Even though so many people have IBS, many won’t even mention it other people: their friends, family or even their doctors. The reason is partly embarrassment and partly a perception that nobody can help.
People with IBS (myself included) often remark that our gut is just having an ‘off day’ and that it will settle down in a day or two. That may sound odd when you are running to the toilet dozens of times a day or lying down on a bed in agony (sound familiar?). Our brain has what’s called an ‘optimistic cognitive bias’ – basically we tend to tell ourselves that ‘we will be fine tomorrow’. I did this for years and it meant.. Suffering for years because I never found the source of the problem. After a certain point you cant take it any more and go to the doctor (this is my story but ill put any money that its nearly the same as yours).
They tell you to eat more fibre in your diet, which made you feel even worse or maybe they prescribed some medication (acid reflux tablets mainly) and they didn’t work either. These experiences affect your attitude towards your condition, perhaps making you feel that you don’t really have a medical condition and that its hopeless, nobody can help you. If this was happened to you, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to tell you that this happened to me AND I came out the other side. It took me years of researching, experimenting and testing every food, supplement and technique that has been known to help and I found out first hand what its like to have a ‘normal’ gut.
WHY CANT DOCTORS JUST TELL YOU WHATS WRONG?
This is by no means a knock on doctors, in 99 out of 100 cases, good doctors will determine what’s wrong and either fix or point you in the right direction for recovery. However, IBS is a functional condition. That means IBS doesn’t cause structural damage to your body the way that a disease does, but it changes the way your body operates and functions (boy does it).
When you go to the doctor, they need to rule out possible bowel conditions and disease first, food allergies, bowel cancer etc. All this uncertainty and ‘no, its not that or its not this’ that test results show, can leave you to think that it’s all in your head. As someone who suffered with IBS for years, I am categorically telling you, it is NOT in your head. IBS has a way of interfering with your quality of life – your home life, work, sleep, social life, travel, diet and sex. IBS also creates a financial burden, I can think of at least 10 workdays I missed as a direct result of an IBS attack.
FIND OUT WHAT ARE YOUR TRIGGERS?
The most important thing for me and any clients that I have helped who have suffered with IBS are finding the triggers. In 9 out of 10 cases, eliminating the triggers alone can be enough to dramatically improve gut function and overall life quality; and for the other 1 out of 10, its worth implementing gut recovery strategies (I personally had to do this) to get the full recovery. But I will discuss that further down.
An IBS trigger is something that sets off a chain reaction in the body leading to symptoms of bloating, incomplete bowel movements, nausea, diarrhoea or constipations (or both). Here’s a short list of the most common IBS triggers. I’ve discussed below how to ‘hack’ the IBS triggers by including alternatives so you don’t feel like you are ‘giving up’ anything yet will improve the quality of your life ten fold.
A list of the most common IBS triggers (in random order as the severity varies from person to person):
Alternative: If you cant cut alcohol completely; try sticking to clear alcohol such as vodka or gin as this tends not to aggravate the gut as badly as beer or cider.
Alternative: If you ran a course of antibiotics, be sure to add in an extra strong probiotic once or twice a day for 10 days following the course to help improve ‘healthy’ gut bacteria. 40-50 billion strength probiotic (it will be on the bottle) is normally a good starting point.
TRIGGER: ASPARTAME AND CARBONATED DRINKS
Alternative: try adding flavoured water that has been sweetened with stevia to your water. I use the stevia sweetened Mi Wadi and it has never affected me in a negative way.
Alternative: Dairy can be a really bad trigger for most IBS sufferers but you can substitute Greek Yoghurts as the pasteurisation process is different and doesn’t tend to affect IBS sufferers. I personally use almond milk (or coconut milk) as a substutue for all my dairy and my gut has thanked me every day since.
TRIGGER: SPICY FOOD
Alternative: this one is a little bit of a grey area as depending on each IBS sufferer, some will respond more negatively to certain spices. I have a full spice list in my online program that ranges from ginger to turmeric; I recommend trying different spices (one at a time) and keeping note of how you feel afterwards. Stick with single ingredient spices; the general consensus is the ‘stronger spices’ will react negatively while milder spices or gut healing spices such as ginger and turmeric tend to be okay but test it out and see for yourself.
Alternative: its hard to stop your body ‘getting stressed’ and some of us are more naturally prone to stress than others. My major hack as always been exercise; as soon as I feel the onset of stress, I try and do exercise. This normally brings me back to ‘balance’ pretty quickly and I very rarely get IBS attacks from actual stress because of it.
Alternative: 100% Organic Stevia. This has been a game changer for me. I have a really bad sweet tooth and even knowing how badly I react to sugar, I still would find myself craving it in the evening (even though, once I cut processed food and ingredients, this effectively stopped) – however on the days when I really just want something sweet, I add stevia to my porridge or smoothies. It’s 1000 times sweeter than sugar and balances bloods sugar levels. To me, that equals = game changer.
Alternative: Gluten in general can be a trigger to most IBS sufferers but wheat in particular can be an instant trigger. I find an elimination approach is the most effective here; if you miss bread, try having porridge break (which can be made from Greek yoghurt and oats) as use it as a direct substitute.
TRIGGERS THAT SHOULD BE CUT FOREVER!
MSG AND PROCCESSED FOODS:
There are no alternatives for these foods; MSG is one of the worst food additives that humans can consume and reactions range from excessive sweating to mimicking heart attack like symptoms. This is normally added to processed and fast foods so try and avoid this at all cost.
Processed foods are what I call ‘fake food’ and I’ve talked at length in other blog posts about how consuming these foods can negatively affect hormones and how that they hinder fat loss or muscle building. If you are an IBS sufferer, I can categorically say that processed food is going to put so much strain on your gut that even if you take out the other triggers, use the recovery strategies below, you are STILL not going to heal if you are consuming processed foods.
In tomorrow’s post, ill talk about the four recovery strategy approach I used to completely fix my IBS.
1) ELIMINATING TRIGGER FOODS
2) THE RIGHT EXERCISE PROGRAM
3) SUPPLEMENTS TO HEAL THE GUT
4) HOW TO SLEEP BETTER TO FIX IBS