Friday, July 5, 2019

Do You Suspect IBS?

First let's get something straight. IBS (irritable bowl syndrome) is not a disease, it's a symptom and/or a side effect of something else going on in the body.

So if you have IBS, even if it's mild, you need to take a good look at what you are putting inside your body. From drugs to diet, everything that passes your lips and goes into your gut affects you in some way. I highly recommend keeping a list of what you eat and when, then writing down when your stomach bothers you (10 minutes later, 30 minutes later, 1 hour later, 24 hours later, etc). Also write down if you have different symptoms and when. This can tell you what foods are affecting you (and why) and where in your body the food is when it's developing problems (stomach, small intestine, large intestine, colon).

For example, you may bloat right after you eat, then have lower pain/discomfort in your gut 30 minutes later. This tells you that you are eating something highly acidic (bloat) and may even have leaky gut syndrome (the lining of the large or small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria to "leak" through the intestines and flood the blood stream). Then again you may have no bloat followed by discomfort only 10 or 15 minutes later. This means you may have issues absorbing nutrients through you small intestine. It can be the foods you are eating (an intolerance, undiagnosed allergy, or are eating too much of one type of food in a sitting), including the development of gut related disorders.

So let's step back a minute and explain what the gut is. 

When people say they have gut pain it can refer to the lower portion of the esophagus, the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, large colon, or even the small colon. This all compromises the gut, however most people experiencing undiagnosed IBS believe the gut to be just the stomach, small intestine and large intestine because a) they are not familiar with the anatomy of the body and it's functions, and b) these are the areas where they are feeling the most discomfort. So when someone says they are experiencing gut pain, take heed! Something is amiss, and if it is not address and corrected problems will only get worse.

The easiest way to help yourself is to do an elimination diet. These come in many shapes and sizes, so be sure to discuss with your doctor and dietitian/nutritionist what type of diet works for you.

Once you have determined if it is your stomach not digesting properly, remove acidic foods from your diet for 1 week to see if you no longer experience gut pain. Then reintroduce ONE FOOD in a very small portion to see how your stomach reacts. If it doesn't react, try a slightly larger portion to see if you still do not react (you will receive specific instructions from your doctor). Then another food a few days later, and so on. It could be that you are intolerant to one specific food, or the entire gamut of acidic foods, but by doing this elimination/reintroduction process you can determine if that is what it is or if you need to discuss with your doctor a better way of determining your health problem.

Most of the time, when you catch it early, you can eliminate the offending food from your diet and go on to be well again. However, that's not always the case. In many people this problem has developed over a long period of time and so the damage to their gut can be extensive. You might not be able to handle acidic foods in the stomach as well as in large intestine. You might not know that eating more than one egg in a meal is causing issues. You could have developed leaky gut in the small intestine because you were unaware of the Celiac gene in your family. And so on...

So many factors play into an individual persons food choices, especially here in America where more people eat in restaurants than at home. That means they are selecting what they think they want, what they think they like (what their memory tells them they like from that particular restaurant), instead of creating a healthy meal that they will like with the foods they already know they enjoy (and save a ton of money). Then their is the "I don't know how to cook" excuse, so we purchase microwaveable meals and eat them at every sitting. Depending on the brand/food choice you are making you might be getting something relatively nutritious, but in all likelihood you are getting something that is overly processed with minimal nutritional value. Then you are radiating that food, killing any possible nutrients it might have had. Quick and easy meals, whether they be from eating in a restaurant, getting take out, or microwaveable meals, should always be minimal. Once a week or less.

A very important reason for creating your own meals, especially for those with IBS, is the sanitary situations. You know how clean your kitchen is. You know where you got your food/ingredients from, and you know if it's cooked properly. With the above mentioned convenience methods you do not know this, and in all likelihood never will. Instead you are taking a gamble on your health and well being by placing it into someone else's hands and hoping they do not make you sick.

Don't worry, you're no different, I hear it all the time.... 

All about how your social life will be affected, how you don't have time to cook, and how you just don't like to cook. First, your social life will be just fine, look at the bigger picture.  Second, if you don't take time to cook now your body will deteriorate, and eventually you will be using a feeding tube and never get to enjoy food again. Third, learn how. Take a cooking class, ask a friend to teach you how to make that amazing dish you love so much, and start eating whole foods. Decide what you know you already like and get plenty of that (so long as the foods don't adversely affect your stomach). You can invite friends to the class, invite them over for a sampling of what you've learned so far, and even take food with you when you are out socializing (i.e. bring your own dressing, veggie burger, etc and order a salad). Most restaurants are understanding if you are adding to something you ordered because of a dietary issue. However, they do not like if you just bring food from elsewhere and eat it their without ordering something (and no a beverage doesn't count)!

And lets not forget about what we drink. I actually had a client think it was OK to drink liquor with IBS. Sorry to say this folks, but a toxin is a toxin and if you are trying to heal your gut adding a toxin to your gut is not going to allow it to heal (no matter what anyone says). It turned out the gin was part of the problem with her gut. Apparently her doctor didn't think to ask if she drank any liquor, beer or wine.

I also had a client who drank Red Bull. For those who do not know, energy drinks are just highly addictive stimulants in liquid form. In fact, because it is liquid it will get into the body more quickly and if taken too often, can cause serious side effects. Besides the physical break down my client's body was enduring (dehydration, caffeine addiction, shaking, heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, IBS, kidney damage, high blood pressure, etc), there was a mental and emotional issue not being addressed. Anxiety, hallucinations, and paranoia were starting to set in. And before you ask, yes this was a very healthy man in every other way until he started getting hooked on an energy drink. Luckily he was very healthy before this, so the removal (and eventual detox) of the energy drink from his system allowed his body to heal and the IBS to no longer be an issue.

While energy drinks are known to be harmful to the body, so do other drinks you may not be aware of. Studies have shown that excess of anything is bad, especially carbonated beverages (hard on the gut to digest) and soft drinks (regular or diet), including off brands. And did you know that Mountain Dew has 3 times more caffeine than a cup of coffee? Don't despair, their are healthy soft drinks (found in better food stores), just be sure to limit them to once in a while.

The easiest way to deal with IBS? 

Stop looking at what you can't have and look at what you can. 

I was recently placed on a Low FODMAP diet (more on the different types of elimination diets in next weeks post) and you are given the foods you can eat and the foods you cannot eat. At first I was all "damn I can't have that, that, or even that!" and fell in to the pity party everyone does when they told they can't do or have something. After a day or two I stopped and only focused on the positives, what I could have. I made a list of everything I could eat (eliminating foods I knew I was allergic/intolerant of as well as those I knew I didn't like at all), and decided how to eat with that. It's actually made things much easier. Once I stopped the "how can I make this dish I always like Low FODMAP" I was able to eat foods on the list that I do love (peanut butter, cantaloupe, grapes, potatoes, etc) and I was able to create new dishes that are delicious!

As with any new eating plan, it helps to get advice and recipes (Facebook groups, books, websites, etc) so be sure to reach out to others who have already been there, done that. Do not look to the books that promise you a cure or Facebook posts to commiserate with, instead look for those who give sound advice and encouragement. Also, be sure you are not "not feeling better" when in truth your body is detoxing. If you find you are intolerant to one or more foods, it can take your body up to three months to fully rid your gut of any food left behind due to build up on the lining of the walls of the large intestine. You may also have leaky gut syndrome which also needs time to heal after all the offending toxins are cleared out of your large intestine and large colon.

So what if you've done the elimination diet and still are having IBS? 

Seek professional help. Healing the gut is not easy. Neither is an elimination diet. There are several different types, so be sure you are on the right one for your needs. For example you may find out you are intolerant to the bread you've been eating, but never considered to eliminate gluten entirely. Or you eliminated lactose foods, without trying to eliminate all dairy. Then again, you may be having multiple issues affecting your entire body when you assume your gut is the only problem. Always consult your medical professional when you are experiencing IBS symptoms. They can be a side effect of many different conditions, not just an intolerance to certain foods. However, using your diet as a sounding board first is the best way to start finding answers.

Also, when using a medical professional remember - we only know what we know. Be honest, keep that food diary, share all your symptoms, and know that some professionals are more educated than others. So, if you are still suffering with no end in sight, feel like you are going around in circles with your doctor, get a second opinion.

Or a third, or a fourth...

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About This Site

My work fluctuates between human and animal, discerning the best means of healing for each. I use my medical intuitive gifts for both, my naturopathic knowledge for humans, my ability to communicate with and lay hands on animals, and all so both can live harmoniously together with great health and well being. The articles on this site are for reference only. Please consult your physician, mental health professional, or veterinarian before making any changes to you or your pets wellness routine.

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Information shared on this site is not intended for use without first consulting your personal physician, mental health professional, or veterinarian. In shamanic cultures naturopathic means are used first because patients are taught to be in tune with their own body's needs from childhood. If you are on conventional medicine, be sure to learn about the side effects that they can create when adding naturopathic herbs to your wellness program, before adding them to your routine.