Food as a Tool in IBS
Many people with IBS have an interesting relationship with food. If you react to everything every time you eat, food is not your friend. As a naturopath and nutritionist one of my goals with most clients is to change their relationship with food. For some it helps to frame it in this way:
Food is a tool and like all tools you should use the right tool at the right time for the right job. So what jobs do we want to focus on:
Fueling the body
Maybe you want more energy quickly because it is 3pm and you feel tired, but you need to get through the rest of your day. Maybe you are going to exercise, so you want to eat more carbohydrates, like athletes who carb load before an event. You can fuel your body with refined carbohydrates so with something very sugary, or potato chips, or you can use other sources of fuel that don’t have the drawbacks of refined sugar. Vegetables like carrots and sweet potato along with most fruits are high in carbohydrates but also contain a range of other nutrients as well as fiber to stop the blood sugar spikes and empty calorie effect of refined sugar snacks.
Nourishing the body
If you really want to nourish the body you want a lot of micronutrients and vitamins. Eating vegetables and fruits of many different colors can help there. Each color portrays a different set of nutrients, all of which are essential to your body. So eat a rainbow each day and feel your body being nourished.
Healing the gut
Food can be used as medicine to heal the gut. Most people with IBS are dealing with inflammation and possible leaky gut. Bone broths are a great example of a food that can help to lower inflammation and heal the gut. The protein and collagen help the gut lining to recover and aides your body in healing itself.
Some foods contain natural enzymes that help in the breakdown of foods and help your body’s natural processes. Pineapple, kiwi, papaya are all examples of fruits that contain proteases, a type of enzyme that help to break down food.
Other foods aide the liver in its detoxification process. Artichoke, garlic and leafy greens like spinach and kale all help the liver to work better.
Some foods are natural anti-inflammatories. Many people with IBS have a lot of inflammation not only in their digestive system, but all over the body. Foods containing omega-3, like oily fish, nuts and seeds help to lower inflammation and therefore reduce symptoms. Other foods like turmeric, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon have also been shown to reduce inflammation.
Because it tastes good
Let’s face it sometimes we just want food to taste good. And that is ok. If we can combine that with some other goals like lowering inflammation you have a winning combination. But if you just want to eat that cake or those French fries go ahead, but know that is why you are doing it and be aware of the consequences of inflammation and IBS symptoms that can occur if you do.
To feel comforted
Comfort food is a big one, especially when you don’t feel well, or you’ve had a hard day. Being aware of the times when you are emotional eating is important. Its ok to eat chocolate when you are sad. But before you eat it stop and think about why. Can feeling the sadness, crying and talking to someone about it be a better way to solve the problem? Are the consequences worth it? Will it really fill the hole in your life?
What was the job you wanted your last meal to do? Did you think about it before you prepared it?
What do you want your next meal to do for you?
Bringing intention into your eating can change the way you look at food and make sure you are using it well. Food can be a great tool for healing if you know what to use and when.