If you are a regular here, then you’ll already know all about the things that can set you up for IBS.
In case you haven’t had the chance to see some of the things at work in a distressed digestive system, here’s the low down.
Whilst your IBS is unique and requires a certain amount of tailored attention; that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few broader fixes that can be thrown your way.
What needs to be fixed exactly?
A large amount of research has found that:
- An irritable bowel is also a leaky one
- Bacteria can become overgrown within the small intestine (SIBO)
- Bad bacteria outweigh the good bacteria in the intestines, also known as ‘Dysbiosis’
- Yeasts like Candida grow, disrupting microbial balance.
- Digestive secretions are inhibited
Find out more about what causes IBS.
Addressing IBS goes a lot further than going on FODMAPS, taking a probiotic and ‘managing stress’.
You’ll be glad to hear there’s a little more strategy and direction to this approach.
Having a clear direction to focus your efforts and attention is a great help. Quite often the hopelessness of IBS is the pervasive circles that you run in. What seems to have worked may no longer continue to work and the confusion continues.
But, what this plan does well at is addressing some of the underlying causes of an irritable bowel. It helps to correct some of the complications in a disrupted gut, from start to finish.
Step One – Remove
A lot of IBS symptoms are caused by poorly tolerated foods, ingredients, stress, drugs, alcohol and an accumulation of toxicity. These all aggravate the digestive system. Some have even been doing so over a long period of time, well before symptoms became obvious. Long term exposure to these things can throw quite the spanner in the works, especially when compounded.
Throughout various stages in the digestive process, you rely on a symphony of mechanical and chemical processes. These processes allow you to properly breakdown and assimilate nutrients from your food. When in harmony, the process goes smoothly. When some parts of this process lose efficiency or misalign from exposure to the above…….well thats where a bowel can start to become irritable.
The goal in this step is to remove the things which are causing inflammation – what we listed above. This is where you would find yourself going on a FODMAPS diet. But, there are more things that need to removed than just FODMAPS. You may have sensitivities or allergies to other food ingredients and environmental toxins.
If you want to be through about it, you can go one step further than FODMAPS and conduct an elimination diet. This provides you a clear indication of many more things you may be sensitive to. You effectively test foods like corn, soy, processed meats, beans, grains…….etc, to find out if they are a problem. You can even find out if you are sensitive to the preservatives and chemicals which are applied to food – they matter too!
Getting rid of bacteria, fungi and yeasts in the gut which are ‘bad’ or have become overgrown is important to reducing inflammation and relieving digestive symptoms long term.
You can deal with malevolent gut microbes with antimicrobial herbs, or if you so wish, antibiotics. Essential oils and cannabis oil can be effective in restoring microbial balance within the gut. In fact, some combinations of oils may even spare beneficial strains of bacteria, whilst killing bad ones. The selective bacterial clearance of essential oils is usually something antibiotics don’t do very well at.
Step Two – Replace
The chemical and mechanical processes you use to digest food can be affected by things like toxicity and stress. Your stomach may not produce strong enough gastric acid. Your gall bladder and liver – not enough bile. Your pancreas – insufficient digestive enzymes. Stress may be retarding muscle contraction in your gut. Thats why its important to remove the things that cause these in step one.
The goal of step 2 is to jump start good digestion, and once again restore the harmony which allows you to properly breakdown and assimilate nutrients. As this process gets better, the symptoms of troubled digestion should naturally cool off.
To supply additional stomach acid, you can use organic apple cider vinegar. This will help reduce particle sizes of food, lightning the load on further digestion (by microbes). Take a tablespoon shortly before a meal.
Spices like cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cardamon and ginger all stimulate bile and digestive enzymes. Grind these fresh spices up and put them into capsules, or drink them in a tea. Have them before a meal.
You can also take digestive enzymes as a supplement.
Step Three – Reinoculate
An irritable bowel is often one that is lacking in beneficial bacteria, particularly after taking antibiotics (which clear out good and bad bacteria).
Step three focuses on restoring the balance within the gut microbiome by introducing new strains of beneficial bacteria. These are also known as probiotics, which Im sure many of you currently take. Since there are so many brands, picking a good one is important. Look for a probiotic supplement which provides a spectrum of colonising bacterial strains (like this one).
Fermented foods are a rich source of probiotics. I would even argue that they are more effective than a probiotic supplement. Combining them might work even better, though.
Some great fermented foods are:
- Pickled Ginger
- Kefir (fermented dairy – a lot of lactose is fermented out)
Add these to at least one meal a day and you will start to recolonise your gut with a host of beneficial bacterial strains.
To look after the beneficial microbes already living in your gut, its a good idea to feed them plenty of prebiotics. These are the fibres found in plants, and actually act as a fuel source for your microbes to grow stronger.
Pretty much all plants contain some form of prebiotic. The ones you select depend on how you tolerate them. If you are still following FODMAPS, or eliminating beans or grains for example, you can still get plenty of prebiotic fibres from leafy greens, and other low FODMAP fruits and vegetables.
Step Four – Repair
This is where the magic happens because its where all your hard work begins to materialise. This is the part where you patch up the leaks in the gut wall. You have these leaks to thank for a handful of IBS symptoms like brain fog and fatigue. These leaks have exposed your body to all sorts of pathogens, viruses and infections. They have also been keeping your immune system very busy.
Some really powerful foods and supplements that heal a leaky gut:
- Coconut oil
- Ghee (clarified butter – very small amounts of lactose)
- Omega-3 Fish Oil
- CBD (cannabidoil, or Cannabis oil)
- Bone Broth
Key nutrients like Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin D all play a part in re-fortifying the gut. Make sure you get plenty of these from your food. You can also supplement these.