Our modern society is literally filled with civilization diseases, including, but not limited to different autoimmune diseases, from which bowel disorders pose one of the greatest challenges in Western societies. Every 4 individual is suffering from one or more of such diseases that can all be traced back to the things we eat and the lifestyle choices we make on a day-to-day basis. More and more people get diagnosed with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and IBS (inflammatory bowel syndrome),which is not merely an alarming fact but a downright frightening one. Nowadays, we get to witness our younger generation fighting these diseases and being forced to deal with the lifestyle implications that such symptoms have on their everyday life. Most of them tend to get confused as to what to eat and not what to eat, or how to simply go about making health-conscious decisions in light of their predicament, and how they can tackle these diseases that can easily drive a wedge into the number of food items and supplements they are allowed to consume. This article will seek to answer these questions by offering some guidance to those who are suffering from some form of bowel disease but still want to make their life as balanced and healthy as possible.
About the Disease
IBD involves two kinds of diseases:
- Crohn’s and
- Colitis Ulcerosa.
The two are very similar, but they are still different. While colitis affects the large intestine, Crohn’s is a disease that affects the entire digestive tract. Major Crohn’s disease symptoms and ulcerative colitis symptoms include: diarrhea, stomach ache, cramps, bleeding, fever and the combinations of these. The greatest disadvantage of these diseases is that there are not two patients who have the same symptoms. There is only one thing in common: the immune system attacks itself. This reaction takes place in a specific place, in the bowels specifically where the center of our immune system is located. In rare cases, we have seen Crohn’s patients whose conditions have deteriorated to an extent that the disease was already visible in the small intestine, and even on the stomach as well. This is the most extreme condition, and it is an upside that not many patients reach this phase in their condition.
What may a person with bowel disease do for his/her health?
Medical professionals and researches have been experimenting for more than 20 years trying to figure out the cause of this debilitating condition. Finally, they found that the major causes include psychological stress, insufficient nutrition, and the consequence of other related illnesses. When it comes to providing patients with up-to-date information with regards to proper nutrition, they fail to deliver on their promise to society as caretakers. Most of the time, it is not their fault either. A lot dietitians and lifestyle coaches on numerous forums, blogs and diet programs keep feeding the media and patients with outdated “tips and tricks” on proper nutrition. So, let’s make it as clear as possible for everyone so that we may now get to know what we really need to do in terms of nutrition if we are suffering from some form of bowel disease.
Looking from a civilized point of view, there are a lot of junk that common people consume without even noticing or worrying about their short-and long-term consequences (allergens, etc..). Grain consumption would probably be the number one factor that is worth looking at from close up. Celiac disease may often cause symptoms similar to IBD, thus it is a very challenging question to determine whether we are just allergic to wheat or truly sick. It is a fairly easy thing to say that we should not eat grain, but for the sake of our health, it might be a good idea to at least make an effort. Whole grains, soybeans, peanuts, cow’s milk, potatoes, tomatoes, and some seafood are high in lectin, a chemical compound that is in a large part responsible for some people being allergic to all the aforementioned food items. How can we make sure that we are allergic to it and that that is the source of the problem and not something more serious? It’s simple. Just avoid it. If your symptoms decrease in 20 to 30 days, you know that lectin was your problem and all you had is just some allergic reaction, and everything can go back to normal. I believe that you can do a month without grain and some food items for making sure, cannot you?
Another problem (that is often overlooked by dietitians and medical professionals) is insufficient fiber consumption. What are some of the food items high in fiber? Vegetables, fruits, whole grain, legumes and seeds. If you are suffering from any kind of bowel disease, then you have to avoid eating the last two. Therefore, I am not going to talk about those.
What is the role of fiber, and what are some high fiber foods to eat?
Fiber is a substance found in plants, and it is the fuel of your intestinal microflora. Every intestinal bacteria belongs to this category. If your fiber intake is too low, your intestinal bacteria do not get sufficient support to do its work properly, and we know what happens to those who are starving. No probiotics will help because even though a few extra billion of bacteria is always beneficial, it will not worth anything without the necessary supplies that keeps them fed and alive.
What can we do to protect the health of our intestinal flora? Consume more foods that have pectin in them. Fruits (apples, etc..) and vegetables (carrot, etc.) are particularly effective in this respect. Fortunately, these beauties of nature do not cause any discomfort even in case of those who are suffering from IBS or IBD.
What kind of supplements you are allowed to use?
- Your greatest ally is probiotics. You may take them for longer periods of time, but it may also be useful for shorter periods of use provided that you have a proper diet in place.
- One of the best immune-system-supporter supplement is glutamine. In case of bowel diseases, L-glutamine is more beneficial. It is an excellent source of nutrients for the white blood vessels whose level tend to be low for IBS and IBD patients. Furthermore, it is also good for supporting your gastrointestinal health, brain function, cell hydration, metabolism and growth. Although, its muscle building qualities are probably the most famous of all due to the great hype of the fitness industry.
- Antioxidants are equally important supplements, for they are known to decrease oxidative stress in your body. When suffering from bowel diseases, antioxidants are just as important as probiotics, for it is widely known that inflammation may take as long as years, and during that time, the level of oxidative stress raises significantly. Taking antioxidants are thus key to battling any forms of bowel diseases. Coenzyme Q10, beta-carotene, Vitamin C and E, and even fish oil have inflammation-reducing capabilities, so use them at will.
- The importance of BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) are not secondary either. Almost every bowel disorder comes with sudden weight loss and frequent inflammation that affects anything and everything in its vicinity and beyond with no regard to what destruction it may cause. Muscle, fat, carbohydrates all go to waste. If you feel any of the things mentioned above, or you know that there is a significant surgery coming up, it might be wise to use BCAAs. Taking this supplement will ensure that you do not lose as much muscle mass as you normally would (this also refers to muscle groups deep inside your body). If you lose a lot of weight, regeneration will come harder and will surely take even longer.
- If you are an active pursuer of some sport activity, then another supplement called Arginin (w/h glutamine) might be wise to use to help you in building quality muscle by not putting extra stress on your bowels.
Optional: Choosing a Whey protein of some kind would be ideal for patients with bowel diseases, too. The reason for it being optional is because there are patients who cannot eat dairy products of any kind while there are others who have no problem with consuming such products. Like I said at the beginning, the extent and symptoms of every form of bowel disease differs from person to person.
If you do not know which one is best for you, I advise you to try a trial sample from a product of your choice. Another option is the beef or whey proteins where the latter has considerable reputation and positive feedbacks from patients, although it is important to keep in mind that products with added creatine may cause problems. (Creatine can cause inflammation that can easily lead to intestinal problems that may hinder our body’s ability to digest this specific ingredient that, in turn, may also result in diarrhea) Naturally, the trial-and-error principle is a viable option here.
If you choose to follow the recommendations outlined above, the first and foremost thing to do is to consult with your doctor and discuss your options. This move may result in two things: one, he will either let you do it or not. As for one of my friends who had (and still has) Crohn’s, he did not really let all his decisions made for him so he went on to try one or more of these recommendations. It is safe to say that many of the recommendations worked for him even though his doctor did not advise him to go with them in the first place. Like I said at the beginning, information with regards to proper nutrition for patients with some kind of bowel disease is fairly outdated and rarely discussed. So go and give them a try and see how your body reacts to the lifestyle changes you make.
Whatever path you may choose, it is always a good idea to have a journal in place where you can jot down your progress or body’s reactions every single day. This will give you and your doctor ample proof of any change that will take place. Who knows? One day you might find something that will help make the treatment of patients with similar medical problems a whole lot easier.
I wish you a quick recovery! Share your experiences and thoughts on the matter in the comment box below.
- The Institute for Natural Healing. Lectins — A Little Known Trouble Maker. Published: July 28, 2009 http://www.institutefornaturalhealing.com/2009/07/lectins-a-little-known-trouble-maker/
- Sayer Li: Opening Pandora’s Bread Box: The Critical Role of Wheat Lectin in Human Disease
- Jeff Leach: Are government recommendations for daily fibre intake too low? an evolutionary perspective. Published: October 18, 2010
- Asakura, T. Kitahora: Antioxidants in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Crohn Disease Bioactive Food as Dietary Interventions for Liver and Gastrointestinal Disease, 2013, Pages 37-53