Today, digestive problems and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have become familiar terms with over 40% of the country suffering from digestive discomfort in some way.
There is often more than one cause of an individual's IBS and these can vary from person to person. Many IBS sufferers also tend to have a range of symptoms that do not appear to come from the bowel, but can be related to other symptoms such as headaches, backache, insomnia, tiredness and muscle pain. A common factor in the majority of those with IBS is a depletion of good bacteria in the gut, which can lead to an over-sensitive and irritable gut lining.
IBS symptoms tend to increase during stressful periods, and can also be aggravated by eating certain foods. The most common intolerances are dairy products and grains especially wheat. Removing these foods from your diet for several weeks can indicate if they are problematic for you, and to be avoided during a flare up. Coffee and spicy foods can also be irritating. Although everyone knows about the benefits of fibre for regular digestion, those with an over-sensitive gut lining and imbalanced gut flora will find some grains, vegetables and legumes difficult to digest. Avoiding gassy fruits and vegetables that contain fermentable sugars (FODMAPS) that are poorly absorbed in a damaged small intestine can reduce excess gas. I'd advise sticking to the more tolerable soluble fibre that can be found in rolled oats (porridge), linseeds, ripe fruits (bananas) and non-starchy vegetables (carrots, celery, bok choy, lettuce). Insoluble bran fibre is often too harsh for sensitive IBS sufferers whereas psyllium husk (found in products such as Lepicol) has been shown to be a much gentler and efficient natural alternative supplement.
Your bad bacteria produce more gas than the good'uns and especially love fermenting simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. Reducing processed products such as white pasta, rice and breads, baked goods (cakes, biscuits, pastries), some breakfast cereals, chocolate, sweets, commercial fruit juices, fizzy drinks and alcohol can help to control the overgrowth of the bad guys.
Our sedentary and fast-paced lifestyle is also to blame - the justchewit survey found that we eat all three meals in 23 minutes on average! Eating slowly and chewing well a balanced wholefood diet including fish, some meat, eggs, fresh juices and soups, often leads to a decline in symptoms and eased digestion.
Probiotics are known to help restore a healthy gut flora and lining, which helps to aid the efficient digestion of foods, regular healthy bowel movements, support immunity and have been reported to improve IBS symptoms in some people. NICE approves the use of a month's trial of probiotics to reduce IBS symptoms. Multi-strain probiotics are said to have a wider range of benefits than single strains. Bio-Kult is a unique multi-strain probiotic with 14 strains of beneficial bacteria, which enables it to deliver high concentrations of beneficial bacteria to the gut to reduce the symptoms of IBS and ensure you can enjoy a stress and indigestion-free life.
So this April when IBS Awareness Month hits, make sure your digestive issues are a thing of the past.