Help! I have IBS – Why can I no longer tolerate my favourite foods?!!
IBS and Food Intolerance
Continuing my theme for April’s IBS Awareness month, I wanted to share why so often people struggle to eat the foods they love – and have eaten all their lives- but start to find that these foods no longer love them!
What is a Food Intolerance?
An intolerance – or sensitivity as it is now more usually called – is completely different to an allergy.
An allergy creates an instant reaction in the body – like hives or, in more extreme cases, difficulty with breathing. The allergic response creates the release of antibodies known as IgE that send the immune system into action.
An intolerance – or sensitivity – is a more subtle reaction to a food eaten, causing symptoms several hours later. These symptoms are often digestive difficulties like bloating, cramping or upset bowel movements. There may be a need to rush to the toilet (urgency) or the opposite may occur and bowel movements may become sluggish. These symptoms could all be grouped together as IBS.
Other symptoms may occur in other parts of the body, like a rash, headache or brain fog.
What foods may contribute to IBS?
It may seem strange that you find symptoms creeping up on you until you reach the point that you detect that a food you eat frequently, like bread, is starting to cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
Common foods are those containing wheat, gluten, dairy and eggs, particularly egg white. Other foods are those high in histamine (such as shellfish, fermented foods like yogurt, aged cheeses, alcohol, processed meats like bacon and sausages); and those from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergine).
However, as foods are eliminated and if the root cause of why the intolerance has developed is unknown, there may be an increasing list of foods that cannot be tolerated. This can be due to something known as cross reactivity, where the foods mimic one another.
What may cause an intolerance to a food I’ve eaten all my life?
I believe this is generally due to just a few key reasons:
Poor digestive capability to break down the food into its component parts.
Overconsumption of the same food groups. As humans, we are creatures of habit and tend to eat the same foods each week. On average, just 25 foods!
Dysbiosis- an imbalanced gut microbiome – missing key beneficial bacteria with an over-abundance of certain pathogenic strains.
Self-care solutions to help get relief
Taking steps to optimise your digestion is essential. We take this for granted, but trust me- it really does require support to help the release of digestive secretions – especially as we get older!
1- Start by asking yourself the following questions and challenge yourself to change poor habits:
- Do I sit down to eat my meals, or do I eat on the go?
- Do I focus on my meal, or am I distracted by the TV or my phone?
- Am I feeling uptight and stressed when I am about to eat, or have I taken time to try and relax beforehand?
- Do I rush my meals, or do I take time to chew my food well and eat slowly?
- Food diary for overconsumption of wheat and dairy especially
- Take a good quality probiotic
2- Help digestive secretions by eating some bitter foods at the start of your meal that helps stimulate stomach acid. A small bowl of rocket and watercress with a little lemon juice is a good choice.
3- Try 2 teaspoons of lemon juice in 2 teaspoons of water and drink this before eating a main meal to gently acidify the stomach (the stomach should be a highly acidic environment to digest protein foods).
4- Keep a food diary over at least three days. Be very honest with your food consumption. Can you spot trends with excess wheat and dairy, for example? These crop up frequently in Western diets. Try to minimise these foods. Check food labels as they appear hidden in many foods and sauces.
5- Take a good quality probiotic. By supporting the community of beneficial bacteria, it helps to crowd out room for pathogenic bacteria to grow.
If these steps do not resolve your symptoms, do seek the support of an experienced, well qualified gut health practitioner who has the clinical expertise to look a bit deeper to help find solutions.
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