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  • Writer's pictureAmie

Irritable Bowel - What is the cause?

Updated: Apr 27, 2018

Do you feel constantly bloated; have abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea or feel like you look 5 months pregnant after eating certain foods? Do you simply put it down to eating crappy foods or overeating, or just have no idea what has caused it? Have you actually considered you may be sensitive to digesting certain types of foods? Personally for me I know I used to and it took me a long time to figure it out.

About 2-3 years ago while I was at uni, I used to get very bad stomach pains as if it was about to eat itself. I put it down to the stress of uni or a stomach bug, but it left me unable to consume much for a couple weeks. The one thing that did not cross my mind was that it was actually a result of the foods I was eating. I was eating salad/vegies and lean meats, a few nuts and honey, but I was consuming a lot of foods high in food chemicals that my body just does not like to digest!

So instead of you all having to go through the struggle of what I had to go through of a couple years of working it all out. I want to teach you how to determine between what a food allergy is, what food intolerances are and try to remove the paranoia of eating gluten/wheat/dairy/sugar to work out in reality what is best for you. Really because why should you have to cut out foods that you do not need to?

So what is the difference between food allergies and food intolerances?

Food allergies are immune reactions to individual proteins in foods. Proteins are unique to each food such as gluten, eggs, milk (whey/caesin), peanuts. Your immune system produces a protein called IgE antibodies which causes a reaction against the consumption of food proteins that most people would typically find harmless. Reactions may include chronic skin rashes, diarrhoea, burning sensations, swelling of the face - eyes, mouth and tongue. Food allergies are very different to food intolerances.

Food intolerances are not quite as harmful as food allergies and cause permanent damage, but can be very uncomfortable and distressing. Food intolerances do not involve the immune system but are rather a reaction to the chemicals in food, both natural and synthetic. Now I think most people may be surprised that there are chemicals found in natural ‘healthy’ foods not just artificial food additives. These are called vitamins and minerals, which are beneficial for our health, and also help with the flavour and aroma of different types of food. Some people are born with sensitivities to these chemicals, but others can develop these sensitivities with a sudden change of diet or a bad food reaction.

The different types of reactions you may see with food intolerances headaches, sinus trouble, nausea, stomach pains, bowel irritation or you could even be run down and moody.

I typically find most people tend to react to certain sugars in foods – fructose in fruit sugars, lactose which is your milk sugar. What most people commonly misconceive, is that they react badly to pure sugar, when in reality most actually react to other food chemicals within the food. Sugar is glucose which is easily absorbed within the gut because it is in its simplest form. So if you were to add a teaspoon of sugar to your coffee or tea and not react but then go and eat a large slice of cake or a few biscuits with many other added foods, this is why you may react.

Fructose is highest in: apple, honey, pears, pineapple, mango, high fructose corn syrup (processed food additive)

Lactose is highest in milk, yoghurt, icecream, milk powder, evaporated milk and some soft unripened cheeses (cottage/ricotta/mascarpone/cream)  – lactose is very low in hard cheeses like cheddar and parmesan. Lactose free milk and yoghurt are great options to help you reach your recommended daily intake of calcium and B vitamins. I find a lot of people swap to almond or coconut milk from dairy milk. The nutrient profile (vitamins and minerals + carbs/protein/fat distribution) is no way near as great as lactose free dairy. Definitely swap back to dairy if you can!

A few other foods I find most people can react to are called galacto-oligosaccharides (I dare you to try and pronounce it! J ) These include legume beans like chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans.

Also included in the list is polyols which are found in both natural and artificial products. These include apricots, apples, avocado, cherries, nectarines, plums, mushrooms and pears. Additives including sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol and isomalt all contain polyols which can cause bloating, wind and abdominal discomfort. Or I like to think of avoiding all additives ending in –ol except for erythritol.

SO where to from here. If you are interested in completing an elimination diet because you have no idea what causes these reactions. Please contact me! There are number of other foods to consider and a process to go through to ensure you are doing it correctly. It may take a couple weeks to be completely symptom free before food can be reintroduced into the diet. Foods can be slowly added in, in small portion sizes to ensure it is not an irritant to the body.

There are a few handbooks out by the RPA hospital or Sue Shepherd books that can help with a proper elimination diet if you do not have a good budget to see a dietitian. Removing a number of foods from your diet needs to be done carefully to ensure that you are still meeting all of your nutrient requirements and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Otherwise that is it for this week! I hope this helps!

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