First– what is IBS? IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The main symptoms are–gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation (sometimes all in the same day). IBS should not be confused with IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease). IBS affects the large intestine. The large intestine is responsible for absorbing water from the remaining undigestible food and moving it along out of the body in the form of waste material.
2nd –is there a cure? No. But there are many different therapies/strategies to help you manage it. #1, in my opinion, is learning how to manage stress, changing your diet, and managing your symptoms with OTC remedies and dietary supplements.
My first experience with what I now know as IBS was in high school during puberty. My symptoms in one day would range from bad stomach cramps to gas, to diarrhea, and end with constipation. My diet growing up was a combination of bland, low nutrition food, food I wouldn’t eat, or food not purchased due to extreme poverty. I was diagnosed with malnutrition at age 8. In the 1970s with a garden, the only vegetables we had on the table were— green beans, carrots, and corn regularly. Most suppers consisted of rice mush–rice, milk, and cinnamon, or 1/2 c casserole plopped on our plate, soup or/and sandwich. I was always too tired for breakfast so maybe I ate a few bites of oatmeal? School lunch was way too many things that we’d never eaten at home and I was too scared to try–like tuna salad, grilled cheese, noodle dishes, Salisbury steak and so much more. I was diagnosed with malnutrition again at 18. I weighed 100# and was suffering from several vitamin deficiencies. By the time I was 21 I had developed very bad eating habits, and most days survived on caffeine and cigarettes. Truthfully, because good food wasn’t introduced when I was growing up, I really didn’t miss good food. I had absolutely no idea what good food looked like. Nevermind knowing how to prepare it had I been able to afford it. I started working in healthcare and when I got hungry I would just order a cafeteria meal which was usually pretty low in nutrition and call it a day. Things stayed that way until I was in my thirties. In between those years, I also developed a relationship with beer and had a steady diet of that for about four years. When I was 31 I was diagnosed with malnutrition and an iron deficiency.
All this while I suffered from IBS and I also began to notice there were a lot of foods I couldn’t eat. I wasn’t able to tolerate onions, garlic, beets, dried milk, milk, whey, soy, certain proteins, and other things. By 2004, now 40, I had quit drinking and smoking and was ready to take care of myself. I started by looking into the world of organic. I read a lot of books about the food revolution starting with The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. I also started traveling to Farmer’s Markets and eliminating things in my diet that were not healthy. I started with processed food–so everything in boxes was out except the occasional cookie or chip. I moved on to frozen food and eliminated frozen dinners, pizzas, vegetables, even ice cream. For a number of years, I had gone on and off fast food because MOST fast food really increased my IBS symptoms. I then started buying organic milk, butter, eggs, and meat. Our veggies came from local farmers and our fruit in season from the supermarket/ orchards–local when possible.
Sometime around 2011, I began to have serious problems with wheat. Wheat bran, gluten, germ, and flour. Many people have issues with wheat and many many people do not. There are those that will say it’s all in our heads, but I assure you that it is not. Actually, it is all in our guts. For simplicity sake, I will discuss types of wheat–hybridized and unhybridized. Wheat started being hybridized between 1940 and 1960 to increase production and also for pest resistance. It would take me days to properly include all the information there is about wheat hybridization and what it is, what has been done, and how it affects all of us–instead I will include some of the information and provide some very interesting and helpful links.
There were many techniques used to hybridize wheat- from repetitive backcrossing to crossing with other grass species to using proprietary herbicide Beyond, to using toxic chemicals, gamma, and x-ray radiation. In the end, the wheat that was left was no longer the wheat that had always been a part of our food chain for many many years. What we now eat is essentially radiated, chemically toxic wheat– known as Clearfield wheat. Not every wheat available for commercial use is Clearfield, but unfortunately more and more become available every day. Today’s wheat is milled to remove the outer layers of wheat bran and wheat germ leaving us with the white colored “wheat flour” we are familiar with. Source
What is then left in what we know as wheat is chock full of gluten? Now can some people tolerate this–yes I think they do. Though, I’m not sure how well? Nevertheless, they continue to eat today’s wheat and their life goes on. For me, it wasn’t that easy. First I started getting rashes and then after a year or two bloating–very obvious bloating not just bloat, and excruciating stomach pains, and then diarrhea. Almost everything in my diet to some extent had wheat in it. I love sandwiches, but even white bread contains wheat. I love pizza—pizza is my favorite food, but the crusts are made from wheat flours and on and on–cookies, crackers, chips, buns, rolls, donuts, wraps, fried foods–everything!
I tried to deny my intolerance and limited how much in a day or a week I would eat. But it was never a small enough amount and eventually, I couldn’t eat any of it. The first doctor I went to basically said it was a fluke aka all in my head. The second doctor said it was likely my body and that it could not process the wheat in today’s food products, otherwise known as hybridized wheat, and to avoid it altogether. I should note I was tested for Celiac disease and the test was negative. I was not diagnosed with gluten sensitivity because technically there are no tests that can test for that as far as I know. So I started buying all the products that were labeled gluten-free and in 2012 there were very few things that were gluten-free. Maybe none in 2012?
Eventually, items here and there were produced and soon grocery stores had entire aisles devoted to it. My only problem was they were expensive and lacked in the taste good department. I spent probably another year researching gluten intolerance and decided to try and heal my gut with a probiotic. I tried different ones but none of them seemed to help and most of them gave me stomach cramps and diarrhea. Until I found Accuflora that is–. After being on Accuflora for one entire year I was able to eat bread again. Soon into my 2nd year, I was eating cereals, cookies, pizza’s, and crackers. So it is my firmest belief that the reason I cannot tolerate wheat is that my gut is not healthy. Granted, I don’t think hybridized wheat is healthy for anyone–period. I have since become a regular user of Einkorn flour–trying it only because I stopped Accuflora about 18 months ago to try Activia because yogurt became a regular staple in my diet and I couldn’t take both probiotics. I felt Accuflora had done its job and I was healed. I was wrong. After 16-18 months on Activia, which by the way you are not supposed to eat that regularly, I am back to rashes and stomach cramps when I eat anything with wheat in it. So now I have tried Einkorn–an ancient grain and the only one–so I am told that actually meets the scientific definition for not being hybridized (can contain only 2 sets of 7 chromosomes) I can make & eat pizza dough, pie crusts, and bread again and experience no issues whatsoever from using Einkorn.
Below are the strains of bacteria found in Accuflora and Activia. Activia has far less than Accuflora by 3 and now Accuflora has released an upgrade that has 8 strains in it. Notice the patented bifidobacterium in Activia which I think can help a person short-term as they suggest, but maybe not so much long-term as I decided to do all on my own.
Accuflora-Lactobacillus salivarius; Lactobacillus rhamnosus; Streptococcus thermophilus; Bifidobacterium bifidum; Lactobacillus acidopihilus, which is found in yogurt.
Activia- Cultured Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Cane Sugar, Strawberries, Modified Food Starch, Contains Less Than 1% Of Milk Protein Concentrate, Kosher Gelatin, Fruit Juice and Vegetable Juice ( For Color ), Natural Flavors, Agar Agar, Carrageenan, Calcium Lactate, Lactic Acid, Milk Calcium, Vitamin D3. Cultures in Activia with fruit– L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus. The third, Bifidobacterium animalis, has been trademarked by Activia maker Dannon as “bifidus regularis.
Because I have been sensitive to beets, vinegar, fermented foods, onions, garlic, and pickles and so much more for such a long time, I now follow a FODMAP diet. Do I think my gut issues have everything to do with malnutrition at 3 different stages in my life-YES, I do. I think the reason I’ve had IBS all my life is from malnutrition. I also believe the reason I have fibromyalgia–diagnosed when I was 28, but I’d had it for many years before that, is from malnutrition. I don’t think my poor diet as an adult helped, nor did my drinking. One thing is for sure my gut has created a lot of chaos in my life and my #1 mission is to fix it. So I have stopped Activia and I’m going to start taking Accuflora again. This time if all goes well I will continue taking it forever because I think at this point it is going to take me that long to heal things again.
Some of the things that I use for gas, cramping, and pain associated with IBS are–GASX, RMO essential oil Tummy Time for bloat & stomach pain–I apply topically, Greek yogurt (settles my stomach) and magnesium tablets to keep me regular. As far as supplements I take Vitamin D in a spray form (Amazon, Dr. Mercola), NOW P5P Vit B6 (Amazon–because of absorption/enzyme issues), and Gaia Herb Plant-based iron (Amazon).
Some people may just go along with allowing, for whatever reason, their symptoms to continue and feeling like they can’t control it or help themselves. But you can and you should do everything you can to lessen inflammation in your gut/intestines/bowel because you do not want to harm those organs any more than they have been hurt/upset. I make sure I have variety in my diet but I don’t overdo fiber or caffeine, or things that are not safe foods on my FODMAP diet, and for now no gluten, or wheat germ, or wheat protein of any kind. I’ve dealt with IBS for over forty years now and though it hasn’t been easy, and there have been times I’ve felt helpless at what to do, I am learning to get a handle on how to live with it–finally. Here is the FODMAP list of foods I follow if you’re interested.
I’ve included some very interesting links I read and used for the information concerning wheat. Until next time I hope everyone is enjoying spring where it’s springtime, and fall where it’s fall.