I come across irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) again and again in my endometriosis health coaching practice and with my Instagram audience. It seems that every other day, I get a question about IBS or hear of someone being given a handout on high FODMAP foods to avoid and then sent on their way.
So I wanted to touch upon gut health, some questions you can ask yourself, and actions you can take to begin making improvements. Of course, I am not a doctor, so it’s always best to consult with a gastrointestinal specialist before making any dietary changes. My perspective is that of a certified women’s health coach who has spent many hours studying gut health and its relationship with endometriosis. So, let’s dive in.
Are you chewing?
This sounds like a silly question — but really, think about it. Do you suffer from bloating? Do you find yourself gassy immediately after meals? If so, consider how you’re eating.
Are you gulping down food? Swallowing before you’ve fully chewed your food? Nutritional experts recommend that you thoroughly chew your food before swallowing. A 2013 study found that when almonds were chewed 40 times, the smaller particles were more readily absorbed by the body compared with almonds that were chewed 10 or 25 times.
Digestion begins in the mouth, and if we don’t chew our food properly, we will cause digestion issues further down the line.
It can be overwhelming to think about chewing our food so many times if we’re used to inhaling it. Start slowly by being more conscious about how many times you’re chewing and you might find that you naturally chew more. Or aim to chew just five times more than usual, and increase it from there.
Are you stressed?
Another often overlooked contributory factor to our digestion is stress. Stress has adverse effects on our gut microbiome, digestion, intestinal barrier, and nutrient absorption. This can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea, bloating, gas, leaky gut, and even nutritional deficiencies.
When we’re facing the challenge of leaky gut, our immune system is often in a heightened state as it begins attacking all of the food particles passing through the gut barrier when they shouldn’t be. As I’ve mentioned before, this creates chronic inflammation that leads to heightened pain.
Poor absorption of nutrients can also contribute to feelings of fatigue and brain fog. It can impair our ability to take on endometriosis and makes our symptoms feel worse.
So how can you change how you feel by eating?
Consider bringing some mindful practices into your meals: Slow down, take deep breaths before you eat, and take a moment to appreciate what’s on your plate. Check out this resource for ideas on mindful eating.
If you tend to eat standing up or at your desk while one hand is still typing, put aside even five minutes to sit down and focus on eating rather than your to-do list. Sometimes this isn’t always possible, but endeavor to do it as often as you can.
How’s your stomach acid?
If you find yourself burping instantly after food, or have a feeling of fullness at the top of your stomach after eating, you may find that you have low stomach acid.
Stress and conditions that cause stress, such as chronic pain, can lower stomach acid. When we have inadequate stomach acid, we struggle to break down foods that affect our body’s ability to deal with harmful bacteria. This can lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or gut dysbiosis.
If you suspect you have low stomach acid, you can get a test at the doctor’s office or work with a nutritionist to do a betaine HCL challenge, in which you take a supplement before your main protein-rich meal of the day and observe whether your symptoms reduce. If you can’t afford a nutritionist or health coach, Dr. Jessica Drummond outlines how to do this test in her new book, “Outsmart Endo.”
Do you lack the essentials?
The intake of the kind of fruits and vegetables you may need could change depending on the type of IBS you’re presenting with — for example, low FODMAP veggies could be better for someone with diarrhea.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.