For years I had, and occasionally still do, struggle with the aches, pains, cramps, and bloating that are classics of IBS. After years of doing food eliminations and being told I was allergic to every food group under the sun, I finally came to the realization that lifestyle had a huge impact on my system. And more than likely, it is having a huge impact on your system as well.....even if it's not gut related.
Foods and Substances That May Have An Impact On Your Gut Function:
- Raw fruits and vegetables, specifically those high in insoluble fibers
- Artificial sweeteners (these cannot be digested and get tossed right into the colon)
- Too low or too high of a diet in fiber....fiber is great but it can be an awful gut irritant for those with IBS...you need to find the tipping point and a dose appropriate for your needs
- Coffee (decaf and regular)
- Fatty foods
- Alcohol or recreational drugs
- Prescription Medications
- Stress in general/high cortisol and adrenaline ....work, home, social, etc
- Imbalance in gut flora/bacteria
- Lack Of Sleep
- Eating Disorders
- Over or Under eating (yes, under eating can lead to IBS by causing gas and constipation)
- Lack of Exercise or Too Much Exercise (Running is a huge gut irritant)
- Emotional Trauma (our emotional center runs right through our digestive system
- The list goes on....look at your life and you generally can see where you are out of alignment
What I mean by eating your salads and your meals properly is that someone with IBS should not be consuming large salads as a meal in and of themselves. The insoluble fibers in these salads can cause spasms in the colon either leading to urgency or total lock down of the intestines. What I have personally found to be extremely effective is to create a net to catch the fibers. A net would consist of making sure you consume a soluble fiber along with or a few bites before your salad. Soluble fibers can come from sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, brown rice, winter squashes, etc. Think of something sort of mushy that will help to shunt the blow of the intensity of the salads, fruits, and vegetables. This will slow down the bowel transit time, allowing your food to be properly broken down and absorbed, and decrease chances of bowel spasticity.
Another way to decrease spasms in the intestines is to keep your fluid consumption to a minimum during the actual meal and concentrate it more between meals. A rush of fluid during or after a large meal can force undigested food through the gut without being properly broken down and assimilated. Wait at least 30 minutes to have your water, tea, coffee, or other beverages.
Speaking of coffee....that's a huge trigger for IBS. Not everyone is affected by it. But that awful "coffee-stomach" you get from either too much caffeine or the acids in the coffee can lead you start your day off on the wrong foot. If coffee is an irritant for you, try something a bit more subtle like green tea, yerba matte, or teechino. It may take a little getting used to, but I have found yerba matte to be quite satisfying and a perfect replacement for my morning coffee minus the nasty side effects.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be debilitating. It can truly ruin the quality of life if not gotten under control. By the process of elimination, discovering what your triggers are, learning the proper way to prepare and consume your meals, it truly can make a huge difference while not denying you some of your favorite foods. That said, there are some triggers that you may have to have some closure with. But in this world of abundance, there are plenty of other nutritious and delicious foods to stand in. I never thought in a million years I'd be able to give up drinking coffee or eating eggs daily. But I have played around with different meal and beverage items and have found my happy place.
Try removing the most problematic foods for a good week or two like dairy, gluten, eggs, and refined processed foods like protein bars and shakes. Little by little add them back in ONE AT A TIME. After each rotation in, skip a few days and see how you feel. Then try that same exact food again. If you are non-reactive to the re-introduction, then move on to the next food. Try this with beverages and supplements as well. Lots of workout supplements can be hard on the digestive system like preworkouts, amino acids, and protein powders. Coffee and teas should be included in the rotation as well. When you find the culprit, stay away from it for a solid month.....then try the rotation again. It may very well be something you need to leave out for an extended period of time until your digestive system rests and has the opportunity to heal.
There are no scientific answers when it comes to the digestive system. We are all marked bioindividually. We will always need to take our individual needs into consideration. What works for one person won't necessarily work for another. Take a look at your diet as a whole. Take a look at your life on the daily. Dissect what you're doing physically, emotionally, and mentally and start crowding out the foods, negative thoughts, and physical stresses that are contributing to your pain.
Lots of work? Definitely. Worth it? Absolutely. There is nothing more important than you feeling good in your body. You perform better at work. You sleep better at night. You are stronger in your physical fitness regime. You digest food optimally. You simply feel better.
Curious about how to rotate foods in and out? Just ask. I'm here to help you get your gut going and leave the days of IBS behind and on to bigger and better things.