IBS – Food For Healing Thought
by Sophie Greenwood
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome? More commonly referred to as IBS.
Well in the simplest terms, IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system. About two in 10 people in the UK have it. Globally, around 20% of us that we know of.  You can develop IBS at any age, but you usually have your first symptoms when you’re between 20 and 30. Women are also twice as likely to get it as men. 
For those of us that suffer, it is more than a symptom that settles in the gut. It can feel almost like a stew of anxiety with a big dollop of bloating and a hearty side of cramps. Not nice.
There are no patterns when it comes to IBS either . Symptoms tend to come and go and can last for days, weeks or months at a time. Months!! Most people who suffer, unfortunately tend to suffer for life. We at Gutsy understand this can be incredibly frustrating to live with and that it can have a huge impact on your everyday life.
What’s The Cause of IBS?
The exact cause is still unknown. As with most research into our body’s most under-rated organ, there is still very little in the way of findings which we’re working to change. That said, it's been linked to things like food passing through your gut too quickly or too slowly, oversensitive nerves in your gut as well as a family history of IBS and stress.
Stress is often linked to IBS but more often as something that intensifies symptoms. It can often be said to lead to a vicious circle where symptoms cause stress and stress worsens symptoms. Some studies  have shown that patients with enduring emotional stress are more prone to developing symptoms linked with IBS.
Medically, it is defined as a syndrome that affects the large intestine. There is no conclusive test that can be done for IBS, although doctors can confidently diagnose it based on characteristic symptoms. It’s important to get an official diagnosis to rule out anything more sinister that can have similar symptoms like coeliac disease or colon cancer. Even though there is no cure, simple nutritional changes to your daily diet, stress management and lifestyle can often help control the symptoms which is what we’re here to help with. At Gutsy we like to advocate the ‘whole person’ approach, especially when we know there is a huge link between your gut and your brain.
Keeping a food diary can help you to join the links between your gut symptoms and certain common ‘trigger’ foods like caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, excessive fat intake, and lactose (a natural sugar found in dairy). If you find that one of these are linked to your symptoms, you could try restricting how much you have and seeing if your symptoms improve. Other small tips and tricks can be to chew your food well by savouring each mouthful, eating at a slower pace and avoiding a big meal just before bedtime. If you have constipation, try gradually working up to 2tbsp of linseeds a day as this may help. Do make sure that you are drinking enough water (at least 1.5L) as this can help ease your symptoms of constipation especially if you are increasing your fibre intake.
It’s important to acknowledge the mind-body connection in IBS. Stress is a common trigger of IBS symptoms, as the brain is linked to the lining of the gut through a complex web of nerve endings as well as cross-talk with our gut microbiome. Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation and hypnotherapy  have been shown to be an effective part of IBS treatment, but you could also try yoga, or visiting a counsellor or psychologist found in our help pages.
There has been a number of studies and systematic reviews of the effect of probiotics on IBS symptoms, and while we don’t get fully know which strains and doses are the most beneficial there is evidence to say that probiotics can improve gut symptoms for some IBS suffers. Choosing a multi-strain probiotic such as Symprove may help to relieve some of these uncomfortable effects. 
It is best to try these strategies first. However, if you are still experiencing issues you might find that a low FODMAP diet can improve your symptoms.
A low FODMAP diet can be confusing and restrictive, so it’s strongly recommended to see a FODMAP-trained dietitian to support you.
IBS FODMAP Treatment
You may be familiar with the term FODMAP. It is an acronym that stands for: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are a group of fermentable carbohydrates that are found in some but not all fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, sweeteners, pulses and beans.  While some of these FODMAPs can act as beneficial food for our gut microbiome, for many people with IBS they can exacerbate symptoms, increasing levels of bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. Recent research from Monash University showed that a low FODMAP diet can help 75% of people who suffer from diarrhea-type IBS.
A low FODMAP diet can be confusing and restrictive, so it’s strongly recommended to see a FODMAP-trained dietitian to support you. The low FODMAP diet is usually only for two to six weeks, and the dietitian will then help you gently introduce back each type to an amount you can tolerate, usually unique to you . During this phase, the aim of the game is to:
See if any moderate-to-high FODMAP foods can be re-introduced and for you to continue to maintain control over your IBS symptoms. It is really important to re-introduce these for long term gut health as many FODMAPs are also beneficial prebiotics that help your gut microbiota flourish.
If you think you’d like to try a low FODMAP diet, our help pages can link you to a low FODMAP-trained Dietitian who specialises in this area.
1 - Facts about IBS.
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5 - S Wilson, T Maddison, L Roberts, S. Greenfield, S. Singh et all. Systematic review: the effectiveness of hypnotherapy in the management of irritable bowel syndrome - 16 August 2006.
6 - Sisson G, Ays S, Sherwood RA, Bjarnason I. Randomised clinical trial: A liquid multi-strain probiotic vs. placebo in the irritable bowel syndrome-a 12 week double-blind study. Ailment Pharmacol, 2014 Jul;40(1):51-62.
7 - Mayo Clinic Diseases, Conditions, Symptoms, Causes, IBS.
8 - MONASH FODMAP. It is not a diet for life.
Communications Consultant and Writer Sophie Greenwood, is on a mission to help impart the best communication around the subject of Gut Health through her work with Gutsy. A topic she has been interested in for years as she herself has IBS and has worked with a plethora of experts within the health and wellness industry with differing views, Sophie believes that whatever the issue may be, it can be bettered by the right intake of food. Founder of Season Communications, Sophie continually strives to add value to Gutsy by using unique creativity and a holistic approach to her work so that Gutsy can communicate the very best advice to achieve the strongest results.