Digestive issues and in particular IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can have a huge impact on your day to day life. It can also be a huge and unwelcome hindrance! It can effect what you eat and how you feel. IBS is something i have suffered with myself for a long time now (before I became chronically ill), but my illness can sometimes aggrivate or make my stomach issues worse.
Through a lot of research, and process of elimination throughout the years I have learnt what I am sensitive to, what triggers a flare up, and what to avoid to keep my stomach and gut as happy and healthy as possible. So here I am going to share all of the tips and best practices to reduce flare ups and increase your gut health. All I have learnt on healing IBS.
What is IBS exactly?
You may have been diagnosed with IBS but do you know what it is? I think understanding how something actually effects your body is important in helping you to manage and understand your condition.
IBS is a disorder that affects your large intestine – this is the lower part of your digestive system that come after your stomach and small intestine. As with many health conditions (*insert eye roll here) the exact causes of IBS are unknown, but the main factors that contribute to the condition are a combination of four main things:
Muscle contractions in the Large intestine –
The walls of the intestines are made up of muscles. When these contact they move food through your digestive system. In the case of IBS these contractions are either stronger or weaker than they should be. Stronger contractions that last longer than normal can cause gas, bloating and diarrhoea. Weak contractions have the opposite effect.
Nervous system –
If your nervous system has abnormal nerves in your digestive system this can cause you to experience greater discomfort when your abdomen stretches. In this instance your stomach nerves and brain dont communicate properly, causing your body to overreact to the normal changes that occur in the digestive process. This can also result in pain, diarrhoea and/or constipation.
Some people with IBS have an increase number of immune cells in their intestines. This can cause your body to change its normal immune system response, again causing pain and diarrhoea.
Changes in gut bacteria –
The natural bacteria in your gut is its own wonderful micro-system full of thousands of organisms called micro flora. Your microbiome and the health of your gut bacteria play an essential and vital role in your stomach health, as well as your overall health and wellbeing. In people suffering with IBS research has shown that they have micro flora that differs from the gut bacteria of healthy people.
It is possible that you have one or more of the points above that are contributing to your discomfort and IBS symptoms. Although there is no quick fix or miracle cure for IBS the good news is there are plenty of things you can do to manage your symptoms and reduce flare ups to live a healthy and happy life.
Tips and best practices to reduce flare ups (and increase your gut health)
There are a few different categories of things you can think about and work on over time to improve your symptoms. Although you may not be able to completely eradicate all your issues related to IBS these will help to reduce your discomfort greatly and reduce the frequency and intensity of flare ups
Food and Diet
The food you put in your body and the type of diet you eat is important to all functions of your body. But more so when looking at your digestive system. There are foods that cause inflammation in the body and foods that heal. As each individual is different what triggers your IBS might not be the same as mine or anyone else. The best way to learn your triggers is to be aware of your body. Notice how it reacts immediately after eating, and over the next 24 hours.
If what you eat brings you discomfort and IBS symptoms then that is a red flag that something you ate wasn’t right. These are the things you want to reduce your consumption of or remove from your diet entirely!
In terms of both food and diet learning to read the signals your body is telling you and learning to eat intuitively is a great help. I have written in detail about eating intuitively here if you want to learn more…
For me personally removing most heavy carbs such as bread & pasta, red meat (in fact most meat), dairy products, sugar, alcohol, and heating herbs and spices such as paprika, garlic, onion and instead eating oats, healthy fats from avocados, seeds and nuts, eating lots of gut friendly foods like chia seeds, leafy greens, yogurt and fermented foods, and plenty of healthy fibre, fruit & vegetables have greatly improved my IBS.
Sticking to a routine with your eating and having your meals at the same time each day will also help to reduce gas and bloating, as well as eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
If you are struggling to work our what foods trigger your IBS there is a simple method of elimination that you can follow over a series of weeks that helps you easily identify what your triggers are and what foods are safe for you. If you would like to find out more or follow the plan you can download a copy, just enter your email in the box below:
Stress plays a huge role in how your body works. If you are constantly feeling stressed or anxious it causes you to tense up throughout your body, including your stomach muscles. Often when we are stressed, anxious, or constantly worried we get a churning feeling in our stomach, nerves, and sickness and upset stomach.
Stress can worsen symptoms of IBS so learning to manage your stress and incorporating simple coping mechanisms such as breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, exercise, or simply practising being more mindful in everyday situations can help to keep you relaxed.
There are foods that your body may be aggravated by, foods that your body really doesn’t like, and foods that cause a serious allergic response. Intolerance’s fall in this middle area where you aren’t allergic to a certain food, but it doesn’t agree with you to the point that it causes an adverse reaction in your system.
As briefly mentioned above these are the foods that you need to find and start to eliminate from your diet. Being aware of what you eat and how you feel as you eat it, a good diary, and using the elimination method (above) will all help you to pin point your food intolerance’s if you are starting from scratch.
While not life threatening being able to avoid intolerance foods will help you reduce the number of flare ups and IBS symptoms you may suffer from such as bloating, sickness, pain and discomfort, as well as diarrhoea.
Gut health is possibly the most important factor. If your gut lining is damaged, you suffer from conditions such as leaky gut, or you have poor gut bacteria your stomach and digestive system aren’t able to function at their best. It can lead to the growth of more bad bacteria than good, or larger pieces of food entering your blood stream and causing inflammation.
If you think that a leaky gut or poor gut bacteria is an issue then you will need to look at eating foods to allow your stomach to heal. Gut lining foods, lots of leafy greens, simple healthy fats that help reduce and heal inflammation and foods that increase your guts good bacteria. Make sure to include a good probiotic too.
What foods should you eat?
I don’t just want this post to be about the things you cant have. There are lots of things you CAN still eat that are yummy and good for you and your gut at the same time.
Things that you can eat to improve your gut health are foods such as yogurt, and fermented foods, which are full of good bacteria.
Chia seeds which become gelatin-like once consumed and work like a prebiotic that will line your stomach. They are also full of fibre and iron.
Apples which are full of pectin’s (a soluble fibre) and will help to relieve constipation and diarrhoea, as well as decrease the risk of intestinal infection.
Fibre packed whole grains including oats, quinoa, farro and whole wheat. The fibre found in these grains help improve digestion by both bulk out your stool, and act as prebiotics to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. Dark vegetables are also good for you. They are insoluble fibre, also good to bulk your stool and improving its passage through the digestive tract.
Green vegetables are also a good source of magnesium. Magnesium can help relieve constipation by improving your stomach contractions in your digestive tract. These types of Greens include Broccoli, Sprouts, Spinach, and Cabbage.
Healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado and salmon, that will help reduce inflammation and help your gut heal.
As well as these foods include some natural remedies. Peppermint oil, Ginger, and Fennel are all herbs that help calm and settle your Gut. You can find more on Healing IBS with natural remedies here.
Healing your gut is a slow process, so don’t be disheartened, and as always if you have any questions send them my way! and if you missed it here’s the download link again: