IBS Q and A with Dr Hilary

Back in February we hosted a live Q&A with Dr Hilary Jones on IBS. In the past few years the nation’s understanding of IBS has been increasing as more and more people have been diagnosed with food intolerances, and have experienced the uncomfortable symptom on IBS.

We wanted to help answer the questions of people who were struggling with IBS so we’ve put together some of the most commonly asked questions and our responses for anyone that didn’t get the chance to attend.
My GP says that there is no science behind food intolerance testing – is this true?

There are so many different food intolerance tests on the market and some of them, including Vega Testing, have no basis in science. Other tests on the market, such as food-specific IgG tests to identify reactive foods, do have a scientific basis. We are passionate about improving the regulation of such tests. YorkTest have been offering food intolerance testing for over 30 years, have published papers to support test performance, and are accredited. For more details visit our accreditation page http://www.yorktest.com/about-us/accreditations-awards/

I have a food intolerance to eggs, yeast and cow’s milk. I sometimes have a soya yogurt but otherwise no milk or cheese. Should I be doing something to take in more calcium and if so how?

If you feel that you need a calcium supplement it can also be found in green leafy vegetables and bony fish such as sardines as well as having a high concentration in soya beans and soya products. To keep your bones strong make sure you get plenty of weight bearing exercise on a regular basis.

I know it takes hours for food to digest so why do I get diarrhoea within minutes of eating?

The gastro-colic reflex is a powerful reflex which stimulates the large intestine to become much more mobile and active when the stomach becomes distended by a meal.  So within minutes of eating there are significant physiological changes that begin to happen in the colon.  This is where IBS symptoms particularly manifest themselves and this is why your IBS is triggered as soon as you eat.

I have a painful and bloated stomach after I eat wheat-based products – how can I cure it and ease the discomfort?

Bloating on its own might be due to any number of conditions not just IBS.  You may have developed an intolerance to wheat or to gluten which it contains but it is important to see your doctor to have your tummy checked over for things like ovarian cysts or fibroids which can produce abdominal girth.  Try avoiding all cereal products and foods containing gluten to see if it makes a difference and then try avoiding all fatty foods just in case you have a gall stone.  Never assume this is IBS until other things are ruled out.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can eat a healthy diet and try to lose some weight when fruit and vegetables seem to trigger my IBS flare ups?

Some vegetables are more likely to produce IBS symptoms than others.  You should be able to find fruits which are low in calories and which are less likely to be fermented to gas than others enabling you to lose weight and stay healthy.  Weight loss is best achieved with a reduced carbohydrate intake which means cutting back on foods like potatoes, pasta, cereals and pudding.  Try to increase your protein intake and stick to fruits like grapes, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe melons, nectarines and peaches.

What is the basis of a “fodmap” diet?

Read our blog post on following a FODMAP diet http://www.yorktest.com/blog/what-is-a-low-fodmap-diet/.

My IBS is worse when I’m stressed or worried – what do you recommend I do/take to stop the pain?

I’m a great believer in exercise to offset the effects of stress on the gut and any form of relaxation whether it is massage, deep muscular relaxation or hypnotherapy is good.  Avoid foods which seem to trigger symptoms and only take medications of a mild nature such as a concentrated mint or a smooth muscle relaxant.

Does the body get used to a restricted diet and is it worth trying to reintroduce ‘alien foods’?

Yes it is certainly worth reintroducing culprit foods one at a time and in small dosages.  It is well known now through ongoing research that food intolerance enables people after a period of abstinence to reintroduce a small dose of the trigger food. This is unlike the situation with food allergy where the allergic reaction is often life-long even with tiny dosages.  Try to introduce just one single foodstuff at a time so that you are able to identify within a fortnight or so whether you still react.  If not, then you can increase the dosage and/or go on to introduce another foodstuff to which you have previously been intolerant.

To find out which foods you are able to eat make sure to look at our IBS Diet Programme.