Irritable bowel syndrome basics

It took me a while to figure out how to deal with this topic. I don’t want this post to be just another medical account of what IBS is – there is plenty of information online which is easily accessible. There is quite a lot of stigma associated with this condition. People don’t like to talk about their bowel problems and many don’t like to hear about it. Unfortunately its become a really common condition. I see people every day complaining about symptoms of IBS at the pharmacy and 1 in 4 of my friends also suffer from it.

As I said, I do not want to get into the medical issues – if anyone has any questions you can ask in the comments section bellow or email/PM me but what i wanted to deal with is how to reduce the symptoms and reduce episodes. Nothing is worse than an unhappy gut – bloating, digestive discomfort and lack of appetite, frequent bouts of diarrhoea followed by days of constipation are some of the worst consequences when you don’t treat your gut right.Want to know the key to a healthy gut? Unfortunately there isn’t one fool-proof way to tackle it, but by taking care of your intestines every day you’ll be able to restore your gut bacteria back to normal. Unfortunately stress is also a huge inducer of bowel problems – and well we all know how easy it is in today’s life to avoid stress completely.

Different Ways To Support Your Gut Health

  1. Keep Hydrated

Theres lots of fad drinks but none stick quite like the old nugget – drink at least 3 litres of water today. This is the key to keeping a nice clean gut as the water destroys bad bacteria which might be moving throughout the digestive tract. It also increases your metabolism, taking on a role similar to fibre to ease your bloating.

2. More Fibre

As well as drinking plenty of water, eating fibre is vital to getting your digestive tract working properly. Not everyone will respond to all fibre in the right way so you need to find what works for you some will need to either go for soluble or insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre foods include oats, beans and some fruits (ive found these to be the best for me), whilst insoluble foods such as wholegrains, dried fruits and corn work best for others. It really takes time but you need to get to know your gut well.

3. Go Organic

Organic foods have exploded on the market over the past year or so because more and more people are suffering with digestive conditions. Organic foods are completely clean, meaning no harmful pesticides have been sprayed on your fruit or veg and so don’t end up in your gut! Pesticides are used to kill bugs lurking on plants – so imagine what it does to your insides! Now you will think oh boy – not this organic crap again – How can food be truly organic in Malta when fields are next to each other and there is cross contamination. Yes you are right but the less crap they have on them the better – also there are companies with certificates of being truly organic who import products from abroad. Like Barbuto – i have tried their veggies; eggs and olive oil – and they are all great. (Disclaimer: They don’t even know Im mentioning them here so this is no way an advert).

4. Plenty of Probiotics

Probiotics help restore the good bacteria in the gut and unlike many things, you really can’t have enough probiotics. Good bacteria in the gut is constantly overwhelmed by bad bacteria found in the foods we eat (and don’t know about) so plenty of probiotics will always be a massive benefit. I am taking Fermentflor by Erbavita – mainly because i like the taste and (I am a huge pain in the behind (pun intended) when it comes to taste – i even bother myself with this but it is my reality). There are however many probiotics on the market so you will find many options. And you need to try them out to figure out which is best for you. Probiotics are made up of a single or mixed-culture of species and strains in specific doses. It’s widely accepted that their effectiveness depends on the species you consume and what species already exists in your gut.The most common and well-researched are species of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Notably, IBS patients appear to have lower levels of both species compared to an otherwise healthy person. I have found that since I have been taking probiotics regularly bouts of diarrhoea and bloating have decreased significantly. Yeay 🙂

5. Don’t Eat Constantly

You need to give your digestive system chance to rejuvenate and send all that you have ingested down the digestive tract. Otherwise, you get bloating and digestive pains because your system hasn’t been given enough time to do its job. Instead of eating constantly, try three regular-sized meals and keep snacking to an absolute minimum. Even eating large meals can be damaging and people will feel upset for hours when they over do it – so don’t let your eyes be bigger than your tummy as we say in Maltese just eat as much as you need and stop. Listen to your body its extremely important.

6. Choose the right hot drinks

Before you come at me with the pitchforks and the shotguns, let me get this bit out of the way: I am not advising caffeine for IBS sufferers. I know, you know, we all know that caffeine is a muddy recipe for disaster. In fact anyone who knows me knows i dont drink coffee or tea at all – no not even when its cold not even a little bit! But i know many people can’t live without their hot drinks. Although caffeine is great for getting you up and out of the house, your body is not designed to digest so much caffeine in one sitting – if even at all – and consuming several cups of coffee over the day will increase your chances of muscle spasms in the intestinal wall, and induce bloating. Herbal teas are one of just a few natural ways you can curb IBS symptoms without very much effort. Hot drinks are also fab for those with gut imbalances as it is easier for our bodies to process warm fluids, as our bodies are warm blooded (yep… science!)

Try green tea if you still need some get-up-and-go, or alternatively enjoy ginger tea which is super for preventing bloating. Ginger naturally lowers gut inflammation as it blocks certain enzymes in the body which can cause bloating.

How To: Boil 1/2 tsp grated ginger with 1 cup of water and pour into a cup with a Green tea bag.

Peppermint tea is another great option; what’s so special about peppermint tea? Well, peppermint is commonly associated with getting good quality sleep, and for once that is not just marketing hype. Peppermint is a natural muscle relaxant which of course, is great for catching some z’s, but also because it is great for IBS sufferers. There are many other herbal teas that can be helpful but i cannot name them all here (you can also get peppermint capsules now over the counter in Malta – speak to your pharmacists they will be able to guide you better).

7. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is not only dense with calories but it also wrecks havoc on the digestive system. If it’s not due to all the sugar in the cocktails, it’s usually the ethanol itself which your digestive system really struggles to understand.

Try swapping that weekday cocktail for a hot water & lemon to prevent the evening bloat. Lemons are a natural diuretic (it keeps things digesting normally) and adding to hot water speeds it up even more.

8. Consume more Potassium

Potassium is a mineral which naturally regulates fluid balance in the gut – and so prevents any tummy bloating.

Increase your intake of potassium by eating more bananas, sweet potatoes, pineapples, broad beans/legumes and natural yogurt. You can also eat more of them by incorporating into fresh IBS-friendly smoothies, or adding into main meals, such as Broccoli Burger. I made these burgers this week and really liked them. I also take potassium through supplements since I exercise. You can buy Magnesium/potassium sachets from your pharmacy,

9. Reduce the amount of air you ingest

This may sound like a strange one but it’s amazing how much air we suck in when we eat, which then travels down into our gut in big gulps of hot air, increasing bloating symptoms. Eating too quickly and chewing gum are two of the main reasons we swallow too much air, so much so that our gut brain values it as food and starts breaking it down, producing more air.

Cut down on the gum by drinking more water throughout the day, or swap gum for nuts or seeds. Not only will you be swallowing less air but you’ll be adding more fibre and nutrients into your diet.

10. Stretch often

This might sound like a strange one (because who walks down the street, stops, and does a lunge?) but stretching is necessary for IBS sufferers, especially if you’re sat crouched in front of a computer all day. All that’s going in your stomach can continue to feel tight and unpleasant the more the day goes on, so make it a priority to stretch whenever you go to the toilet – this way you’re doing it privately and not provoking suspicion! By simply raising your arms above your head and tensing your stomach, holding your hands behind your back and pushing your tummy out, and twisting from side to side can ease your discomfort ten-fold. I started stretching daily since ive started exercising and it has done wonders for me.

I could keep going on forever – talking about the right kind of fats; carbs; right kind of exercise. But this post is long enough as it is. If people show enough interest I will write other posts going into further details. Theres a comment button bellow and on facebook feel free to ask or comment with your experiences 🙂