Our grateful thanks to the experts who contributed to our on-air report (which you can hear again via our audio player below) and to the NHS and the charity, GUTS UK for the use of the support material below.
As we reported, pre-pandemic research shows that poor diet, irregular eating and the way we consume our food impacts on our bowel health.
IBS is the term used to describe a variety of gut symptoms. Symptoms vary from one individual to another and can be worse for some than others. It is a very common condition with around one in five people affected. Typical symptoms are:
It is not normal to pass blood in poo or lose weight unintentionally. So, consult your doctor if this happens (if you or any member of your family have been invited to participate in the NHS Bowel Health Screening Programme - click here to find out why this is so important).
It is important to have a diagnosis of IBS confirmed and other conditions such as coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease ruled out. Talk to your GP about having a test to rule out coeliac disease prior to making any changes to your diet.
As symptoms usually occur after eating it is not surprising that food is often blamed. True food allergies are rare and are unlikely to cause IBS symptoms. However, they could be caused by food intolerance. There are many tests available commercially claiming that they can diagnose food intolerance e.g. IgG blood test, kinesiology, electrodermal (Vega) testing or hair analysis. There is no convincing evidence to support any of these tests. The only reliable way to identify the problem foods is by eliminating and reintroducing foods. This should be done under the supervision of a dietitian, so if you feel your symptoms are due to food intolerance, ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian.
What steps can you take?
If symptoms include bloating & wind
If symptoms include constipation
Good Eating For All - A balanced diet Most people in the UK eat and drink too many calories, too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish or fibre. Also, as we reported, too many of us don't take or make time to eat properly.
There are five different food groups;
One single food group cannot provide everything needed for good health, choosing a variety of foods from each group can help achieve a healthy balanced diet.
It is recommended that starchy foods, vegetables and fruit should make up the bulk of meals. All of those contain the most fibre, which is an important part of a healthy diet. Fibre is not just important for good gut health and functioning: it is also associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
Starchy foods should be eaten regularly and you should aim to include one portion with each meal. Where possible higher-fibre starchy foods, such as wholegrain versions of bread, rice, other grains (barley, oats, buckwheat, bulgur, etc.), and breakfast cereals, should be consumed.
Beans and pulses, seeds and nuts are also good sources of fibre and can help increase the amount, as well as the variety, of fibre we consume. The recommendation is to eat 30 grams of fibre a day but most people only eat an average of 18 grams a day.
It is advisable to increase the amount of fibre consumed gradually and to drink plenty of fluids.There are different types of fibre and each type behaves differently in your gut. Some types of fibre help make your stool bigger and easier to pass, which might help avoid constipation. Other types of fibre are digested (broken down) by your gut bacteria, producing substances that can be beneficial to your gut health. They might also produce gases, which can cause bloating. People respond differently to different types of fibre and it is worth noting that many foods contain more than one type of fibre.
High-fibre foods are also beneficial because they have a lower glycaemic index - a measure of the rate at which certain foods cause blood sugar to rise after they have been eaten. High glycaemic index food such as sweets and white (refined) starchy foods release a lot of sugar quickly, which your body has to use up or else it gets stored as fat.
A certain amount of protein is needed and can be obtained from many different sources including beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat. Protein should be eaten in moderation. To avoid excess fat choose lean meat or remove excess fat and remove the skin from chicken. Milk and dairy foods are a rich source of calcium. Calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth and it is recommended to have three servings a day from this food group. Only a small proportion of foods should be made up of fatty and sugary foods.To maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, in addition to eating the correct foods, it is also important to be aware of other factors. These include:
5 a day. According to NHS Direct, Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals and fibre, and should make up just over a third of the food you eat each day.
It's recommended that you eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.
There's evidence that people who eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
A portion is:
Adding a tablespoon of dried fruit, such as raisins, to your morning cereal is an easy way to get 1 portion.
Listen to this weeks radio report
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