This great guest post was written by Jenny Robertson, a registered holistic nutritionist! I encourage you to go check out her website!
Inflammatory bowel disease primarily includes chron’s, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome all of which would indicate a motility problem involving the entire GI tract. It is a hypersensitive, irritated and inflamed system with poor digestion, absorption, and elimination leading to deficiencies, an increased likelihood of leaky gut and a whole array of other associated health concerns.
When it comes to our digestive health, a well functioning system is key to our overall health and wellness. Our body requires vital nutrients in order to carry out its many functions and tasks, without the proper support our body will not function optimally and will not be able to keep us healthy. Some of the common health implications we may experience include:
- Being more susceptible to illness; experiencing cold and flu related symptoms which would indicate that your immune system is not functioning as it should be
- Recurrent Anemia and electrolyte disorders
- Difficulty maintaining a healthy weight; weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- Symptoms associated with arthritis; inflammation and pain
- Symptoms associated with Candida (overgrowth of undesirable gut bacteria); recurring yeast/fungal infections, feeling tired or worn down, irritability and mood swings
- Symptoms associated with depression; low mood, loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Strategies to Best Support IBD
The avoidance of foods that can potentially cause further irritation and inflammation including:
- Gluten: wheat, rye, barley, spelt, Kamut can damage our gut lining. These are difficult to break down and can be difficult to digest; they can create inflammation
- Caffeine: coffee, black tea, soft drinks. These thin the digestive lining
- Dairy Products: milk, cheese, ice cream, sour cream. These create mucous and inflammation and interfere with proper absorption
- Alcohol: causes intestinal permeability (allowing larger undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream)
- Processed Meats: cold cuts, commercially raised animal products and farmed fish. These disrupt our gut flora, contributing to an overgrowth of undesirable bacteria
- Sweets: high fructose corn syrup, molasses, sugar, rice syrup, artificial sweetener and all forms of sugar (with the exception of naturally occurring sugars in fruits)
- Refined foods: white flour, white rice, processed packaged foods, bread, cookies, and crackers. These are deficient in vitamins and minerals, they imbalance our blood sugar and feed our unfriendly gut bacteria
- Unstable oils: hydrogenated, trans fats, all commercial oils (with the exception of olive oil, flax, and hemp) and all heated polyunsaturated oils. They disrupt omega3-6 balance which can lead to inflammation, impacting our gut lining
- Artificial colorings, flavorings, and sweeteners damage our gut lining
- Allergens: all known and suspected ones create inflammation and contribute to leaky gut
The addition of more food items that can soothe and promote healing of an already irritated and inflamed gut including:
- Chia Seed: anti-inflammatory essential fats
- Flax Seed: anti-inflammatory essential fats
- Chicory Root: contains a prebiotic that helps to support healthy gut flora and can help improve digestion
- Virgin Coconut Oil: antifungal, anti-viral and can help to decrease candida (yeast) overgrowth
- Oregano: anti-microbial
- Rosemary: anti-parasitic
- Thyme: anti-microbial
- Tumeric: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidant
- Cinnamon: stimulates weak digestion
- Foods from the Brassica Family: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts
- Pumpkin Seeds: have anti-inflammatory properties and are a good source of zinc which can help with the repair and regeneration process
- Onion: anti-parasitic and anti-microbial properties
- Green Leafy Vegetables: provide proteins and important nutrients that will aid with leaky gut repair
- Garlic: anti-parasitic, anti-microbial properties
- Ginger: anti-inflammatory properties
Strategies to Improve Digestion, Absorption, and Elimination
- Eat slowly, chewing your food thoroughly to help activate digestive enzymes
- Take your time and really enjoy the taste, texture, and aromas of the food
- Eat only when you are genuinely hungry and only eat to the feeling of “fullness”
- Have your largest meal in the middle of the day
- Have 3 main meals plus 2 healthy snacks each day
- Try to consume nothing after 9:00pm
- Do not eat when you are angry, anxious or upset
- Avoid reading, watching TV or arguing while you are eating, instead, eat in peace and relaxation
- Do not drink liquids during meals, as they dilute stomach acids. Drink at the end of the meal instead
- Support digestive weaknesses by taking a digestive enzyme supplement and a probiotic supplement
All of the strategies listed above to best support IBD and to improve digestion will help to promote better absorption, however, proper food combing is also important. Not all foods are digested and absorbed in the same manner; for this reason how we combine our foods can have a huge affect on how effective and efficient this process is.
- Fruits and sugars should be eaten by themselves or with other fruits and sugars; sugars should be avoided whenever possible and fruits should be limited to 3 servings per day due to their high natural sugar content
- Do not eat proteins or fats with starch
- Combine protein and fats in the same meal
- Combine protein and vegetables in the same meal
- Combine starches and vegetables in the same meal
- Do not eat more than one protein source per meal
Proteins: Eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, meats, butter, peanut butter, almond butter
Starches: Grains, beans, lentils, bread, rice, pasta, flour, cookies, pastries, potatoes, and other root vegetables.
Fruits and sugars: All fruit, honey, maple syrup, sweeteners
Vegetables: Any vegetable that is not a root vegetable
Fats: Butter, olive oil, oil based salad dressings, etc.
Seventy percent (70%) of our immune system is located around the digestive system so we want to keep it in “tip top” working order. A daily bowel movement doesn’t necessarily indicate an efficiently functioning colon when a meal remains for a long time toxins and putrefaction have time to do cause damage. Our colon works best when it is full of water and fiber so we want to be sure that we are drinking at least eight 8 oz glasses of good quality drinking water per day and we want to be sure to consume between 25-30 grams of fiber each day.
We can also incorporate the following strategies that will help to improve elimination:
- Add more Flax oil and fish oil into our dietary planning (lubrication)
- Exercise to increase peristalsis (the movement of food through the digestive tract)
Remember that when we are dealing with inflammatory bowel disease (chron’s, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome) we are dealing with a motility problem involving the entire GI tract. It is a hypersensitive, irritated and inflamed system with poor digestion, absorption, and elimination leading to deficiencies, an increased likelihood of leaky gut and a whole array of other associated health concerns.
Anything that we can do to help soothe and promote healing of the system, improve digestion, improve absorption and improve elimination will help us to live a less symptomatic and painful life with IBD.
CNC, P. A. (2010). Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Fifth ed.). New York, New York, USA: The Penguin Group.
Ph.D, D. W. (2006-2013). Digestion: Inner Pathway to Health . Parry Sound, ON, CAN: Rowland Publications.
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