Did you know that about 60 million people — 20 percent of Americans — have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? (That’s more than the population of California and New York combined!) These people struggle with miserable, often disabling symptoms like bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation and pain. The first step to healing is finding the root cause, says functional medicine expert Dr. Mark Hyman. However, changing your diet can be the simplest, most effective way to treat IBS and IBS symptoms. Read Dr. Hyman’s 10 strategies for eliminating IBS symptoms below.
IBS is caused by a variety of factors. Your gut lining can break down from stress; too many antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or Advil; steroids; intestinal infections; a low-fiber, high-sugar diet; alcohol and even C-sections (which we have seen increase dramatically in recent years). These and other factors can trigger and activate an immune response, sparking food allergies and aggravating your second brain (the enteric nervous system), creating havoc that leads to IBS and frustrating and painful IBS symptoms. It isn’t just your bowel that can become affected; so can your mood, your energy levels and a host of other problems.
The key to healing IBS and IBS symptoms is to first determine the root cause. That’s where functional medicine comes in. In functional medicine, we know one disease can have many causes (or that one thing can cause many diseases, such as with gluten) and that the causes vary depending on the individual.
We typically find that the main causes of IBS come from food allergies and sensitivities or gut imbalances. Certain foods can irritate your bowel and digestive system. While you may not have a true allergy like a peanut or shellfish allergy, even a mild food sensitivity can cause terrible symptoms. And gluten is one of the most common foods that can trigger food sensitivities or allergy type reactions. Even if your doctor tells you that your tests for gluten antibodies or celiac are normal, you can still have a severe reaction. Additionally dairy products which contain proteins like casein and whey, and soy, corn and eggs can contribute to your gut problems. Your functional medicine doctor can run tests to assess food sensitivities and gluten reactions.
Additionally, imbalances in your gut ecosystem such as leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or yeast overgrowth can trigger or exacerbate IBS. The key to reversing these imbalances is to reboot your gut by getting rid of the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff.
10 Strategies to Eliminate IBS
Since there can be numerous underlying issues that contribute to IBS, I suggest consulting with a functional medicine practitioner to figure out your own personal dietary and medical plan. Also, keep a journal to document what bothers your own body.
However, you can get almost immediate results and improve your IBS symptoms by changing your diet. I recommend an ultra-simple, anti-inflammatory diet that is low in allergens, refined carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods. You might also want to remove foods that can be irritating to the gut, such as gluten, dairy, grains and beans.
Here are 10 dietary tips that can help reverse or prevent IBS and IBS symptoms and create good gut health:
1. Eat protein. Make sure to eat protein at every meal, even breakfast. This helps to avoid blood sugar imbalances that can feed bad gut bacteria. Eat lots of clean and sustainably-raised animal protein, including fish, turkey, chicken and lean cuts of lamb, as well as plenty of vegetable protein such as nuts, beans, seeds and tofu.
2. Eat high-fiber foods. Whole grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit all contain beneficial fiber which is good for you and your gut.
3. Don’t be scared of fat! But only the healthy fats. Eat lots of cold-water wild salmon, sardines, herring, flax seed and even seaweed to get Omega-3 fats. Try to eat more grass-fed or organic animal products. And completely eliminate all hydrogenated fat that is found in margarine, shortening and processed oils, as well as many baked goods and processed foods. Replace with healthy oils, such as coconut oil, olive oil (especially extra virgin olive oil), cold pressed sesame oil and other nut oils.
4. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least 8 to 10 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables a day. These help not only with IBS, but they also contain disease fighting vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules.
5. Cut out processed food. This includes processed junk food, sodas, juices and diet drinks, as they can all impact sugar and lipid metabolism. Liquid sugar calories are the biggest contributor to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
6. Add in herbs and supplements. Eliminating IBS requires that you get rid of the bad stuff, but you need to replace it with good for you herbs and supplements. Nutrients like zinc, vitamin A, glutamine, omega-3 fats (fish oil) and evening primrose oil can help repair the gut lining. I also use herbs like quercetin and turmeric to reduce inflammation and heal a leaky gut.
7. Reduce stress. Incorporate stress reducing activities such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga into your daily life. You might also consider trying my relaxing UltraCalm CD.
8. Get some sleep. Not getting enough sleep can make you fat and lead to depression, pain, heart disease, diabetes and so many other problems. Aim for 7-8 hours a night.
9. Exercise regularly. Daily exercise can help with so many health issues. Even 30 minutes of vigorous walking works, but if you want something more strenuous, try high-intensity interval training or weight resistance.
10. Take probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that can really help your digestive tract! Take very high-potency probiotics (look for at least 25 billion live CFU’s from diversified strains of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces boulardii), twice a day for one to two months. It helps to start slowly to see how the probiotics affect your gut. Sometimes, certain individuals may need to delay probiotics until they have healed their gut lining. Eating fermented foods like kimchi also contributes to healthy gut flora.
IBS can cause painful and disabling IBS symptoms. However, there is a way to help. First, I recommend you consult with a functional medicine doctor to determine the root cause to your IBS. Causes vary by individual and can include food allergies or gut imbalances. However, you can get immediate results to your IBS symptoms by following my 10 dietary tips. By following my approach, most people can heal their IBS and IBS symptoms and improve their gut health.
Wishing you health and happiness.
Did you know that Further Food Collagen Peptides can help repair your intestinal lining and heal leaky gut? Learn more here!
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