Health issue for October - November is: 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, otherwise known as IBS. 


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It is a debilitating condition and those who suffer from it often feel that their suffering is not fully appreciated as it is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system.   

IBS can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation and is thought to affect up to 1 in 5 people at some point in their life. 

It usually first develops when a person is between 20 and 30 years of age and it is more common in women than men.


The following research gives some idea of the complexity of this condition:

It has been shown that the faecal microflora  has low numbers of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Allergy tests are usually negative but food intolerance is common and exclusion diets beneficial. Probiotics may sometimes help the pain and flatulence associated with IBS but not all the time.  Madden & Hunter suggest that probiotics prevent the development, rather than cure it. 
To read their complete article on this subject, see: A review of the role of the gut microflora in irritable bowel syndrome and the effects of probiotics. British Journal of Nutrition Volume 88, September 2002 , pp. 67-72.

The western diet is too rich in fat and sugar and leads to reduced gut microbiota.
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A healthy gut microbiota is therefore essential to preventing and relieving the symptoms of IBS. Such a diet will include:
diversity - range of different whole foods. These should be as unprocessed as possible. 

  1. Eat plenty vegetables, legumes and fruit. E.g. raspberries, green peas, artichokes, brocolli, chick peas, blueberries, lentils, beans, whole grains. Apples, artichokes, blueberries, almonds and pistachios have all been shown to increase Bifidobacteria in humans.
  2. Eat fermented foods or, better again, make your own.  Fermented foods include: yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and tempeh. Fermented foods increase the lactobacilli in the gut. Plain natural yogurt is the best, not the sweetened varities.
  3. Eat prebiotic foods. These are generally raw so can be added to salads. However, cooked onions are also prebiotic and are essential for health. Other foods include: raw chicory root, raw jerusalem artichoke, raw garlic, raw leeks, raw onion, raw asparagus and, finally, raw dandelion leaves. So don't ignore this weed in the lawn but see it as an addition to your diet.
  4. Eat whole grains
  5. Eat less meat and more vegetables.
  6. Eat plants rich in polyphenols because they inrease the beneficial gut bateria. Polyphenols are plant compounds that help to reduce blood pressure, inflammation,  and cholesterol. They include: cocoa, dark chocolate, red wine, grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries, broccoli.
To be continued: