If you're part of the 20% of Americans with IBS, you know it well: the bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and gas interfere with your everyday life. By now, you have probably tried countless interventions trying to make sense of your symptoms. Perhaps you haven't been able to get a grip on your symptoms and your gut throws you for a loop more often than you'd like, even if you've been keeping a detailed food and symptom log. This is because IBS symptoms can have many different culprits, including delayed reactions.
During my 8-year struggle with IBS, I exhausted every possible culprit that could play a role in my symptoms. I found correlations that seemed to influence my digestion, but inevitably I would experience major digestive upsets that really caught me off guard, and I would find myself speeding on my drive home in hopes to make it to the bathroom in time, or planning my day around my digestive woes instead of living my life. In this blog post series, I will discuss the top 7 most common food-related IBS triggers, so you know which considerations are worth acting upon to troubleshoot your IBS!
IBS Trigger #1 - Food Sensitivities
I will go ahead and let you know this factor provided a HUGE breakthrough for me with my digestive health! You see, whenever I ate a food or food chemical that I was sensitive toward, my immune system misinterpreted the food as a harmful invader (a threat), instead of a harmless food substance, and my body released inflammatory chemicals as a defense response. Diet-induced inflammation can lead to digestive symptoms, especially since the digestive tract comes into direct contact with the food we eat - beneficial and inflammatory foods. Also, there is a strong relationship between our digestive health and immune health because...
Diet-induced inflammation from food sensitivities is a BIG factor that often gets overlooked when trying to put "puzzle pieces" together. After all, food sensitivities affect 30-40% of the population. It's pretty obvious that "no brainer" foods, such as processed food products and soda pop, lead to inflammation in the body, but foods that have nutritional benefit are commonly disregarded. It is possible to develop a sensitivity to nutritious foods such as spinach, quinoa, cantaloupe, and more, as shown below.
It is also possible to have a sensitivity to a food chemical. Even if you avoid processed food with additives and preservatives, it is possible to experience adverse bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation from a sensitivity to a naturally-occurring food chemical, such as:
- Fructose (the fruit sugar)
- Solanine (found in nightshade vegetables, such as bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, paprika, cayenne pepper, and chili powder)
- Candida Albicans (a yeast overgrowth that can occur in the digestive tract)
- Potassium nitrate (spinach, beets, celery are common sources)
- Tyramine (formed in aged/fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, soy sauce, kombucha, and more)
- Phenylethylamine (balsamic vinegar, wine, aged cheeses, cocoa)
- Capsaicin (found in chili pepper)
- Lecithin (egg yolks, corn, soybean)
- And more...
Properly identifying food and food chemical reactions are tricky because they are delayed onset with symptoms appearing between hours to several days after consuming. With food sensitivities, it is possible that your IBS flareup on Wednesday could be something you ate on Sunday! Also, reactions are dose-dependent. For instance, if you are reactive to tomatoes, having 1 or 2 slices on a sandwich may not pose a problem, but eating a cup of gazpacho or tomato soup might be a recipe for a digestive disaster.
Trigger foods are very difficult to identify and troubleshoot without accurate food sensitivity testing and working with a nutrition professional who is trained in complex food and food chemical sensitivity interactions. You may watch the 3-minute video below (after a brief, initial commercial), and don't hesitate to connect with me!