Most people have heard of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Think Ben Stiller in Along came Polly who suffered from it to the point that it affected his social life) but are not fully aware of what it is and what causes it.

There are two different types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, namely IBS-C and IBS-D.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome-D(iarrhoea) is one in which the symptoms are similar to IBS-C(onstipation), but the reaction to eating inflammatory foods lead to diarrhoea, whereas IBS-C is the complete opposite. It is also possible to experience both diarrhoea and constipation symptoms during flare ups.

These symptoms include severe abdominal pain, bloating, excessive gas and altered bowel movement- It’s said that it cannot be cured, only managed.

The concept of food as a means to fulfil my appetite shifted dramatically rather to eating to fuel my body’s needs rather than its wants.

For those who aren’t aware, gluten is a protein that is found in wheat which is in just about everything we eat on a daily basis such as bread, pasta, sauces, cereals and cakes.

Discovering that something that you are intolerant to is in absolutely every food we eat, can seriously drain the fun out of life. However, the fun part was discovering that I really have IBS which is usually a result of stress related to past events in life (as if the event itself wasn’t stressful enough), is actually also affected by high protein, meat-based diets, dairy products, fatty foods, fried foods, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. As well as gas forming foods such as cabbage, broccoli, onions and garlic.

This lead to me questioning, “what CAN I eat?” Tomato? Nope! Apple? Nope! Mushrooms? Nope! Beans? Nope! Simple everyday foods greatly limited my diet. What I soon discovered was that after eliminating some of the foods that affected my symptoms, adding them back slowly in limited amounts was tolerable. Yay! However, gluten is one food group that I will have to avoid for the rest of my life.

bread crumb

I noticed a significant amount of relief to my digestive issues by cutting out animal based protein, such as meat. Simply because meat is difficult for the body to break down and can cause the digestive system to become sluggish; which mine has become as a result of IBS.

Initially I replaced my source of protein with plenty of legumes, but I soon found that I was affected by that too so I now limit my intake by eating a variety of different foods in smaller amounts and only eating certain foods a few days or weeks apart to avoid any reactions.

Being told that I have to cut out so many typical daily foods seemed like the end of a happy freedom filled life., especially for a person who is happiest when eating. Surprisingly what I found though, was a new world of food options and the desire to live a healthier lifestyle so that I benefit my body in the long run. So, essentially it is one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Many people (until recently, myself included) have no idea that the gut is connected to our brain and mental health, and that depression and anxiety is very common in people with digestive issues. The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” and it is completely understandable as to why that is.

Ensuring that there are enough good bacteria in our gut is crucial to our mental and physical well-being. The bacteria in our gut also produces hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate basic physiological processes as well as mental processes such as learning, memory and mood. It is known that the gut is responsible for creating about 95% of the body’s serotonin supply which inevitably influences our mood. Therefore, eating foods that your stomach agrees with and accepts is vital in the creation of our mental status.

IBS can very easily lead to malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies because of the body not being able to digest certain foods properly. This is a major problem because you can eat as healthily as possible but if you are still unknowingly eating foods that cause inflammation and stress on the gut, you may be majorly depriving your body of necessary nutrients needed to live a healthy comfortable life.

Many people will say that I should just ‘cheat’ and eat the gluten-filled doughnut, however what they aren’t realizing is that I will be blocked up for weeks and if there are no bowel movements, you have to ask yourself where is all that food going? Well, realistically its going absolutely nowhere.

The food is staying in your system and allowing that food to leak into your body and making it toxic, which causes an overgrowth of bad bacteria. Which essentially feeds the gut and therefore feeds the brain, so it is vital to maintain a healthy balanced diet which provides the correct amount of nutrients to ensure a regular bowel as well as a healthy mind.

I found great relief when taking a high strain of probiotics daily to add good bacteria into my gut as well as juicing for one week a month because it gave my digestive system a breather from having to break down all the food I eat, plus allowing for an opportunity to detoxify.

Realistically, if you aren’t making all your foods from scratch (who has time for that these days?), you will be eating chemically-ridden foods that the body could do without. I can highly recommend watching a documentary by Jason Vale called Superjuice Me. It’s an excellent indication of experimental success in helping provide relief to those struggling with diseases of the body and mind and he follows up with a 28 Day Juice Plan which may benefit some who are not sure how to begin. Alternatively, there is also a vegan FODMAP approach which offer helpful guidelines to get you started.

Following a vegan diet or lifestyle will be different for each person, especially those who need to consider food intolerance. The old saying that ‘you are what you eat’ has proven to be true. What we put in our gut literally becomes us, so we need to choose wisely based on how we hope to feel.