April is IBS awareness month in the US and in these uncertain times, it’s easy to overlook other conditions people are still suffering from. 80% of immunity lies in the gut and so is a good place to start when focusing on keeping our immune system strong.
Irritable bowel syndrome is an umbrella term which is responsible for causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, discomfort, constipation and diarrhoea effecting roughly 1 in 5. IBS can begin between the ages of 20 and 30 and is twice as likely to occur in women than men.
Ideally consuming foods high in nutrients which act as anti-inflammatories, and diverse commensal flora would be the best route to take in helping the body acquire what it needs to heal and manage the condition. However finding the right foods can be a minefield and take a lot of trial and error to identify which foods aggravate IBS symptoms. Eliminating common aggrevants such as dairy and gluten are a given, but often the food that causes a flare up can be quite obscure.
There are lots of articles online including our own G&G blog that talk about the gut and what diets, foods and nutrients can be used to support individuals suffering from this common complaint. However, how food is prepared isn’t generally as explored.
Most information online would tell you that eating raw fruit and vegetables is the best way to get the most nutrients from food as heating degrades and alters the chemical properties of food. For IBS sufferers however, this may make matters worse. Plenty of people who suffer from IBS complain of gas and bloating after having eaten a salad or other meal containing raw vegetables. One such reason that could cause this is the actual vegetables chosen themselves. Some foods are higher on the FODMAPs list than others and it may be those that are causing aggravation (click here to read more on FODMAPs.) Some foods may still cause problems regardless of the preparation process, such as cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and brussell sprouts. Raw food can be difficult for many to digest when stomach acid and enzyme production is low and so the process of heating food can start the process of breaking food down for you.
The university of California and also Harvard have conducted research and found that raw food actually gave less gut diversity when testing on mice. The cooked food had higher bacteriodetes which effect how glycans are degraded. Whilst this needs more study, it suggests that humans may have evolved with cooked foods.
How you cook the food also makes a difference. Frying oil increases colon inflammation, increases tumour growth and worsens gut permeability (leaky gut) and thus spreads bacteria into the blood stream. The process of heating oil results in oxidation of polyunsaturated fats and therefore further inflammation. Not all oils are equal, olive oil for example oxidises very quickly whereas coconut oil much less so and is a safer and more stable oil to use.
Often the safest way to heat foods is by steaming. It softens and cooks the food thoroughly but retains nutrients with minimal damage and of course, requires no oil.
Juicing is another great tool for IBS sufferers and is often used by many to extract nutrients from vegetables without having to digest the fibre and the body can absorb food with minimal effort.