You’ve been diagnosed with IBS, what now?

A different kind of diagnosis:

First things first  – realise that IBS is not really a diagnosis in the true sense of the word “the art or act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms” (definition from Merriam Webster). It’s actually a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’, meaning you’re told you have ‘IBS’ when there’s nothing else making any sense from your case history, symptoms & all the testing you’ve had done. It’s not bowel cancer, not coeliac disease, not diverticulitis, not inflammatory bowel disease, not a food intolerance…hmmm – you must have ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome ‘. I guess it’s much more comforting hearing that from your Dr / specialist than ‘we have no idea what is making you feel so unwell’ (which is also usually true).

“Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of a specific and unique organic pathology, although microscopic inflammation has been documented in some patients”.  (Medscape) Keywords here are ‘functional gastrointestinal disorder’ & ‘in the absence of a specific and unique organic pathology’.  This means that the gut is not functioning normally, but there appears to be nothing wrong with it…no disease process going on…nothing that shows up on the tests currently available anyway.

A new definition for functional gut disorders:

“Functional GI disorders are disorders of gut-brain interaction. It is a group of disorders classified by GI symptoms related to any combination of the following: motility disturbance, visceral hypersensitivity, altered mucosal and immune function, altered gut microbiota, and altered central nervous system processing” I’ll explain briefly what these all mean below:

  • motility disturbance = how the bowel contracts & causes movement of food & waste through the GIT isn’t normal.
  • visceral hypersensitivity = gut distension / pain / discomfort is felt more strongly & acutely.
  • altered mucosal & immune function = your gut immune axis is a bit wonky. Your gut lining & gut bugs that live there aren’t working together optimally.
  • altered gut microbiota = your gut microbial balance is out. The ‘ecosystem’ inside you has been disturbed or just isn’t harmonious.
  • altered central nervous system processing = your brain is processing signals from the gut differently to normal.

If you suspect you may have IBS but aren’t really one for going to the dr, one IBS ‘self-test’ you can do is: eat normal healthy food for a month & if you often suffer from bloating, pain, discomfort, irregular bowel motions…then there’s a good chance you have IBS! If your gut is doing really weird & annoying things (sometimes extremely painful & debilitating weird things that can be so intense you become anxious, depressed & even suicidal)…it’s highly likely you have IBS. 

EVEN THOUGH AN IBS DIAGNOSIS IS NOT REALLY A TRUE DIAGNOSIS – IT’S IMPORTANT. IF YOU’RE SUFFERING FROM GUT SYMPTOMS & THINK IT MAY BE IBS, GET YOURSELF CHECKED OUT BY A PRACTITIONER ASAP. IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO EXCLUDE SOME OTHER CONDITIONS THAT MAY HAVE SIMILAR SYMPTOMS, BUT MUCH MORE SEVERE CONSEQUENCES IF LEFT UNDIAGNOSED.

(Things like coeliac disease, food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, or even cancer can present with IBS-like symptoms). Get your badly-behaved gut checked!

IBS Sub-Types:

Realise that your IBS is not the same as the IBS your neighbour / friend / colleague / mum / aunty may be experiencing. Remember, just because your gut trouble has been given the same name as theirs, it doesn’t mean you have the same stuff happening or the same cause, or the same triggers.

There are many recognised IBS sub-types: these just narrow it down a little, but still don’t mean that treatment or triggers will be the same.

  1. IBS-C (constipation is the predominant symptom)
  2. IBS-D (diarrhoea predominant)
  3. IBS-M or A (mixed or alternating. This is the best of both worlds, with both diarrhoea & constipation experienced often).
  4. Post-Infectious IBS (usually begins after a bout of gastro, food poisoning or traveller’s diarrhoea, but not necessarily so soon after that you’ll connect the dots). This one is more of a cause than a sub-type, as post-infectious IBS can morph into any of the above types, though more commonly IBS-D or M.

…then, of course, there will be subtypes within the subtypes.  And you can switch from one sub-type to another, maybe CBD (confused bowel syndrome) could also be a sub-type? 

Warning Signs – Don’t Ignore These:

If you have tummy symptoms that you think may be IBS, but also experience any of the following – you need to get checked out ASAP!

  • Fever
  • Persistent ongoing diarrhoea
  • Unexplained or significant weight loss
  • Blood in stools or dark coloured / black looking stools
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Nausea & / or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain that isn’t relieved completely by having a bowel motion
  • Initial onset of symptoms occurring after age 50

So – now that you have your ‘diagnosis’, (or whatever it is)…what to do?

In most cases, upon ‘diagnosis’ with IBS you will have been offered various medications – something to block you up when you have diarrhoea, laxatives to help you go when constipated, some type of fibre supplement, some probiotics & maybe some antispasmodics to help control bowel contractions / cramping.  

The Low FODMAP Diet:

If you’re lucky, your GP / gastroenterologist has referred you to a dietician, nutritionist or naturopath who can help you try & figure out food triggers using a Low FODMAP diet (which limits certain rapidly fermentable carbohydrates known to cause IBS symptoms). My advice would be to shove the medications to the back of the cupboard, to be used in times of great need, but try your hardest to understand & follow the Low FODMAP diet & get an understanding of how FODMAPs affect your gut. While it won’t help everybody, for many it can be an absolute game-changer. But don’t go it alone, get help – FODMAPs can be super-confusing with an already confusing gut! The diet, when used properly, can help up to 75% of people diagnosed with IBS to manage their symptoms & feel more in control very quickly, so this is the first step to take. At least give it a go to find out if it will be useful for you – one potentially great tool in your IBS management toolkit.  

Note – a Low FODMAP diet is not meant to be a long-term diet, nor is it recommended for those without IBS. It is a tool to manage gastrointestinal symptoms, & great for general gut awareness, but is not recommended as a healthy life-long diet choice as many very healthy (& prebiotic) foods are excluded.

Some More Natural Tools for IBS Management:

  • hypnotherapy (proven to be useful in IBS management), check out the Monash Uni research on this
  • meditation (proven to be effective for stress management, which is critical with IBS)
  • other forms of stress management. I cannot stress enough how strongly stress will impact your IBS. Stress can cause everything to grind to a halt – when you’re fighting or fleeing, you aren’t eating / digesting. It will interfere with the migrating motor complex & also stomach acid production (which can lead to constipation, SIBO & all round poor digestion). Do ‘whatever floats your boat’ & helps you sail through life more happily – make time for it! Exercise, funny movies, massage, yoga, deep breathing, art, music…find your pressure release valve & hit it really regularly)!
  • sleep, get enough. When we’re stressed out & not sleeping properly, our gut microbial balance changes (not in a good way), & that can make sleeping well even harder. It really is a cycle – bad gut, stress, worse gut, worse stress….until the nervous system & gut are completely dysfunctional.
  • herbal relief (slippery elm, turmeric, aloe vera, herbal antimicrobials, bitter liver herbs, pomegranate, ginger, peppermint, berberine & polyphenol-rich herbs…get professional guidance from a naturopath, functional GP or herbalist for best results. Many plant extracts have been proven to help with IBS, or have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years to support healthy digestion).
  • leave spaces between eating (give your migrating motor complex a chance to ‘clean up’)
  • probiotics & fermented foods  (these can be hit & miss, so it’s best to get help from a practitioner who knows their bifido from their bacillus!) Some supplemental strains may aggravate some IBS people, e.g. SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) people usually don’t tolerate the common & usually beneficial Lactobacillus strains well. In general, I think it’s best to try to get probiotics from foods, but sometimes capsules or powder are just more convenient.
  • prebiotics (get help again, taking prebiotics can significantly alter your gut microbial balance, so you need to work with someone who can choose what is most appropriate for your system. Once again – prebiotic foods are generally better than supplements as they contain more diverse types of fibre & because mother nature made them, not some factory).
  • exercise (moderation is key, being sedentary means poor gut function & microbial diversity, but overdoing exercise can hurt your gut).
  • intermittent fasting (this can help by giving the gut a longer rest period in between meals & also can cause changes to the gut microbial population).
  • fat / fibre / carbs / protein (experiment with what fuels your body best. Some feel better on a high-fat diet, some seem to function better with more carbs…see what works best for you). Fibre is crucial to good gut function as it provides food to support your beneficial gut bugs – just increase gradually to avoid gas & bloating
  • ACV / lemon water (many people swear by these, taken first thing in the morning to ‘wake up’ & prime the digestive system for action).
  • magnesium (helps many with IBS-C, plus it’s great for helping you relax if you’re deficient – which is extremely common. Constipated stress-heads LOVE magnesium).
  • charcoal (handy to carry capsules in your handbag to swallow if you’re prone to gas & bloating).
  • coffee (be careful with caffeine – it is a bowel stimulant. Everyone responds differently but just be aware of it. Some use it as a morning stimulant to help them ‘go’, others find it gives them the runs & need to avoid entirely).
  • carbonated beverages (will aggravate bloating, just be aware).
  • alcohol (some types may be ok in moderation but it depends – listen to your body).
  • self-massage (great to help unblock trapped gas pockets or help move things along, add some peppermint oil into a carrier oil or moisturiser).
  • get enough sleep (if you’re not sleeping well, your gut microbial balance won’t be optimal & neither will your ability to handle stress).
  • gluten & dairy (2 really common triggers – aside from FODMAP’s, although there is overlap, worth trialling a GF DF period of a few weeks-months to see how you feel).
  • sugar (makes you fat, moody, pimply, rots your teeth…& disrupts your gut microbial health. IBS is just one more great reason to minimise it).
  • avoid antibiotics where you can (wiping out your gut ecosystem & hoping something that functions well grows back is a huge gamble that quite often ends in a long-term gut issue). Sometimes antibiotics can be useful though, to ‘clean the slate’ so you can start from scratch again – eating well & making an effort to cultivate & nurture a better ecosystem.
  • medication review
  • other medications can list IBS-like symptoms as a ’side effect’ (ask your pharmacist for detailed digestive info on your drugs).
  • look into an FMT (faecal microbe transplant). Although not commonly recommended for IBS, definitely worth getting an expert opinion if nothing else is helping you. Be aware that there are potential risks involved, but also massive potential for making much needed gut microbial changes. This treatment would need to be supported with many of the above tips for best results (otherwise, you’ll likely end up back in the same place again after a while).

Some Kind of Normality!

New found control of IBS symptoms can help immensely with getting some normality back into life, as it’s not just your bowel motions that IBS affects. It’s your productivity, your employment options; your ability to travel, study, attend classes & events; your relationships, your social life, your sex-life, your parenting ability…your mental-emotional well-being. Everything. When your gut is unpredictable, you can’t say ‘yes’ to things you’d normally love to, for fear that you’ll end up: looking 5mths pregnant, suffering extreme pain, getting extremely embarrassed, being stuck in a hotel room, having to answer a million questions, feeling uncomfortable, or just plain starving.

People with normal healthy bowel function tend to take this kind of freedom for granted. If this is you – spare a thought for those whose gut literally dictates their life! 

If you have tried other methods that have been successful please email me, I’m still learning & the best teachers are people living the day-to-day IBS rollercoaster!

Jeanie xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

 

P.s. In this episode of Eat Play Poo – I talk to Marina Iacovou from the Monash University, and she gives some great insights to the future of IBS – it’s about an hour long be we had a great chat :-)

Building Poos – you Don’t Just do Them

Contrary to what we all say, you don’t just ‘do’ a poo. It’s a lot more involved. You actually have to build it, prepare it for shipping & then move it (well the moving kinda happens at the same time as the building & prepping for shipping…like a mobile building team). It’s just like building an impressive sculpture or artwork, while simultaneously shipping it to its destination (obviously Uranus).  

So…if you often find yourself struggling to ‘do’ a poo, you should think of it more like ‘something is going wrong with the building materials or the workers, or there’s an issue with the shipping’. Ask yourself the following Q’s: 

Building Materials for Building Poos:

Am I consuming enough fibre, with plenty of variety? If you’re slack in this department, pooing for you will be like trying to create a giant outdoor sculpture using a handful of play-doh & a team of 2 people – you’ll never succeed because you simply don’t have enough material to work with or enough workers. Good dietary poo-building materials include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, & legumes. Unrefined plant food basically, & not just a small amount. To succeed in ‘poo production’ your diet needs to be mostly made up of unrefined plants (have a think about what your dinner plate looks like – chances are it needs more plants). Eating a large range of plant products is also crucial. More types of fibre = more types of gut bug (that’s a good thing, it means you’ll have a nice diverse team of workers with many skills!) Plant food provides food to support plenty of microbes (your team of builders) who will gobble it up, use it as an energy source to grow & carry out all their amazing helpful duties & reproduce (with a healthy poo as the byproduct). A poo is largely made up of these microbes (the accumulated bodies of exhausted / dead workers as well as loads of still-alive ones). There is also of course water, some left-over undigested plant matter & some bits n pieces of you from your gut lining & its secretions. Behold! A multi-media, living sculpture! You’ve just got to keep providing the inspiring building materials to keep your skilled workers happy & busy!

Workers Needed for Building Poos:

Do I have enough team members? Your gut-microbes are your poo-builders & sculptors (among other things, that’s just one of their more obvious roles). They like to keep busy, but they also appreciate a rest – so give them plenty of plant foods to eat but also provide some downtime (this will allow your gut to clean up after them as they build & sculpt & do their thing). Some people have a poo problem because there is a problem with the workers. Their population may have been wiped out by repeated bombing (with chemicals, medications, antibiotics etc), or there may be a skill shortage. If you’re missing important microbial strains you could be trying to build a house without a plumber or painter or electrician. You can still do it, but the building process won’t be so smooth & the end product will be imperfect. So, if your poos are imperfect / you feel like the building process isn’t going smoothly – get some new workers! Ask at your local health food store for a good multi-strain probiotic (you only want workers with good references)! And grab some kefir, kimchi, sauerkrout & yoghurt while you’re in there. 

Delivery Process: 

How are the roads? Think of your gut as the ‘road’ & your nervous system as the computer system controlling what goes where, at what speed & at what time. So the road needs to be kept in good condition, it needs constant maintenance & repair (which your workers will mostly do while they’re building, as long as you’re supplying the plant foods they need). The digestive ‘road’ has it’s own favourite building materials needed for big repairs as well.  Along with what the workers generate from the breakdown of fibre (short chain fatty acids), your gut also loves the amino acids glutamine, glycine & proline (make bone broth a regular addition to your diet if your gut-lining needs repair work). 

The control system:

Are you in charge? How’s the control tower – aka your nervous system? This also plays a huge role in determining how things move along. Too stressed & you can cause major blockages or even the opposite, uncontrollable flow of unfinished work (loose stool). Worse still is a constant alternation between the two! Sleep well, exercise well & have a plan to help you when stress creeps in, it will always be potentially there ready to get you, you just need to be prepared & have your coping mechanisms at the ready (& not just wine – I’m talking yoga, meditation, deep breathing, massage, getting out into nature, connecting with friends, having a good laugh…& maybe a wine every now & then – whatever floats your boat). These things help improve your gut function via activating the ‘rest & digest’ side of your nervous system (most of us spend far too much time in the ‘fight or flight’ response – no wonder digestive issues are so common)!

So…you don’t just ‘do’ a poo. It’s not that simple! You need to constantly supply the correct building materials, attract & keep enough good workers to build it & ensure you have a working delivery system to ensure it gets to its destination on time, every time. If you need some help with the materials try Blend11 or NeoBlend, & if you’d like some more workers to help out try Prescript Assist. PondWater can help with the road repairs & maintenance as well as provide some extra special building materials. 

If you need more support – request to join our gut health community Eat Play Poo or email me anytime. You too could become a great builder / sculptor!

Jeanie X
jeanie@goodmix.com.au 

Why You Need to Focus on Fibre: The Forgotten Nutrient

Protein, carbohydrates & fats have received plenty of attention in the health & medical industries over the past 20 years, with Drs & diet gurus telling us to ‘eat less fat’, ‘increase complex carbs’, ‘increase protein’ & then ‘eat more fat’ ‘decrease carbs’ & ‘eat less animal protein’….it’s confusing & exhausting just trying to keep up with research & changing opinions! Many of us health-conscious people now have a substantial collection of conflicting dietary advice books, largely focussed on fat, carbs & protein….but fibre has been quietly sitting in the corner waiting its turn – left out of the equation & only seen as important for constipated folks.

It makes sense – we humans can’t actually digest fibre. It’s obviously not that important to our health if we can’t break it down into anything usable, right?…it’s just good to keep everything moving through the bowel, right?

WRONG! It seems as though fibre will finally start getting the massive attention it deserves, now we’re discovering all the links between our gut microbes & health. Did you know that your fibre intake can influence everything in the list below? And this is just a very basic short list, there are many, many more.  

  • weight loss & body composition
  • cholesterol problems & cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes & metabolic syndrome
  • inflammation in the gut & throughout the body
  • allergies, eczema, asthma & hay fever
  • skin issues
  • mood disorders & mental health
  • energy levels
  • hormone balance
  • Immunity
  • digestion & absorption of nutrients

How Does Fibre Effect Your Gut Health?

The reasons it can help with the above list are complex – but basically, fibre helps to improve your ‘internal ecosystem’ (specifically your gut microbial diversity & abundance). Our gut bugs eat whatever makes it through into the large intestine intact (i.e. fibre), & when they are well fed every day – they do all kinds of great things for us. Our gut is like an internal compost heap, & the rest of our body the garden. When our gut is working well it can generate a lot of goodness to nourish & heal our body, & when it is not working properly – the entire system will struggle. The research on this topic is fascinating, & will completely change the way we look at food, medicine & health over the coming years.

Quick! Get Me Some Fibre, Any Fibre Will Do!!

Not so fast. Before you reach for the ‘All-Bran’, you need to know that DIVERSITY is really important with your fibre intake. 

The old approach of using a single source fibre supplement (i.e. bran, psyllium, inulin etc) may help you to become more regular, but is not optimal to support overall good gut health & microbial balance (which is a foundation of good overall health). You can’t just ‘fix’ a low fibre diet with a few tablespoons of some supplement! It’s like relying on just one type of vegetable for your vitamins & minerals, instead of eating a variety – you’ll miss out on so many nutrients & end up really unbalanced.  

We carry (in our large intestine) many different types / strains of fibre-loving microbes, & they all have different food preferences. Relying heavily on one type of fibre will create an unbalanced population as you overfeed some of these critters, but neglect to feed the rest – so you end up with an overproliferation of the ‘few’ who love & thrive on all-bran, or psyllium, or inulin, or prunes, or whatever – & these guys can take over / over-crowd the gut ecosystem leaving little room for the rest.

The key is to eat plenty of fibre daily, & ensure that you are getting it from loads of different kinds of plants – ie a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, seaweed, herbs & other plant fibre sources with diverse polysaccharides (parts of the plant that we cannot digest in the upper GI tract, but that will become food for our microbes in the bowel). Hint – these are not found in the refined foods that we’ve become accustomed to over the past 50 years!

Refined sugars & starches tip the balance in the wrong way – they support the growth of the bad guys. Not to mention the gut bacterial impact of things like preservatives, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers etc…these additives may have been ‘tested safe for human consumption’ but unless we know how they are impacting our gut ecosystem – how can we really know their long-term effects? The indirect health impact (through our gut bugs) may in fact be quite significant. The point is – we need to keep our diet as natural as possible, & include a good variety of nutritious plants to keep our gut bugs well fed, & balanced, thus maintaining a thriving internal ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the opposite is generally true. The average westerner eats too many refined carbs, a lot of sugar & poor quality fats, plenty of artificials with very limited fermentable fibre – sourced from only a few different types of unrefined plants (a token daily apple or lettuce & tomato on their lunchtime burger).

This means we are providing copious amounts of simple carbs / sugars to feed the ‘bad guys’, & very little roughage for the good guys in the bowel. As a result, there is precious little fermentation happening in the large intestine, which is one of the absolutely vital keys to good health – fibre is the fermentation material needed by our bowel bugs – they convert complex carbs (from fibrous foods) into SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids), which are potent anti-inflammatory substances & key nutrients for maintaining the health & integrity of the gut lining – among many other things (worth reading up on).

My Own Internal Anti-inflammatory Factory??

Gut bugs + diverse fibre = home-made anti-inflammatories = better health & happiness = yay! When you think about inflammation as a cause / key contributor in almost all modern disease states – it makes really good sense to be feeding our own ‘anti-inflammatory generators’ with diverse fibre, every day, as a priority.

It has even been questioned whether just adding a heap of plant fibre to a junk food diet can somewhat mitigate the damage / inflammation caused by the junk in this way…questioned, but not proven.

When Food Shopping, Think About This…

The less processed our food is, the more likely that it will make it through our stomach & small intestine undigested, which may sound like a bad thing… BUT, it is these undigested fibrous foods that become food for our friendly helper-bugs! I.e. raw veg are better for the bugs than cooked, whole grains better than refined flour… we seem to do best on a combination of really unrefined foods & some more refined / easier to digest stuff, but experts believe the modern diet is much too far towards the ‘easy to digest’ processed end of the spectrum.

Do The Experiment! 

If your gut is not super-sensitive / already out of whack, do an experiment on yourself by increasing your intake of unprocessed plant foods (making sure to focus on diversity), & just see what happens. Go slowly to transition comfortably – increase your intake gradually over time rather than all at once, or you may initially become bloated, gassy, uncomfortable & possibly constipated as your unprepared, unpopulated gut struggles to deal with the sudden influx of fibre. Over a few days / weeks though, your population of bacterial fibre-munchers should increase hugely & become much more healthy & diverse. Take note of how this effects you – look for changes in regularity / gut symptoms, body composition / weight-loss, mood, brain function, skin, immunity, aches & pains…it’s such an easy experiment with massive potential gains! If you feel that there’s no way you can tolerate fibrous foods due to severe gut symptoms – look into the low FODMAP diet. This can help many with IBS / gut issues to uncover the foods that are setting off their pain / bloating / gut symptoms.

Everyone is Different:

Remember that every gut is different, & the high fibre diet that works well for your neighbour might make you feel awful. This can be because you & your neighbour both have different digestive systems & gut bacterial populations. You may have lots of bean-loving bugs, but your neighbour may have very few, so she may feel uncomfortable after a big bowl of high-fibre hommus & celery sticks whereas you can thrive on it. Maybe apricots are ok for your neighbour but give you diarrhoea. Different fibre will have varying effects on different people, & sometimes it’s all in the dose. If you’re not used to a particular food, or way of eating – make changes gradually to ensure a smooth transition, or get some help from a professional to start with. 

So introduce slowly, find out what works for you, & enjoy the whole-body benefits of eating more fibre!

Print out this Bristol Stool Chart and laminate for the toilet door, & leave it there until your kids know exactly what they should be doing (or pooing) each day, & the many reasons they might go off track. You could save them from a heap of pain, stress & money later on in life by teaching them the importance of gut health.

Your visitors will get a good laugh (& possibly an education) too :-)

Click the image to get the free chart.

Bristol Stool Chart
Best Poos Ever

My Poo Story / Join the ‘Poo Club’

Yep – it’s a private Facebook group for poo enthusiasts! This is the place where you can ask anything (yup, anything), share your own bad poo stories / good poo tips, gut health resources & experiences, & just feel free to chat about stuff that…nobody ever really feels comfortable chatting about in the outside world! No faeca-phobes allowed, this is a gut health zone & you can’t effectively cover gut health without a heap of poo talk!!

So don’t be shy – jump in & invite your friends. With this group, we’d love to be able to connect with:

  • anybody currently suffering from gut problems & looking for help
  • anybody who’s previously had gut problems but managed to fix them
  • anybody keen to learn more about gut health in general
  • anybody who’s good at / qualified in helping people with gut problems

So when you join, take some time to share your gut / poo story so that everyone has an idea of where you’re coming from & why you’re ‘in’!

 

JOIN THE PRIVATE GROUP

Here’s my poo story to get things moving (pun intended).

Looking back, my own poo problems as a kid were the catalyst for starting a career in the natural health field, so I guess I am now very thankful for them! I grew up on a cattle & sheep farm, in outback Qld. My mum was the best mum in the world in most ways, but an ex-nurse, & a bit of a worry-wort (bad combo)! Growing up on a farm was a great thing for my gut / immune system – I had lots of exposure to microbes from all the animals, dirt, manure etc that I was exposed to constantly from a young age. But mum coming from a nursing background (having seen lots of very, very sick children) was perhaps not such a great thing! Especially since at the time (the 80’s) there was no holding back on the prescription of antibiotics – they were given out like lollies. I was always getting coughs & colds (like many kids), & I cannot count the courses of antibiotics I would have been given to ‘treat’ them (a cough could easily lead to pneumonia & death remember!). I recall one time for a particularly nasty & long-lasting cough I took 7 courses of back-to-back antibiotics!!! No wonder that by the time I was 11, & went away to boarding school – my immune system was shot to pieces & there was some serious gut trouble brewing.

Leaving home at 11 was in hindsight a fairly stressful event (although I was totally keen & ready to go, there was a lot of change as I went from being home-schooled to fitting into a schedule with bells for everything, new people everywhere & completely different food that was only available at certain times). I lived in a dorm with around 40 other girls (only a few of us were still in primary school, the rest were older). It was nerve-wracking going to the bathroom for number 2’s as you were almost never alone, & at that age sharing my poo-stink & noises with everyone else was not something I was comfortable with! So – not knowing any better or thinking anything of it, I began to hold off until ‘the coast was clear’. Not a good idea, especially given the state of my already antibiotic-ravaged bowel! I would avoid the disgusting boarding school food & was living on sugary cereal or toast for breakfast, then sandwiches, cream buns or cake were morning tea, followed by a stack of 4-6 slices of white bread at lunch…with more cake / buns / sandwiches for afternoon tea, then depending what was on offer for dinner I’d eat it, or again have more bread & dessert to fill me up until homework break time where we had flavoured milk or juice, plus cream biscuits!  Looking back, knowing what I do now – I don’t actually know how we all survived on that kind of diet!! Plus the extra junk food we’d buy from the tuck shop when we had money, & the weekend excursions to Sizzler / Pizza Hut / McDonalds!

It was sometime in that first year away that I started to notice weird things happening with my bladder (don’t worry I’ll get to the bowel bit).  I would get the urge to pee really often & really urgently, & would have to run from class – then there would be hardly any pee (?) & I’d have to keep going to the loo all day like this. I can’t remember too many details, but in the end I was taken to see a paediatrician who found (by ultrasound or x-ray) that my bowel was at 3x it’s normal holding capacity & that the ‘poo build-up’ was causing constant pressure on my bladder!

I was given a heap of foul things to swallow – paraffin oil I think, & laxatives…& told not to avoid the urge to go anymore (no dietary advice other than to eat more fruit). I think after that I was more conscious of my bowel activity, but I can’t really remember much happening after that. I was not very healthy during the following years though – I had frequent bouts of vaginal thrush, very painful periods, skin issues & I missed a lot of school with colds that would turn into bronchitis, I had glandular fever for a whole term, gallstones & the surgery to remove them….my mum eventually took me to see a naturopath who asked what seemed like a million irrelevant questions about everything, & recognised immediately that my gut still needed a lot of rehabilitation. What she said made so much sense, & I had confidence that she knew more about what was going on inside my body than any of the Drs I’d seen. We walked out of the pharmacy I knew so well, this time with shopping bags full of really weird (& expensive) things that I was to start taking, along with a heap of dietary changes.

I remember taking cascara capsules (stimulating herbal laxatives), hydrated bentonite (detoxing clay liquid), psyllium husk (bulking fibre laxative), Pau D’arco bark (anti fungal herb tea – that was the worst), probiotics, liquid liver herbs, omegas & a heap of other really gross stuff. By this time I was 16 & luckily had switched to living with family friends off the school campus, so I had the ability to choose more healthy foods & take my pile of supplements regularly! This family were awesome, arranging their shopping & cooking to accomodate the ‘weird’ diet I had to switch to. I remember I had to have tuna & lots of salad on yeast free wrap bread for lunches (hard to find at the time) & dinners had to have heaps of veggies & rarely red meat. I had to report back to the naturopath on my bowel movements, energy, mood & what I was eating at each visit. She helped me so much – I can’t remember her name, but she was great.

I felt much better & became fascinated in this strange type of ‘medicine’, & so convinced that the world needed more people sharing this system – that at the end of year 12 I enrolled to study naturopathy. I continued to work on my own health as I studied. I remember the first time I got my usual ‘terrible’ cough / bronchitis that would normally have attracted a course (or 3) of antibiotics, & I stayed away from the Dr.  I was quite nervous (so was mum on the other end of the phone) but I just used fresh garlic, zinc, vit C & echinacea…& I survived, feeling so empowered afterwards!


I’m now 37 & – touch wood – haven’t looked back, or needed to take antibiotics since my teenage years (over 20 yrs). My gut seems to be in the best shape it’s ever been in, but I don’t take that for granted.  I know how easy it is for things to get ‘out of whack’ & I support it every day with my food, supplement, & lifestyle choices, knowing how important my gut health is to my general wellbeing. I’m also very grateful for my experience & learning as it’s allowed me to educate & keep my own kids healthy without the need for pharmaceuticals – I really feel for parents who are trying to raise healthy kids naturally without the training / help I’ve had. As a parent you have to ‘do the best you can with the info that you have’ (like my poor mum was doing)! In this internet age, it’s just so much easier to find health info & to share it –  let’s make the most of it, to help ourselves & others!

Anyway – that was my personal poo story – I hope you learned something from it, or at least can take heart that a terribly unhealthy gut can become healthy again! Please share your own poo stories as you join the page – even if you are in a terrible state & have no idea what’s happening – between all of us, we might just be able to help you get to the bottom of it (pun intended) ; )

 

JOIN THE GROUP & SHARE YOUR POO STORY

Jeanie Xx

Probiotics Make My IBS Feel WORSE, Not Better!

If you have been battling with IBS, you may have tried pre & probiotics unsuccessfully – for some they can really help a lot, but for many they just seem to aggravate the situation. A lot of people with IBS-D (more diarrhoea) find that they get worse bloating, discomfort & loose motions when they take pre & probiotics & eat fermented foods like yoghurt & sauerkrout etc. People with IBS-C (more constipation) may feel even more bloated, blocked & uncomfortable. But why…?

IBS…or SIBO?

IBS sufferers will often test positive for ‘SIBO’ (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which is where you have plenty of ‘good’ bacteria – but for some reason they are hanging out in the wrong place. We want these microbial helpers to prolifically populate the large intestine, but not the small. When you have SIBO, your misplaced gut bugs break down & ferment the carbohydrates that you’ve eaten in your small intestine instead of the large. This causes excess gas production, as well as the resulting gut disturbances (bloating, discomfort, diarrhoea, constipation, irregularity).  It can also cause leaky gut & all the problems that occur when you get things leaking through the damaged gut-lining into your bloodstream (ie allergies / intolerances & autoimmune problems to name a few). Depending on the balance of microbes you have populating your small intestine – you’ll have different gases produced, & you may have more constipation or more diarrhoea.

Different Bugs = Different Gas = Different Symptoms.

This is where it gets really interesting. Bacteria produce hydrogen gas when they ferment carbohydrates. Hydrogen gas is enough to make you feel bloated & give you diarrhoea, but then there are other microbes called ‘archaea’ which feed on the hydrogen produced by the bacterial carb-fermentation. The archaea produce another gas from this process – methane. Having high methane levels in your gut is associated with constipation. So if you have lots of the bacteria in your small intestine (but not the archaea), you’ll likely have bloating / gas / diarrhoea predominant IBS. If you also have the archaea, you’re more likely to be constipated. Remember also that the gut symptoms are only the tip of the iceberg – SIBO sufferers may also have immune system problems, mental / emotional disturbances, poor energy, joint inflammation, skin trouble – your gut can impact every single body system & when it is not balanced, everything else will struggle too.

So…what to do ?

Starve the critters out!

Remove The Bugs, Improve The Symptoms?

The bugs (both bacteria & archaea) depend upon you supplying the easily fermented carbs to survive in the small intestine. If their food supply dries up, they’ll gradually die off / migrate back to the bowel. So many people have great success eliminating their IBS symptoms by starving the SIBO organisms out, & there are some who have success using antibiotics too (these will apparently kill the bacteria, but not the archaea).

Will They Come Back Again?

IBS symptoms are not fun, but neither is permanent dietary restriction! You can definitely improve your symptoms by starving out the bugs, but as soon as you reintroduce their favourite carbohydrate food sources back into your diet, they’ll be back with a vengeance – won’t they? Normally, yes. But if you can figure out & understand ‘why did I end up with too many bacteria in my small intestine in the first place?’,  you’ll have a good chance of keeping things from getting that bad again. When you eat, don’t just consider the nutrition you’re feeding yourself, also consider the gut microbial impact – you need to eat in a way that helps support a balanced ecosystem. And this can vary a lot from person to person!

What Could Cause SIBO In The First Place?

  1. Low stomach acid – this makes the small intestinal environment more welcoming to the bacteria
  2. Stress – your gut bugs are linked to your brain & emotions, in a 2 way communication. Stress can also effect stomach acid production & intestinal movement.
  3. Impaired Intestinal Motility – the gut movements don’t ‘flow’ as they should due to nerve / muscular problems or medication, illness, being sedentary for long periods.
  4. Gastro infections – acute damage to your gut lining & resulting disturbances in your microbial populations can start overgrowths.
  5. Dietary choices – excess refined carbohydrates, sugars, alcohol, & other gut irritating foods i.e. gluten.
  6. Antibiotics & other medications i.e. acid blockers – changing the gut environment & creating imbalance.
  7. Excess pre & probiotics / probiotic rich food & drink – you can sometimes have too much of a good thing. If the small intestinal environment is out of whack to begin with, the influx of bugs & their fave foods can make things much worse. Your tummy will let you know if these caps / foods / drinks don’t agree!

How Can I Get Rid of SIBO?

If you suspect that your gut symptoms may be caused by SIBO, you should get tested. Ask your health professional for a ‘SIBO breath test’ to determine wether you have high levels of hydrogen & / or methane on your breath (sounds gross, but the gasses produced in your gut actually end up in your blood stream & you excrete them via your lungs (& of course out the other end when you fart!) Anyway – first step is to get the test to see if you have high levels of hydrogen & / or methane.

**Get breath-tested by a professional – & if you test positive for SIBO, it is best to work under the guidance of somebody experienced with a SIBO-suitable diet & treatment protocol**

What Is The SIBO Diet & Treatment Like?

You may find following a SIBO friendly diet is all you need to heal your small intestinal lining & reduce the overpopulation of bugs. Or you may need some extra assistance with antimicrobial herbs or even an antibiotic. Symptom relief can happen very quickly but long-term normalisation of the gut will take much longer, this is not a magic bullet!

There are a few diets (& many variations & combinations of them) that can be used for SIBO treatment, The Low FODMAP diet, the GAPS diet, the SCD diet & the Cedars Sinai Diet are all worth exploring – but to get good results with these, please seek the guidance of a professional! You may end up disappointed & rule them out as ‘useless’ just because you aren’t experienced enough to get the best out of them.

If you & your health professional aren’t getting the results you’d like with your gut symptoms, look into the possibility of SIBO, especially if you’re one of those people who can’t tolerate probiotics.

*There are some different types of probiotic that seem to be better tolerated / beneficial for SIBO. While many of the typical formulas tend to aggravate – here are a couple that should be ok for most.

Saccharomyces boulardii – this organism is available from many brands. Just ask in the healthfood store / chemist for an ‘SB probiotic’. It is a yeast which can help crowd out the baddies, & it is also really great to use with antibiotics as a preventative for the all-too-common post AB candida overgrowth.

‘Prescript Assist’ – this is a shelf-stable, broad spectrum (29 strains), soil-based-organism probiotic formula that many with SIBO report having success with.  We’ve added it to our website for purchase as it’s hard to find in stores & I get so many people asking for a good probiotic! We’ve read a lot of positive reviews & even done a few internal trials here ourselves, it seems to be a winner!

Click here to try some ‘Prescript Assist’

If you have any specific questions on Probiotics, just send me an email and I’ll try and help further.

Jeanie Xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

Low FODMAP diet – Why you may want to give it a try.

The Low FODMAP Diet doesn’t sound quite as cool as ‘going raw vegan’ or ‘being Paleo’…it’s kinda clunky sounding & hard to remember, let alone explain to people what it’s all about when they ask you! But – it’s worth a look if you’ve never investigated, it may just be the easiest way to take back control over your badly-behaved bowels! Understanding FODMAP’s is a great tool to have in your gut-health belt. Find more on what is a Low FODMAP Diet here. 

The diet is based on keeping levels of potentially irritating / gut reaction-causing carbohydrates to a safe minimum, so that IBS symptoms are reliably kept at bay by food choices, over a short period of time (2-6 weeks on the diet to lessen the symptoms & try to figure out what effects you most).

The Monash University FODMAP team has studied many many foods, their carbohydrate breakdown & their gut effects to find the levels that will generally ‘set sensitive people off’ & levels that are generally well tolerated. When I say ‘generally’ I mean that for MOST IBS patients (around 3/4 of them) the diet helps to control symptoms (sometimes working as quickly as 1-3 days), & also to uncover their ‘worst’ foods, giving a feeling of being back in control. They then know which foods are likely to set them off & which foods they can eat with confidence.

Blend11 has recently been tested & certified by the Monash University Low FODMAP Certification Program to be ‘Low in FODMAP’s’ at the recommended 50g serving size. That goes some way to explaining why it helps so many with their IBS symptoms, & provides another safe option for many – but if you are wanting to follow the Low FODMAP diet strictly to see if it works for you, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when eating Blend11:

  1. make sure that you stick to the 50g serving size
  2. make sure that you’re not adding large amounts of high FODMAP foods to it

The Monash app (download it from the app store) will give you all the FODMAP info on foods like fruit & yoghurt that people typically eat with their Blend11 – you may find it useful to check levels in what you are combining – if you aren’t quite getting the ‘best poos ever’ from just including Blend11 in your diet! Sometimes it can be that you’ll just need to decrease your serving size of one type of fruit at breakfast to keep your tummy flat & comfortable throughout the day, or replace one type of fruit with another.

As an example, here are just a few good things to put with your Blend11 that are ‘low’ – good to know if you’re struggling with gut issues.  Even if you don’t have ‘IBS’ or any serious gut issue, you may be able to see patterns like ‘when I eat too many apples I feel bloated’ or ‘I can have rockmelon but not watermelon’  etc.

Low / safe to combine at an approved qty:

  • Milks / yoghurts etc: almond milk, lactose free dairy yoghurt or coconut yoghurt (just check for high FODMAP additives i.e. sweetener / flavours / fruits / inulin).

Low FODMAP Fruit – should be ok at approved qty’s:

  • kiwifruit
  • pineapple
  • blueberries
  • bananas  
  • grapes
  • rockmelon
  • honeydew melon
  • mandarins
  • oranges
  • passionfruit
  • paw paw
  • raspberries
  • strawberries

High FODMAP Fruits – watch these for possible reactions / IBS aggrevations:

  • mango
  • apple
  • apricot
  • figs
  • dates
  • currants
  • peaches
  • pears
  • nectarines
  • cherries
  • plums

This is only a very short list of highs & lows as an example! I would highly recommend that you go to the app store & get the Monash app if you’re wanting more options – & if you’re going to try the diet properly, make sure you work in with a diet professional.

FODMAP info in this blog post has been sourced directly from the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet (TM) App. 

Love to hear about your experience following a low FODMAP diet too.

Jeanie Xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

What is a FODMAP?

Should I be avoiding FODMAP ’S too…?

Well first you need to know what they are, & what they can do – then ask yourself that. You may have had friends telling you they are feeling great on a ‘low FODMAP’ diet. Or you might have seen products springing up in supermarkets claiming to be ‘FODMAP friendly’. Do you need to know how many FODMAPS are in your lunch today? Or can you afford to remain ignorant on this one?

Answer this quiz below to see if you need to be worried about FODMAP ‘s…

Never Heard of Them…until now, is this just a new dietary trend?

A Monash university research team developed the low FODMAP diet in 1999. They have proven, through their research that limiting dietary FODMAPs is an effective treatment for many people with symptoms of IBS. The diet has been published in international medical journals and is now widely recommended as one of the most effective dietary therapies for IBS, go Australia!

What is a FODMAP?

The word ‘FODMAP’ stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. It’s basically just an acronym used to remind us of the complex names of a few ‘problem’ carbohydrates that just would not be practical to keep saying you are avoiding, or to write on menus. ‘Excuse me waiter, is this dish free from Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides & Polyols?’ FODMAP’s it is!

Why are FODMAP’s so troublesome?

FODMAP’s ‘suck’ fluid (via osmosis) into the small intestine & bowel. They are also easily fermented by our gut bugs – a byproduct of this process is gas. So all that fluid, plus the gas can = bloating & discomfort. It also influences the muscular contractions that keep things progressing through to the ‘finish line’ (hopefully the toilet). This muscular influence can go either way – faster or slower, resulting in diarrhoea or constipation. But…this only occurs seriously in those battling with IBS – in fact, these very symptoms are generally what people walk in to the Dr complaining of – to then be put into the ‘you have IBS’ box.

So how do I know if I could benefit from avoiding FODMAPs?

Start a food diary – ask your body! Simply write down everything you eat & drink (including supplements etc), the time you consume it, & then in a different column – record how your gut is feeling / any symptoms (also with times of day). A pattern should start to emerge, which might point to a few foods as the main culprits for you. You can then check if they are high in any types of FODMAP’s. Some people are super-reactive to some types, but fine with other FODMAPS. There are many resources which can help with this (I’ll give details below).

What foods are they in?

FODMAP
Click the image for a bigger and better viewing.

There are many food lists online, but if you seriously wish to trial the diet (& you should if suffering from any IBS-type gut issues), I’d advise getting the Monash University App (it is very informative & helpful when shopping / planning meals) & uses a traffic light system to really show how much of a certain food you should be able to have in one sitting. It isn’t free, but will be super valuable to anyone struggling to know what they can & can’t eat. Just head to the app store & get it on your phone – or print out a list from another reputable site & stick in on your fridge / pantry / kitchen bench. Remember to take it grocery shopping, or just keep a copy in the car / handbag.

Is the FODMAP diet a permanent thing? Or can you become FODMAP tolerant again?

The team from Monash Uni recommend the diet as a ‘way to find out which foods are setting you off’, so you can gain control over your IBS symptoms – it is a sort of elimination diet, not a lifelong list of things to avoid. Many people will tolerate some of these carbohydrate-types fine, & can reintroduce them once it’s been established that they do not cause any problems, but some foods may always cause issues for individuals, at least without some sort of intervention (i.e. manipulation of gut bacterial population, or other supplementation).

It’s not fair! Why do some people not need to worry at all?

FODMAPs will still pull fluid into a non-IBS-sufferer’s bowel, & will still be fermented by gut bacteria – but for some reason there are people who experience severe symptoms when this is happening…& people who don’t even notice! Why? Nobody seems to know for sure, but if you think about it – the main variables would be 1) the amount & types of bowel bacteria available to ferment the FODMAPs, & 2) the connection between the nervous system & the gut – controlling the muscular contractions etc. If you have loads of FODMAP fermenting-types of bacteria – you’ll get loads of fermentation happening & therefore loads of gas. If you have a nervous system-gut connection that is highly sensitive / reactive – it might be completely freaking out with all these backward & forward messages saying that there is gas / bloating etc happening, & will likely either go on strike or go into overdrive (constipation or diarrhoea)…maybe – there’s still a lot of research to be done here, but my bet is that working on the gut bacteria you have (i.e. stop feeding them so many FODMAPs for a while & starve them out / take herbals & specific pre / probiotics aimed at improving the microbial balance) & supporting your nervous system & brain (i.e. massage, yoga, exercise – whatever de-stresses you) will yield the best results.

TAKE THIS QUICK QUIZ TO SEE IF YOU SHOULD GIVE LOW FODMAP A GO:

(if you answer yes to 1 or more of these Q’s – you’re definitely a candidate!)

1. Do you often get bloated? But with no real foods / triggers / pattern you can put your finger on as the cause?
2. Do you avoid eating out / stick to ‘safe’ foods when you are out & about, for fear you’ll end up with diarrhoea?
3. Do you seem to feel worse when you try to ‘get healthy’ by eating more fruit & veg / high fibre foods?
4. Have you cut out gluten & dairy (& improved) but still aren’t 100%?

If you know anyone who’s been to the Dr & been diagnosed with IBS, but still hasn’t tried this diet – please share, they will thank you – it really helps a lot of IBS folks!

ps – to save you time looking it all up, Blend11 & PondWater are FODMAP friendly, NeoBlend & BallBags are generally not! (Though you may be fine with them depending which FODMAPS you can’t tolerate & which ones you’re ok with).

pps – for any vegans (or big plant eaters) looking to trial a low FODMAP diet – this eBook could be very useful :-)