Over the next few posts I will be repeating the Candida series and I hope that those who have already read two years ago will still find something of interest.

Recently I was asked about the difference between Probiotics and Prebiotics and will explain that now before we get into the issue of this rogue gut inhabitant.

Probiotics are the bacteria and yeasts that are classified as ‘friendly’. They inhabit our digestive tract and are a vital part of the process of digesting food and turning it into something that the rest of the body into a form it can utilise. Without a healthy balance of these probiotics systems such as the immune functionn can be compromised as well as the health of other operating systems and the major organs.  If you eat live dairy products including Kefir or fermented foods such as sauerkraut it will encourage the essential bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria to flourish.

Prebiotics are processed from insoluble carbohydrates in most fruit and vegetables including Apples (skin on) bananas, beans, artichokes etc (which is why we need to eat several portions of vegetables and fruit daily) This survives the stomach acid and digestive process that some foods such as yogurts might not do, and reaches the gut where it acts like a fertiliser for the existing probiotics and maintains a healthy balance.

As far as Candida Albicans is concerned this balance in the intestinal flora is crucial and I will explain that as we mover through the upcoming posts.

I am 42, 330lbs/150kilo and with severe health problems in 1994

My acquaintance with Candida Albicans was back in the mid 90’s. I was determined to lose my additional 10 or 11 stone and so began studying nutrition and in the process I decided to create a timeline to identify events and activities in my life from childhood that might have triggered weight gain.

At age 10 I suffered a number of bouts of tonsillitis and was given penicillin at least five times before the tonsils were removed. Before these infections I was a normal size child – three months after the operation I was three stone overweight. Something had changed.

It took me a while once I began to study nutrition, but slowly over a period of about five years I began to join the dots and came to the conclusion that this first trigger and subsequent thrush and cystitis infections, crash dieting, sugar and bread cravings were linked in some way. Candida Albicans began to get more publicity and I compared my symptoms with those described and I experienced at least 80% of them.

My first book that I originally wrote as a journal,was published in 2001.Size Matters  was the story of my journey of my weight loss from 330lbs to 180lbs, and how this most common human fungal pathogen was largely responsible for my weight and health problems.

Before I cover the scary bit – because it is overwhelming to think that there is this predatory pathogen inside the majority of us (mainly living the western world and our high sugar diet!) There are steps we can all take to ensure that our diet and lifestyle support our immune system by keeping the intestines in balance with plenty of beneficial bacteria to maintain Candida in its proper proportions.

We are all familiar with the concerns about the rain forests and their devastation and long lasting consequences for our planet. Well our gut is an eco-system too – teeming with life that is as varied and as exotic as in any rain forest. And, like the many species that are at risk in the wider world, our bacteria that populate our gut and keep us alive are under threat too.

70% of humans contain Candida Albicans in small amounts in our gut and urinary tract. In those amounts it is harmless – however – advances in medical treatment and our modern diet have given this opportunistic pathogen all it needs to develop from harmless colonies to massive overgrowths. It is also referred to as Monilia, Thrush, Candidiasis and Yeast Infection. The most at risk are those with an already compromised immune system, but because of our high sugar, white carbohydrate and processed foods in our diets, most of us are now at risk. We also have been treated with broad spectrum antibiotics for the last 65 years as well as newer drugs that we take long term, that manipulate our hormonal balances. We as yet do not know the long term impact on our bodies of the modern drugs we take and it may be generations before we do. Which is why there is now great concern that the pathogens are becoming more and more resistant to drugs such as antibiotics.

The eco-system which is our gut.

Our intestinal tract, like our hearts, brains, livers, kidneys etc is a major organ. Some refer to it as the gut brain – How many times do you mention your gut feelings? Without it there would be no way to process the raw ingredients we eat to keep our immune system healthy enough to protect us from pathogens. The good bacteria or flora in the gut, two of which are, Bifidobacteria bifidum and Lactobaccillus acidophilus normally keep the Candida in balance.

In most cases antibiotics are broad spectrum, not specific, because, without a lab test it is difficult to tell the specific strain of bacteria responsible for an infection. The use of broad spectrum drugs usually guarantees that the bacteria in question will be killed off. Unfortunately, not only the bad bacteria are killed off but also the good bacteria in your gut. Candida remains unaffected because it is not bacteria it is a yeast and this is where it takes full advantage.

What happens to Candida to allow it to take over?

If Candida yeast is allowed to grow unchecked, it changes from its normal yeast fungal form to a mycelial fungal form that produces rhizoids. These long, root-like components are capable of piercing the walls of the digestive tract and breaking down the protective barriers between the intestines and the blood. This breakthrough allows many allergens to enter the blood stream causing allergic reactions. Mucus is also formed around major organs and in the lining of the stomach. This prevents your digestive system from functioning efficiently. The result is poorly digested food and wasted nutrients. Your body begins to suffer a deficiency of these nutrients and it leads to chronic fatigue, an impaired immune system and disease.

There would appear to be a strong link between this overgrowth of Candida Albicans to a huge list of symptoms and illness. Here is a snapshot.

  • People who are suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME usually test positive for Candida although there are also other issues involved in this complex condition.
  • Numbness, burning or tingling in fingers or hands.
  • Insomnia,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhoea,
  • Bloating,
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  • Thrush and Cystitis,
  • Sexual dysfunction and loss of sexual drive.
  • Endometriosis or infertility
  • PMS and heavy and painful periods.
  • Depression and panic attacks
  • Irritablity when hungry.
  • Unexplained muscle or joint pains often diagnosed with arthritis.
  • Headaches and mood swings.
  • Chronic rashes or hives
  • Food intolerance.
  • Liver function due to build up of toxins leading to  chronic fatigue, discomfort and depression.

The list is virtually endless – which just adds to the confusion at the time of diagnosis.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then you may have a varying degree of overgrowth.

©sallycronin 1998 – 2018

Next time I will be looking at ways to feed the body but starve the fungus…