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Alex Allan Nutrition
By Alex on 02/02/22 | Gut health

Is your IBS driving you crazy?

Bloating, gassy, cramps, heavy, uncomfortable? One minute you can’t go to the loo and the next minute you can’t get off it? 

The likely cause is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It’s incredibly common. According to Guts UK, a charity set up to promote awareness of and funding for digestive problems, it affects up to a third of people at some stage or another and it is one of the main reasons people visit their doctor.

Unfortunately, according to the NHS, there’s not a lot you can do. The official view is that it’s a lifelong problem that no one really understands and that there’s no cure for (although over-the-counter medicines can help symptoms). So sorry, move along and deal with it yourself. 

As nutrition professionals will tell you, there IS hope. A consultation with a nutrition professional specialising in digestive health will be able to, in the first instance, provide some natural solutions that are likely better than taking over-the-counter medication AND your nutritionist will be able to work with you to find the root cause. This will enable you to get to the bottom of what is causing the symptoms of IBS (excuse the pun), and then you can take steps to fix it.

One of the most common causes of IBS is SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which accounts for 60##plus## of IBS cases. This describes a condition where bacteria manage to to grow and thrive in the small intestine. It’s not a question of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ bacteria. There shouldn’t really be many there at all.

It might be that you have a lactose intolerance. This is when your body is not able to tolerate lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products, leading to a host of ‘IBS symptoms’. It might similarly be fructose malabsorption. Again, some people are not able to absorb fructose and symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance. 

Dysbiosis is an imbalance in the levels of beneficial (good) and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the large intestine or colon, potentially caused by the overuse of antibiotics or alcohol, an increase in high sugar diets, and stress. 

Or you might have a yeast overgrowth. Simply, the gut environment gets out of balance (due to dysbiosis) such that unwelcome yeast can thrive.  

None of these are pressing issues for regular doctors because there is often not the NHS testing or the framework for treatment of these problems. In some cases, digestive problems can be tricky to solve, and it almost always involves a lot of detective work. But if your symptoms are hampering your life in a significant way, I want you to know that there ARE things you can do. Although IBS might be very common, it is not normal to experience the symptoms you do.

What can I do about my IBS now?

There are some simple tricks you can put into practice today and that might make enough of a difference to help you get your life back on track. I’m going to tell you what they are in a moment.

I also want you to consider the degree to which your symptoms bother you. Are you satisfied with just covering up the symptoms and hoping for the best? That might be enough for you. If it isn’t, please book yourself in for a free 30-minute digestive health call to get an idea of what you can do right away and what might be possible for you. 

10 ways to improve your digestion

The following suggestions are very basic but surprisingly effective at improving symptoms of digestive distress. 

DO

  • Try a cup of hot water or ginger tea before meals to stimulate digestion.
  • Apple cider vinegar (with the ‘mother’) also works – take 1tsp before a meal.
  • Think about your food before eating it – the thought and smell kickstarts the digestive process.
  • Make sure you’re chewing properly. If you had to spit out the mouthful, no one should be able to tell what you’ve been eating. 
  • Try a few cubes of pineapple or papaya before a meal. These contain enzymes that can boost your digestion. You might also consider taking a natural digestive enzyme supplement from a health food store to support your body’s natural digestion process.
  • Take a 15-minute walk after eating if you can. This lowers blood sugar levels and improves digestion (see, your granny was right).

 

DON’T

  • Eat at your desk at work. Getting up and out is important for so many reasons. In this case, checking emails while you are also eating may have you gulp down your food or not chewing properly. Neither are good for your digestive health. 
  • Try to eat on the go or when you’re stressed out. You won’t digest your food properly or absorb the nutrients. This is the quickest way to get heartburn.
  • Don’t eat fruit after a meal. Fruit likes a quick passage through the digestive system. It can get stuck behind other foods that are digested more slowly and then ferment, causing gas. 
  • Don't drink too much water or other fluids with your meal as this dilutes the stomach acid needed to digest your food properly.

If you’re sick of feeling bloated, gassy, crampy or going to the loo too much (or too little), book in for a free 30-minute digestive health mini consultation. You can do that by clicking here.

By Alex on 24/05/21 | Gut health

THE MICROBIOME – HOW IT KEEPS US HAPPY AND HEALTHY

An adult human has around 2kg worth of microbes in our large intestine comprised of bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi… and sometimes parasites.  In fact, our guts are so well populated that we actually have more bacterial cells in our bodies than our own cells. And as odd as this may sound, this tiny ecosystem in our gut plays an essential role in our health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.

When the bacteria in our gut are living in balance, with the right combination of good variety of types of bacteria, we have a wonderful symbiotic relationship with them, where we feed them fibre and, in return, they fulfil a number of roles for us:

  • They help us digest and draw nutrients from different foodstuffs, even allowing us to draw extra energy. 
  • They provide special chemicals called Short Chain Fatty Acids, which act as food for the cells of our gut lining. 
  • They produce vitamin K and help us create vitamin B12 in our guts by providing the necessary enzyme.
  • Research shows that having a balanced microbiome may be protective of certain chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune conditions and even certain types of cancer.
  • Immune tolerance as about 80% of our immune system is in our gut, and our bacteria work alongside our immune system to help recognise what is friend and what is foe.

Finally, our microbiome plays a key role in our mental health. This may be no surprise when you think about getting butterflies when you’re nervous or needing the loo when you’re frightened – the connection between our gut and our brain is very real indeed. Research shows that a happy gut is a happy brain and vice versa. 

Sometimes called the Microbiome-Gut-Brain axis, the connection via the Vagus Nerve allows two-way communication between our brains and our guts, and scientists believe that this is to allow and monitor integration of gut signals into the emotional and cognitive centres of the brain. This allows our brains to have up-to-the-second information on our immune system, our gut function, plus production of certain gut-derived neurotransmitters, such as the feel-good serotonin. In turn, the brain supplies the gut with information to control immune function, motility and the permeability of the barriers.

Working alongside the central nervous system in such a way means that the microbiome and gut may have real influence over our emotional states, particularly when it comes to stress responses, anxiety and memory function. And this can often be seen in action with people with altered gut function, such as IBS, where other symptoms may include anxiety and low mood.

Looking after our microbiomes is therefore key to our overall health and mental wellbeing.

IBS

By Alex on 30/04/21 | Gut health

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a problem I often see in clinic and it can be problematic on many different levels. If you've been diagnosed with this condition, you may well have been suffering with it for years and, while a diagnosis can – at first – offer comfort in finally having a recognised problem,that may be short lived because often that’s where all support ends, and you’re left no further forward in actually fixing what the problem is. Or you may have self-diagnosed through searching the internet by using a process of elimination.

The difficulty begins because IBS is essentially a catch-all term, which is used to encompass a huge variety of digestive issues. In my experience, it’s likely to be one of the following five conditions:

1 SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)
Around 60% of people with IBS will have SIBO. Though you might have heard about good (and bad) bacteria in the gut, really what experts are talking about is the balance of bacteria in the large intestine: the colon.
The small intestine shouldn’t have hardly any bacteria, and each day the body should perform a flush to sweep bacteria from the small intestine and into the large intestine. This flush is called the ‘migrating motor complex’. For a huge variety of reasons (historic food poisoning being the most common, but also low levels of stomach acid or adhesions play a role, among others) the bacteria are not swept away.
The trouble is that these bacteria can ferment the food in your small intestine, causing gas, belching, bloating, pain and a variety of other symptoms, including constipation and/or loose stools, and even anxiety. A breath test can establish which gases are present, and we can devise an action plan based on your results. 

2 Lactose intolerance
This is when your body is not able to tolerate lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products. Essentially, bacteria in your intestine feed on these milk sugars, leading to a host of IBS symptoms, like bloating and gas, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea.
It can go hand in hand with other digestive complaints, such as coeliac disease or increased intestinal permeability (‘leaky gut’). Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed via a simple at-home breath test. 

3 Fructose malabsorption
The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance. Fructose (which is found in fruit, honey and many processed foods) is a sugar, which, like lactose, is digested in the small intestine.
Some people cannot absorb fructose, and what is not absorbed is fermented by intestinal bacteria, causing bloating, cramping, gas and distension of the stomach. You might also experience brain fog and headaches.
A breath test will confirm the condition. 

4 Dysbiosis
This is an imbalance in the levels of beneficial (good) and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the large intestine or colon. This is now common due to overuse of antibiotics and alcohol, an increase in high sugar diets, and stress.
Symptoms can vary from a sluggish bowel, constipation or diarrhoea or both, pain, bloating and flatulence, to chronic bad breath, joint pain, fatigue and food sensitivities.
Dysbiosis is also implicated in a variety of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A stool test can help establish whether your gut bacteria are out of balance, along with a host of other markers that might be useful in getting to the root of your digestive problems.
 
5 Yeast overgrowth
Where the gut environment becomes out of balance (due to dysbiosis), yeast can thrive. Diets high in sugar feed the yeast – although if you think you might have a yeast overgrowth, it’s worth noting that long-term yeast problems can mean that the yeast cells are pathogenic or disease causing, and that the yeast has switched its metabolism to also be able to digest protein and fat.
Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include recurring thrush, gas or bloating, fatigue, bad breath, cravings for sweet foods, joint pain and brain fog. 
A stool test can establish the presence of candida or other yeast overgrowth. 
 
Some people struggle with digestive problems for years, but you can often get to the root cause of the issue and make changes to help you feel like yourself again. Do get in touch if you'd like to find out more about how I can help you find your root cause. I offer free 30 minute health assessments - click the link to book.

 

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