April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to discuss one of our favorite topics: gut health.
For those that haven’t heard of it, IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects the stomach and intestines, also called the GI tract. IBS causes a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits.
While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, research suggests that it may be related to abnormal contractions of the colon, which can cause gas, bloating, and changes in bowel movements.
Despite its prevalence, IBS is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, leading to frustration and anxiety for those who suffer from it. Some people find stress and anxiety will trigger their IBS symptoms making it a vicious cycle of suffering.
Thanks to the internet and emerging research there are plenty of diets and suggested treatment plans out there, inspiring us to break down a few of the most common short-term elimination diets in this post.
What is an elimination diet?
An elimination diet involves removing certain foods or food groups from your diet for a short time. The goal of an elimination diet is to remove potentially problematic foods temporarily to heal and rest the gut, then methodically add them back in to detect which foods are likely triggering symptoms. Though they take time and require professional support, elimination diets can help you learn more about your body and feel more empowered in your choices.
However, it cannot be stressed enough that these are not meant to be used long-term or ongoing as they cut out entire food groups and can lead to further imbalance of gut microbiome (aka the bacteria that make up your digestive system). The support of a dietitian is a useful tool as they are there to help support you, monitor symptoms and progress, and make sure you are still getting all the nutrients you need during the elimination period.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Simply put, they are sugars that are not completely digested and absorbed by the body. Examples of FODMAP foods include apples, artichokes, garlic, black beans, cashews, and certain dairy products.
As FODMAPs make their way down the GI tract, they pass through the small intestine attracting water. Then, they reach the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria. The water and fermentation process causes the intestinal wall to expand because the fermented sugars produce gas. The expansion from gas and water can be a painful process for those with IBS.
A low-FODMAP diet has shown to be effective in reducing general symptoms of IBS in randomized controlled trials. The low FODMAP diet works to reduce these sugars in the diet during an elimination period that lasts 3-6 weeks. This time is thought to help the gut heal and identify if the high FODMAP foods are causing issues for your body. After 3-6 weeks, FODMAPs are reintroduced one at a time to help you identify any trigger foods.
Although this can be a tedious process, your friendly nutrition coaches can help you through it. At Well Balanced we have many resources that make low FODMAP approachable, including a low FODMAP meal planning software that is available as an add-on service to our clients.
According to the website the Whole30 Program is structured in 2 phases: 30 days of elimination and 10 days of reintroduction.
During the first 30 days, you eliminate real and artificial sugars, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, sulfites, healthy versions of treats or junk food, and the habit of weighing yourself.
As for the reintroduction phase, the program states “introduce one food group at a time, then go back to the elimination phase for two days to reset.” The reset time is to monitor your body’s reaction and/or symptoms to each specific food or beverage category.
You’ll reintroduce food groups in order of least likely to be problematic to most likely: gluten-free grains, legumes, dairy, and gluten containing grains. You can also reintroduce added sugars and alcohol; however, these are optional and best to do under the supervision of a registered dietitian.
The Whole30 diet is a non-scientific way to find out if dairy, grains, legumes, or sugar are specific triggers to your IBS symptoms.
LEAP therapy, as described by Susan Linke, RD, MS, CLT, is an effective anti-inflammatory eating plan “that simplifies what used to be a very difficult process by combining the best blood test with a simple but extremely effective method of building a healthy and delicious diet.” So, let’s break it down:
- The blood test included in LEAP therapy is called a Mediator Release Test (MRT®). What makes it unique, according to LEAP, is its ability to “quantify the degree of the inflammatory response in sensitivity pathways.” But, what exactly does that mean? MRT® not only identifies the foods that cause reactions, but it also determines different degrees of reactivity to foods giving insight to what foods are friends or foe based on your unique biology.
- With these results, and the help of a professional, you can build an eating plan that is rich with the foods you enjoy and free of those that cause symptoms (digestive issues, headaches, brain fog, etc.) making it a valuable tool for those suffering with IBS. With this unique yet accessible science, your life can be more than symptom free, it can be healed by getting to the gut of the problem.
If you are interested in learning more or want to make friends with your tummy and better understand your symptoms, schedule a clarity call with Nutrition Coach Lucy (our gut health guru) today!