April is IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome) month so I wanted to write a short blog post about what it is, it’s triggers and what to eat to help prevent or soothe it.

IBS is a condition with some symptoms so severe that you can’t leave the house, yet the GP may call it a ‘psychosomatic’ disease, meaning it’s all in your head! But it’s a real problem for millions of people,10-20% of the population. Probably 80% of my clients have some form of IBS when I first see them. The symptoms include bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, pain and constipation.

Many of my clients have suffered with this condition for years and the doctors can’t find what is causing all the symptoms. They usually get told to eat more fibre, take anti-depressants, anti-spasmodics, sedatives, fibrogel, etc.

This isn’t treating the underlying cause of why the gastrointestinal system isn’t working.

Below are some IBS triggers-

  • Food intolerances/sensitivities - these could be the usual culprits (wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, soya, caffeine, alcohol, corn, yeast, peanuts and citrus fruits)
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections
  • Stress - The gut responds to stress. When you’re stressed, IBS symptoms can flare up or get worse.
  • Over sensitive colon which is more reactive to chemicals, foods, stress, medications etc.
  • Serotonin - a neurotransmitter that has an important role in ensuring the digestive system works properly. 95% or our serotonin is found in the gut. Having too much or too little can cause an over sensitive gut.
  • Imbalanced levels of good bacteria.
  • Medications such as NSAIDs, antibiotics etc.
  • Low digestive enzymes and stomach acid, therefore inability to digest food optimally.

Some foods to avoid or eliminate to prevent or ease symptoms-

  • Dairy - milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream etc.
  • Sugar - all forms of sugar and sweeteners!
  • Gluten - wheat, barley, spelt and rye (plus most processed foods)
  • Refined and processed carbohydrates
  • High sugar fruits - some people can tolerate fruits, but for many, they ferment and cause symptoms.
  • Foods that trigger a stress response by the nervous system - caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes etc.
  • FODMAP foods - this is a long list of foods that contain a type of sugar that can be difficult to digest, causing IBS symptoms. These include onions, broccoli and peppers.
  • Some people are sensitive to foods containing tyramine - these include cheese, red wine, beef, liver, yeast extracts.

Foods and recommendations that can help manage the condition-

  • Naturally gluten free carbohydrates - quinoa, rice, buckwheat, millet, rice pasta and noodles etc.
  • Use dairy free milks (also try making your own!) - almond, coconut, rice, hemp etc.
  • Eat foods with natural digestive enzymes, including pineapple and papaya.
  • Drink teas that ease discomfort and improve digestion - peppermint, fennel, camomile and rosemary.
  • Eat easier to digest foods - such as opting for fish over meat, and more plant based meals.
  • Repopulate your gut with good bacteria
  • Get tested for parasites, bacterial overgrowth, food sensitivities etc.

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