If you're trying to pinpoint the cause of your bowel problems ... you're not alone.
A lovely woman with bright, warm smile. She’s a typical busy mum of three, working full-time in marketing.
Sarah gets a lot of wind and swings between constipation and diarrhoea. She feels the waistband of her skirt tighten most afternoons, and by the end of the day Sarah’s stomach has become so bloated that she has to change into her sweat-pants or pjs when she gets home - anything to feel more comfortable.
At times Sarah's tummy is as tight as a drum.
She looks pregnant - and she's in pain.
Sarah doesn’t complain because there’s no point.
But her husband can tell. Because that’s when her brow furrows and she stops laughing at his ‘never very funny anyway' (yes she is that grumpy) jokes.
Sarah’s had all the usual blood tests done, but they came back clear. She’s been given a raft of medication to help manage the symptoms, but they didn’t make a lot of difference.
And Sarah’s not keen on taking medication anyway. She knows that all medication has side-effects and Sarah’s a smart cookie, so she’d rather find out what’s causing the problems in the first place.
She's sure that there must be something that's causing her issues. Her doctor suggests she may be reacting to wheat and asks her to keep a food diary.
Sarah's up for that and delighted to give it a go.
So she changes her lunchtime sandwich for a baked potato.
Swaps the muffin, that she has with her afternoon latte, for a couple of squares of milk chocolate. Dinner is chicken and veg.
She does this religiously for a week. By the end of it? She’s even more bloated and windy. And the diarrhoea is worse.
Sarah troops back to the doctor who crosses wheat off the list of potential culprits and suggests she take milk products out of her diet instead.
So lunch is back to a sandwich, but this time without cheese, and the afternoon muffin is now accompanied by an Americano. Sarah celebrates being back on wheat by having pasta three nights in a row.
A week later?
The diarrhoea has stopped - Yaaay!!
But Sarah is still bloated.
And the constipation is back. Yes, the constipation is back - BIG time! Sarah hasn’t been to the loo in days.
Back at the surgery - milk is proclaimed innocent. The doctor hands Sarah a prescription for some laxatives and tells her that ‘it’s probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome’. Sarah leaves - fed up and frustrated.
If only she could pinpoint the 'one thing' that's causing her problems.
That would be amazing!
But when it comes to bloating and Irritable Bowel Syndrome taking ‘one thing’ at a time out of the diet rarely creates a happy outcome.
Wheat and milk products ARE common triggers but if gut problems are due to a sensitivity it’s rarely due to just ‘one thing’. In fact, people with sensitive guts are usually sensitive to a number of different things. Not just one or two.
So if Sarah reacts to wheat AND milk - and she takes just one of them out of her diet - she’s still going to react to the other. And as a sensitive person there are bound to be other things that are causing her system stress.
And they're not just dietary. Lifestyle and environmental stressors play a part too.
When Sarah came to see me the bloating was her greatest concern.
As it is for most of my other clients -
“I feel so uncomfortable. I can’t wear the clothes I want to wear. It make me feel so self-conscious … and it’s hard to feel sexy when I’m bloated like a balloon. I really feel this is damaging my confidence.
When I get bloated I just feel tired and irritable … I don’t want to do anything. I’d love to know what’s causing it but I can’t see any pattern to it and I just can’t pin-point what it is.”
Does this sound familiar?
If so, you may have looked at your diet and, like Sarah, embarked on a process of elimination.
But without a good understanding of what’s going on in your body it’s difficult to do this successfully.
Anyway … that's where I can help.
No doubt you began by taking ‘one thing’ out of your diet. Bread is a popular first choice.You have a couple of weeks without bread but there’s no significant difference.
You’re still feeling bloated and neither you, nor your guts, are happy. So you put bread back in.
Then you take out something else. Your Granny could never eat onions (gave her terrible wind - the stuff of family legends) so you take them out of your diet.
Once again - nothing spectacular happens. The bloating persists.
Although … maybe it’s not quite so bad.
At this point you think you're loosing the plot as you can't decide if you're getting better or not.
But you’re still getting bloated so you reintroduce onions and try taking out something else instead.
As time goes on your frustration grows - just like your belly. You wonder if it will ever be possible to stop bloating. You would love to find the ‘one thing’ that’s causing it.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Once you learn that it’s not just ‘one thing’ that’s responsible for bloating and IBS you can take a different approach. You can learn about the possible triggers. Become aware of your own unique combination … and learn the easy ways to avoid them.
And when you do. You’ll be delighted by the results. You may even discover that changes CAN happen quickly. In fact, some people, once they know what to do, and what not to do, can experience what might seem like miraculous changes in no time at all.
What can you take away from this?
What can I teach you -
Well, firstly, bloating and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are rarely caused by ‘one thing’ so it’s best to be aware of that from the outset, and be prepared to make a number changes.
Secondly, in order to conquer bloating and IBS, you need to establish what’s causing them first. Only then can you take steps to do something to restore the balance - or at least to swing the balance in your favour.
But once you do?
Well ... it can seem as if miracles do happen!
To go back to our friend Sarah, it turned out that, for her, wheat and milk weren’t the only issues.
Sarah also had to make a number of other changes. But not just dietary changes. Sarah had to make some simple changes to the WAY that she was eating too.
Rushing her lunch at her desk, as she chatted on the phone between mouthfuls, was a habit Sarah was guilty of. She had to cut down on caffeine, keep herself well hydrated and ditch the chewing gum. She found this difficult to begin with.
There's no doubt that it can be challenging to change habits.
But there will be habits that yo have today that you didn't have 5, 10, or 15 years ago so you do have the ability to develop new habits.
And when the pain of ‘doing’ something becomes greater than the pain of ‘not doing’ it - it can be a no-brainer to make the change.
Sarah was so fed up with the bloating, the wind, the constipation, the diarrhoea, and the general embarrassment of it all, that she was ‘willing to try anything!’
Once Sarah realised that her habit of eating quickly was a major contributing factor to her digestive problems.
She learned to slow down. And when she did, her new mindful way of eating, combined with the other changes that she made, worked like a charm.
Sarah felt SO much better.
The bloating stopped.
Going to the bathroom was no longer a problem. And she was able to go through each day forgetting about her belly - feeling light, comfortable and pain-free.
But best of all?
She didn’t have to spend her evenings like a beached whale in sweat-pants!
You may be looking for the ONE thing that will end your bowel problems.
But good (or bad) gut health is never the result of ONE thing.
Your bowel is affected by a wide range of inter-linking factors: diet, stress, hydration, exercise, sensitivities, low digestive enzymes, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, low bowel flora, infections, how you eat, when you eat, what you eat ... I could go on!
If you've been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or are struggling with bloating, constipation, diarrhoea or wind then the first step towards having a good healthy digestive tract is to be aware that there are many things that could be affecting you.
So stop looking for the 'one thing' because it's rarely 'one thing' that's the cause.
Keep an open mind and be willing to make some changes.
Be prepared to eat differently, think differently, take time to support your digestive system, keep well-hydrated and learn ways to relax.
And I would also recommend having a Food Intolerance Test carried out as there is likely to be something in your diet that your body would do better without!