Guest blog by Carly Trigg
When you suffer with IBS, you’re told a whole range of diets could help your digestive health. However, as IBS is often used as a collective term for a host of digestive ailments, the symptoms are variable, and it’s difficult to say any one diet (more often used for their weight loss benefits) is any use.
Having said this, many IBS sufferers understandably don’t enjoy not knowing what their symptoms mean, what it is that’s causing it, etc. It can become quite a dark and lonely place…
What IBS sufferers need to know is the bare bones of each diet/fad and then work out what works for them, potentially taking bits and pieces from each to suit their lifestyle. So let’s consider the pros and cons of the gluten free diet and the Paleo lifestyle.
The gluten free diet is one that many IBSers seem to champion, as wheat and other grains are known for causing inflammations in the gut. An important thing to know about IBS is that it’s NOT Coeliac disease. Your symptoms haven’t exclusively been diagnosed by a doctor, so going completely gluten free isn’t always a necessary response to symptoms.
From what I’ve seen, a lot of people suffering with IBS symptoms have no diagnosed gluten-sensitivity. Not only this but there is a big difference between wheat and gluten and how it is digested in the body, individual-by-individual. Each may contribute to different symptoms, and by simply going ‘gluten free’ you’re cutting out a lot of foods which might actually make you feel a whole lot better.
If you’ve already gone gluten free and feel it works for your IBS, you may have had gluten sensitivity. Some sufferers, though, have issues when they go gluten free, and don’t want to believe it’s that which has caused it. You might be surprised to learn that most free-from foods, and most noticeably gluten free foods, contain 4 specific food toxins: cereal grains, soy, industrial seed oils and sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup and fructose glucose syrup. These can contribute to leaky gut, inflammation and poor vitamin status – three things IBS sufferers cannot manage.
Paleo, on the other hand, is not designed to be completely IBS-proof, but at least it considers how our bodies work best. The Paleo lifestyle is a massive advocate for protein-dense, high-fat foods, incorporating lots of healthy fats, vitamins and omega-3s. It also vetoes trans fats (which can be found in processed foods) and omega-6 fats. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention offers more information on this.
You might also be interested to know that, whilst the gluten free diet has been linked to leaky gut, Paleo eating aids with autoimmunity damage to the intestinal lining. This is only the case, however, with Paleo eating if you’re choosing easily digestible foods – in which case high portions of meat might not be the best if you suffer with leaky gut.
Unfortunately, the British Diabetic Association call the Paleo diet "unbalanced, time consuming, [and] socially isolating" and so "a sure-fire way to develop nutrient deficiencies" … which is true of practically any diet - which is why I recommend making lifestyle choices rather than restricting your food intake with one particular diet.
We have more information on the Paleo lifestyle here
Carly talks about gluten sensitivity in this article, which is discussed further here.
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