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Having the stomach for it

Suffering from digestive problems can have a real effect on your life. Independent health stores can offer a range of natural solutions

What is IBS?

“Irritable bowel syndrome can be described as an abdominal pain with symptoms which can include bloating, nausea, and flatulence,” says Bernadette Cass of the Fruit N Nut Place, Portlaoise, “The person can suffer from bouts of diarrhoea and/or constipation. Anxiety and stress seem to be a major factor in the majority of cases. IBS affects women more often than men.”

“We have a lot of customers coming in asking for help,” says Angela McGlanaghey at Simple Simon in Donegal town.

“A lot of the time they may not realise it’s their digestive system that’s causing this discomfort or sluggish feeling.”

IBS and diet

“People find certain foods make their symptoms worse and once they link the two together are able to avoid these trigger foods,” says Bernadette Cass. “The slow introduction of fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, are beneficial to the health of the gut. Taking the time to sit, chew and enjoy your food, trying to manage stress and eating smaller meals should all help to reduce your symptoms.”

Leaky gut

“Leaky Gut Syndrome is an autoimmune condition, affecting the lining of the intestines, making gaps which allow material like bacteria or undigested food through the damaged intestinal wall and ending up in the body’s immune system which attack these foods with antibodies,” says Bernadette Cass. “The result is an inflammatory response can escalate to swelling of joints, fatigue and regular abdominal discomfort.”

“Leaky Gut occurs when there are abnormalitites in the digestive system,” says Angela McGlanaghey. “The intestinal lining doesn’t filter out food or toxins properly and this can leak into the bloodstream, leading to stomach discomfort such as cramps, constipation, bloating and gas.”

Leaky gut and diet

“Some symptoms can be relieved by conventional medicine, but a lot of medications, especially antibiotics, can have the opposite effect and cause further intestinal discomfort,” says Angela McGlanaghey. “By changing your diet and a few other factors you can help heal it naturally.”

“The first thing to do is avoid foods that are causing inflammation,” says Bernadette Cass. “This could be achieved by minimising meat and dairy products. Arachidonic acid is a type of fat which is found in these foods which causes an inflammatory response. Foods to include are flax seeds, salmon and sardines, and bioflavanoids from citrus fruits help vitamin C to protect blood vessels and encourage healing of cells.

“Food should be eaten in smaller quantities and more regularly. L-glutamine is an amino acid which aids the healing of the intestinal wall. Probiotics would reduce bad bacteria and aloe vera juice would reduce inflammation and provide nutrients for the body.”


“Herbs like oats, passionflower, ginger and fennel are all wonderful in having a calming effect on your bowels.” says Bernadette Cass. “Remember the gut and brain are linked, do not underestimate that!”

“We would usually recommend live natural yoghurt or kefir, which is a natural probiotic and full of good bacteria,” says Angela McGlanaghey. “Coconut products are easier to digest than other fats. We would recommend a good probiotic and glutamine as these really help to protect against further discomfort.”

Natural solutions

Aloe vera – soothing and healing for the digestive tract.

Glutamine powder – healing for the digestive tract.

Herbal teas – chamomile, valerian or peppermint teas have antispasmodic properties. Ginger, fennel teas relieve gas and bloating.

Magnesium – from dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, certain fish, advocados and bananas. Can help to relax the muscles in the intestine.

Multi-strain probiotic – can help with most digestive symptoms.

Digestive enzyme supplement – before meals to prevent gas and bloating.

Regular moderate exercise – walk for 30 minutes three to four times a week to keep everything moving.

Relax – if stress is the cause of your digestive problems find ways in your life to relax.

Stop smoking – it inhibits the absorption of nutrients from food.

Vitamin C – has a healing and cleansing effect in the gut.

If you suspect food intolerance – keep a food diary and avoid the suspected food for a month and see if it helps. Or have a food intolerance test with a nutritionist.

Check with your professional healthcare practitioner before you take any new supplements or start a new diet.

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