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  • Sarah Newland BHSc Nut Med

IBS! Confused about what to eat & what to avoid?

As well as my nutritional consults business, I also have a healthy meal plan delivery business in Bali called Nourish Within. Lately, several Nourish Within customers have been requesting we eliminate all sorts of (very healthy) foods from their meals, due to perceived ‘allergies’ due to their ‘IBS’. This has prompted me to clear up a few things about IBS.

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

IBS is a non-specific title given to gut symptoms.

It’s not a root cause, or an actual condition as such, it’s a selection of symptoms. Symptoms that occur without any structural abnormalities and don’t fit into the category of recognised condition. A colonoscopy sees an IBS bowel as normal. Conventional medicine kinda goes, ‘you don’t have Crohn’s disease, you don’t have Coeliac’s disease, so we will just call whatever you have got, ‘IBS’.

You have IBS if you have altered bowel activity, abdominal pain, and/or bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea. You might not know what causes these symptoms, but they can really affect your quality of life.

It affects around 20% of the worlds population, and though anyone can get it, it is most common amongst women.

There are no specific tests for IBS, and symptoms can be different from person to person, coming and going with stress, lifestyle and dietary implications.

IBS can be caused by many things.

Some causes and contributing factors can be gastrointestinal tract infections, overgrowths of bad bacteria, bacteria or microbes growing in the wrong spots (like SIBO), food allergies or sensitivities, gut-brain axis communication issues (implicating anxiety, depression, and sleep), toxins, poor diet, and a big one: stress.

The root cause of IBS is a dysfunctional gut ecosystem.

A doctor might suggest Metamucil, psyllium husk, a low FODMAPs diet, or eating more fibre, which sadly won’t solve IBS, though it might relieve symptoms.

Because IBS can be caused by many things, the right treatment can vary between patients. Your IBS ‘diagnosis’ might have come with the advice that you shouldn’t eat certain foods, sometimes even healthy ones.

Like broccoli.

It’s true that these otherwise healthy foods, like broccoli, might trigger symptoms in you if your gut is irritated and inflamed, or if you have dysbiosis.

But broccoli bothering your already agitated gut is not broccoli’s fault.

And these are not allergies. You are not ‘allergic’ to broccoli.

You have an irritated bowel because of ongoing inflammation, compromised digestion, and dysbiosis, due to ongoing diet and lifestyle habits, that over time result in

  • The proliferation of pathogenic bacteria,

  • Insufficient populations of beneficial bacteria

  • Consistent damage to the mucosal lining in the gut,

Which causes leaky gut and facilitates immune dysregulation, which can present as food intolerances and sensitivities, maybe even to broccoli, that can vanish when your gut is given the chance to heal.

Leaky gut is also called ‘increased intestinal permeability’.

A permeable gut means the wrong things can get into your blood. Including food proteins that aren’t broken down properly, or damaging foreign molecules.

So basically stuff gets into your blood that isn’t meant to be there, where it can cause inflammation and other problems throughout the body.

SIBO is a common offender, it involves lower bowel bacteria living in the small intestines, where it shouldn’t be. SIBO typically results in bloating when these bacteria ferment the foods they get hold of before the foods make it out of the digestive tract.

Yeast overgrowths are also common, they crowd out the good bacteria.

Culprits for yeast overgrowths can be the birth control pill, acid blockers or antacids, steroids, antibiotics, sugary diets or booze.

Broccoli might be causing your bloating and IBS symptoms because digestion is compromised and the broccoli is getting stuck in your gut, where it can ferment, causing excess gas production and irritation. But the problem was there before you put the broccoli in.

When you take the time to properly heal your gut you can free yourself of supposed intolerances and sensitivities.

And let broccoli off the hook.

Many things can contribute to the development of conditions that result in irritable bowel symptoms, like:

  • A low fibre diet

  • Antibiotic use

  • Alcohol

  • High processed foods intake

  • Use of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs

  • Gluten intake

  • Diet low in nutritious foods like vegetables

An elimination diet is typically given to IBS patients, which if done correctly can help identify trigger foods and be really helpful. But it doesn’t address the root cause or causes.

Removing gluten completely, and implementing a gut healing protocol that is right for you will really help heal your gut. Removing dairy will also help.

Removing trigger foods unique to you, and also common trigger foods like eggs, soy and corn will also help stop the ongoing damage, allowing a chance for some healing to take place.

Then it’s important to initiate a gut-healing program designed to nourish your intestinal cells and allow them to restore integrity and function. Once the structural healing of your gut is underway, you can use certain dietary strategies to start to restore a healthy microbiome. As all this happens so many other things begin to improve as well… immune strength, synthesis of ‘happy hormones’ and neurotransmitters like serotonin, gut motility, hydration and water homeostasis, and nutrient absorption improves so deficiencies can fade away.

The different phases of a gut-healing program can vary from person to person in time and strategy, as can the rate for gut healing to occur. Sadly gut’s don’t really fix themselves if the damage keeps occurring though, so it’s worthwhile to do it right!

If you are experiencing IBS or think you might have some gut issues, you need to have a thorough health, diet, and symptom assessment, and then with that information, plus the complexities of your life and preferences, with a health practitioner you can work out if testing is required and if so what sorts, and then implement a gut healing program and some microbiome restoration.

I would love to help you on your gut healing journey and run online consultation packages, please contact me at to enquire ;) Sarah xx

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