As a herbalist, I am often asked this question. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, avoiding your trigger foods can help to prevent symptoms. Yet, if you’re not sure what your trigger foods are. Or you find yourself eating fewer and fewer foods, it can be a scary outlook. As well as creating a scenario where you also have several nutrient deficiencies. Understanding why this happens, shows us how to improve the problem.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common digestive problem that some people suffer with throughout their life. It is identified as a collection of symptoms, typically, stomach cramps, bloating, and constipation and/or diarrhoea. Your doctor may tell you that there is no cure. So, when most of the foods you eat cause these symptoms, life can be difficult. In fact, many people with irritable bowel syndrome are offered antidepressants to help them cope with the anxiety and depression that often result.
You may have suffered on and off for years. You may even have tried expensive food intolerance testing to help identify your trigger foods. Only to find that the test shows that you react to everything.
In fact, it is most likely that there were only one or two foods causing an initial problem. For example, wheat, cow’s milk or eggs. You may not have been aware there was even a problem and carried on eating those foods. Eating your trigger foods several times a day, for years, without realising they were causing any irritation. Over time this ongoing irritation turns into inflammation and you realise something is wrong.
Inflammation of the digestive tract lining leads to a leaky gut. This means that many small fragments of different foods can leak across the intestinal lining. The immune system in the gut thinks the body is under attack and responds accordingly. You develop symptoms but can’t pin them down to any particular foods. While your food intolerance test results show that most of the foods you eat are causing an immune response.
Your digestive tract needs soothing and healing. There are several steps to this process. Some foods will need eliminating for a while, and you may need some help to determine the elimination diet that is right for you.
Herbal remedies can also help. There is a long tradition of herbal medicine use for healing gut problems. Probably because at some point everyone has trouble with their digestion or digestive tract. Herbal remedies with anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, astringent, bitter, carminative, demulcent, laxative or relaxing properties are most useful for digestive troubles.
There are many herbs with soothing demulcent properties, such as marshmallow root, that help to calm down an irritated gut lining. There are many others, such as chamomile, that have direct anti-inflammatory action on the gut mucosa. As well as a calming, anti-spasmodic property. These herbs act in a gentle manner that soothes and promotes healing.
Once the inflammatory process stops the leaky gut can heal. Herbs can also help here. Coating and soothing the gut, relieving irritation and promoting healing. Your gut can finally relax. Allowing your symptoms to go away. Though you may find that those one or two foods underlying the problem may need avoiding completely in the future.