If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) knowing what foods to avoid, can change your life.
Recently I was asked to write about foods that can affect your gut and specifically which ones can cause IBS.
What is IBS?
Having IBS or an irritated bowel means you suffer with fluctuating bowel motions and discomfort.
It is based on symptoms and medically is diagnosed when other causes can’t be established.
IBS affects at least one in ten people.
The causes of IBS can be due to a parasite (worms), fungus (candida), bacteria (h.pylori and many others), stress, hormones or foods. Drug side effects and food chemical side effects can also lead to altered bowel motions.
Diagnosis can be made based on your symptoms. If your IBS is severe you may be offered a colonoscopy and gastroscopy by your GP.
Some doctors will check for food and gluten sensitivities but there is still a prevailing train of thought amongst medical doctors “ that food isn’t to blame”.
However I have found in managing clients with IBS, food is always a contributing issue. Hence why you need to see a nutritionist or naturopath.
Typical symptoms include
- altered bowel motions
- burping and belching
- bad breath
- feeling like incomplete bowel evacuation
Over the years, as a nutritionist, I have seen food changes dramatically improve people’s IBS and symptoms.
It makes sense. If you are eating foods that your body is intolerant to, of course your GUT is going to scream out at you. It does this with cramping, dumping, bloating and any of the above.
What Foods Should You Avoid?
The typical offenders are dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts and kidney beans. There are many others and people vary a lot as individuals.
People also vary their OWN intolerances depending on what their stress levels are like (high circulating cortisol, increases inflammation markers and our intolerance to foods) and if they have good colonizing bowel flora or not. For example, during periods of high stress, your gut will be more sensitive to certain foods, compared to when you are relaxed.
Gluten-FREE living is now considered “clean eating” and in our household we are gluten free.
Medical Research from the USA calims that EVERYONE (100%) of people are affected by gluten. Gluten breaks down the vital links in our gut wall and whilst everyone may not be allergic (celiac) to it, all will suffer damage from it.
Dairy intolerance is actually higher than gluten and when you study casein, the protein in cow’s milk, you see why.
It is a tricky protein chain that is best broken down, not surprisingly, by baby cows… not humans. Cow’s milk is for baby cows. Goat’s milk is for baby goats, and Human Breast Milk is perfect for baby humans. But really no milk is good for mature adults (breast milk loses its social acceptance somewhere along the line)
Now on the issue of casein and milk proteins. Many people supplement with whey protein powders, and ionized or not, they are still a dairy source.
Note how you feel after a protein shake with whey. Does your gut bloat, do you fluff or do you feel tired. Some of these signs are subtle but will be present.
Does your gut bloat, do you fluff or do you feel tired.
There are many other foods that people can react to, and over the years I have seen them all: lettuce, mushrooms, avocado, salmon, bananas, pinto beans and on it goes.
When you are having minor reactions all the time, it is really hard to sort out what are the worst ones and which ones are only minor reactions! Reactions can be dramatic and instant, or may take 4 hours to take affect and others will last for 24-48 hours so it is really tricky self-diagnosing.
When people come to me with IBS I suggest the following – some of it depends on your budget, some on your motivation (i.e. how much pain are you in and do you want it gone) and some of it logistic (i.e. is it feasible to stop gluten and dairy).
Food Intolerance Test
There are a few on the market, the one I use is with a laboratory in Melbourne. It measures your levels of IgG – an antibody made by your body when it feels under attack and is quite accurate for food intolerances.
The negatives are the cost (currently 93 foods costs $380), if you haven’t had the food for 3-4 weeks you may not react (so get a false negative), it does involve pricking your finger with a small lancet (as diabetics do) and the results take 3-4 weeks to come back.
The advantages are its accuracy, its reliability and its comprehensiveness.
You can purchase a kit (send me an email) and I can post it out. If your results show that you need to avoid dairy and gluten I have an 8 week program that you can purchase that offers you daily eating plans, recipes and all are gluten and dairy free!
Whilst the hair analysis doesn’t check IgG, it does give a list of foods to avoid. As well as foods, it detects presence of bacteria, parasites, fungus and more. I have found it a very useful diagnostic tool that you can do from your own home. I now do it routinely in my clinic (I love the information it offers) and it doesn’t hurt. You can order it here.
You can always try to mitigate symptoms yourself and simply drop gluten and dairy and see if you improve. Eggs and peanuts are well documented to be highly allergic but I do find if you can knock out dairy and gluten, eggs appear to be better tolerated, BUT a peanut allergy is a different story. If you have a true peanut allergy please STOP them. I have witnessed people have major allergic reactions as a nurse in the Emergency Department.
Doctor ordered tests
I am not a medical doctor but there are a few tests doctors can order to help you diagnose things. The first is a RAST or blood test to work out common allergens. A blood test can measure IgE which indicates your allergy status. Is it useful? I have seen it lead people to the next step of “YES THERE IS AN ISSUE” but does it help manage it? I am not so sure.
Your doctor can also order a gluten sensitivity test (measuring antibodies etc.) but once again many with true gluten sensitivity don’t actually show up on a blood test!
Skin prick tests are done by specialist doctors known as “Allergy Specialists or Immunologists.” The skin prick test is insightful but does have limitations as false/negatives as it measures IgE not IgG.
Endoscopies are procedures that require you going to a day surgery and having a doctor shove a black tube down your throat or up your bottom. It is the BEST way to work out the damage. It is also a great way to have a biopsy and determine or rule out nasty conditions such as full blown allergy to gluten (celiac disease), parasitology and others but isn’t useful for diagnosing food intolerances. For example if you have a food intolerance (not allergy) then these procedures may not enlighten you.
What should you do if you have IBS?
I think be smart!
IBS is the signs that your body is NOT HAPPY. Ignoring that is silly.
Of course I like the services I offer and think they are the best starting point. A hair test first, then a full intolerance test if things don’t improve. If you are really worried, see your doctor and initiate a colon and gastroscopy.
With IBS you may need to do a few tests but once you have worked it all out, your health will improve, your life will improve and many other diseases will be avoided.
If you have a specific concern that I haven’t addressed here, please send me an email and I will see if I can assist