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Ep.56 – IBS advice to ignore by an IBS nutritionist
19 Jun, 2024

Episode Intro

Should you ignore the advice I give you on this podcast? Of course, I hope that by listening to the podcast you can gain strategies and tips to make your digestion easier, less painful and more regular, but sometimes I'll say things that just don't apply to you. If you're a regular listener, you'll know I often suggest you ignore. Crazy advice like eating only meat on the carnivore diet or going on a three day gut detox with loads of supplements. But what about my standard advice about managing IBS that works for most people? When should you ignore that? That's what we're going to cover in today's episode of the Inside Knowledge podcast for people with IBS.

Podcast transcript

Breathing techniques for IBS

Welcome to episode 56 of the Inside Knowledge podcast. I’m Anna Mapson. My podcast has turned one this week. I’ve been running weekly episodes for a year now, and I wanted to take this time just to reflect a little bit on things that I have said frequently, that might not apply to you. The reason I came up with this idea for a podcast is I’ve had a few chats with people over the last few weeks, I guess, where some of the advice has been either taken a bit too literally, or people have come to speak to me about potentially working with me and they’ve been following a strict set of rules and guidelines that are all really healthy and good, but they just don’t always apply to individuals.

So. Of course, like I said in the intro, there are loads of times when I will tell you to avoid what I consider to be silly advice online, telling you to do things that just are not good for your health. However, there are things that are good for the majority of people, but they’re not always good for everybody with IBS.

So anyway, I’m going to go through six different bits of advice that I have said multiple times in the last year on this podcast, but what I’m going to do is just add another layer of context to some of those and explain a little bit in which conditions it wouldn’t be suitable for somebody to start following.

The first topic I want to talk about is the migrating motor complex. This is your small intestine’s cleaning process that happens when we haven’t had food for about an hour and a half. Your body will then start to sweep this little impulse through your small intestine which cleans it up. Advice I often give is not to be grazing all day long because we want that process to get started.

So if you’re eating, the migrating motor complex stops its work immediately. As soon as you start putting anything in your stomach, the whole digestive system stops cleaning and goes into digest mode, which makes sense. But if you’re eating constantly, so obviously that process doesn’t kick in. The advice that I offer to most people, and it is still good advice, is to try to leave a little bit of time in between your meals in order for your food to go down and this process to kick start.

I also normally suggest people have a 12 hour fast overnight in order to allow this migrating major complex to do the cleaning work a couple of times. You’ve finished your dinner. You don’t eat anything else for the rest of the evening and then you’re asleep for seven or eight hours.

So the fasting happens mostly when you are asleep and you are getting a little bit of a reduction in your body’s energy in digesting. So that’s the standard advice and now to come on to I suppose the next layer of context that I’d like to put around it. Certainly, if you are someone who’s struggling to put on weight, it’s more important, in my eyes, to get healthy weight restoration than it is to follow these kind of guidelines.

This means if you’re someone who needs to put on weight and you feel hungry, you should eat. It doesn’t matter what time it is, doesn’t matter how long it is since you last ate, you just need to follow your body’s signals and eat when you’re hungry. And that is because you need to add weight to your body.

Maybe you’ve been over restricting, or you’ve, you know, for whatever reason you don’t have enough weight and you want to put on weight, that is something that you’re going to have to focus on. Just to say as well, actually, you might not even feel hungry, but you might still need to have snacks in between meals in order to increase your calorie intake.

intake. So you want more energy in, therefore you’re going to need to eat more frequently. So that is one bit of extra advice I want to say is yes, putting on weight is more important in my eyes than than adhering to this kind of guideline. And this even applies to the overnight fast. So if you struggle to find time to eat during the day, And you need to put on weight.

Then Implementing an evening snack could be beneficial. The other time that I also encourage eating a bedtime snack is if you are someone who wakes up frequently at two, three, or four o’clock in the morning, sometimes feeling a little bit panicky, low blood sugar is often this, this is the time in the night when your blood sugar can dip, and I’ve had few clients who are perimenopausal or going through the menopause and it’s really helped to eat a little bit before they go to bed.

Obviously, if you’re someone who has reflux, you don’t want to eat a massive meal right before you go lie down. However, just having something small with a bit of protein, a little bit of fats can be quite helpful to get a better night’s sleep. So the majority of times, yes, eating three meals a day with not too many snacks in between and an overnight fast is still good advice, but it doesn’t apply to everybody.

And there are a couple of times when it’s more important to get sleep, to increase your weight, or just to respond to your body’s hunger. And it is to follow rules set by something outside of your body.

The second advice that I have, which is around having three main meals a day, is also something where we need to be a little bit more flexible.

On occasion. So majority of people, I do say try to have three meals a day at the same time every day if you can. Now, the additional context I want to give around this is firstly around the meal timings. So whilst I say yes, eating at the same time, every day is important. It doesn’t matter if it’s a couple of hours, either way, it doesn’t have to be on the clock.

So if you. For example, with breakfast, my advice would be to try and get up within about an hour of waking to have your breakfast. If, at the weekend, you want to sleep in a little bit, try to keep to the same routine even if you’ve had a lie in for an extra couple of hours.

So, say you normally get up at 6 o’clock. And at the weekend you want to lie in till 8. 30 or something. That’s okay, you just get up, have your breakfast then. You don’t need to get up in order just to have breakfast to meet the same time on the clock. And then the other time when it might be better for you to have smaller meals broken down into more manageable chunks would be particularly if you have slow digestion in your eyes.

upper part of your digestive tract. So, for example, like, slow moving food out of your stomach, that can be down to having low stomach acid. Go listen to the last episode that I just recorded on stomach acid if you want some more information about that. It can be down to the things that you’re eating, like maybe a very high fat, high protein diet can be quite hard to digest, and can slow down your digestion as well.

And there are other reasons why you might be eating slower digesting. However, some people will feel better with smaller meals broken down throughout the day. So again, a little bit back to this migrating motor complex, it’s okay to have three meals and two snacks. Now the snacks do not need to be necessarily snacky food, like Packet of crisps or two biscuits or something.

It could actually be an element of your meal that has been transported from your dinner up to your afternoon snack. So I’m talking about adding in here vegetables, protein, making sure that you’re hitting your nutrient content, but having smaller Meals throughout the day. So maybe you have four small meals and that is easier to digest.

That can also work really well particularly people who have reflux, because what you want to do is make sure that your food is leaving your stomach as easily as possible and it’s not going to be sitting there and the acid coming back up.

The third bit of advice that I give to nearly everyone is to increase your fibre.

This is really important because it increases your gut bacteria and your gut bacteria diversity by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These are really good for your digestive system. However, some people, particularly When you’ve got constipation will feel a little bit worse when they increase their fibre unless they get their bowels moving first so the little bit of additional context I want to put on it is around the types of fibre that you’re eating and Also how your bowel regularity is. If you’re somebody who doesn’t go to the toilet for days and days or you’ve got a very slow transit time then You might want to look at taking laxatives, taking things that get your bowels moving, like magnesium, or other prebiotic supplements, like partially hydrolyzed guar gum.

You can listen to episode 33 and 34, all about constipation and what to eat and what to take when you’ve got constipation. And then for more episodes on constipation. IBS supplements, then do listen to episode 22 about supplements for IBS or episode 31 supplements for SIBO. Now the other bit of context that you might Need when you’re thinking yes, I need to increase my fibre is Thinking about whether it’s soluble or insoluble fibre particularly if you have got diarrhea predominant symptoms Insoluble fibre can be quite aggravating to the lining of the gut and this can include things like the peel of vegetables and fruits also Some grains.

So basically it’s just . Yes, fibre is good, but it doesn’t always work for everybody, and there are ways to increase your fibre. With a little bit more nuance, you might feel better rather than worse. So if you’ve got constipation, get your bowels moving. If you’ve got diarrhea predominant, then maybe you want to focus more on soluble fibre.

That will be a little bit easier and actually can help form a softer, well formed stool that can help you with your diarrhea.

Okay, the next one is on the same ballpark, same area about fibre. And you might have seen the research that is to increase the amount of diversity in our fibre intake by aiming for 30 different plants per week.

Again, this is an excellent target. And I often come along to this at the end of my three month gut reset when people are feeling better. So if you’ve got to that stage in three months where you’re feeling like. Your symptoms have reduced, now we’re looking at optimising your diet and really doing, some work to increase the overall diversity and like nutrient density of your diet.

This is something that’s quite interesting to look at. How many different types of fruits and vegetables, pulses, grains, and nuts and seeds are you actually eating in a week? Because when we eat more diverse fibre then we tend to have more diverse types of gut bacteria, and that is better associated with immune health, metabolism, and just overall general energy, you know, good digestion. lots of reasons why fibre variety is really good, but I’m not sure The couple of times when it’s not as important to worry about is the Where people are slightly obsessing about the number 30 and really trying to cram in food and cram in too much fibre to the extent that it’s giving them IBS problems. And um, listen to episode 49 if you want an example of somebody I worked with who was following that advice and was really trying so hard to put in a lot of vegetables to try and be healthy and actually was contributing to some of her problems by Trying to hit this 30 types of foods a little too strictly.

The other thing to bear in mind is that there’s no magic formula to this 30 foods a week. It was just taken from the American Gut Microbiome Project, showing that people who ate more than 30 types of foods a week had more diverse gut microbes, but But there’s no exact science to this 30. Is it better at 30 or is it actually 25 or is it 20?

Because the comparison group was people who ate 10 or less. And what they didn’t do is like a graded scale showing at what point the benefits become w focusing on. So is the magic number 20? We don’t have this graded scale. So it’s really important not to get too hung up on these random targets, because we don’t know much more than that at the moment, other than 10 or less was not so good, 30 or more Good

If you’re someone who gets obsessive about the numbers and tracking and that kind of thing, any sort of history of over Thinking about your meals really in your diet, which I have to say is very common in people I work with because let’s face it You are trying so hard to avoid the horrible horrible symptoms that you’re getting And of course you’re getting a bit obsessive about what could be causing them What could be what you’re eating?

Is it making them worse? How to get out of this horrible negative cycle? So I’m not surprise when a lot of people are overly obsessed with their diet. The other thing is that I do sometimes introduce this at the end when people often feel like they’ve been tracking and they’ve been so restricted for so long.

When they come out of this and you’re thinking, oh, I don’t even know what to eat. So I use it as a guideline to say, okay, well, let’s see, could you be eating more fruit? Maybe you could eat more nuts. Some people don’t feel comfortable eating that because they’ve had a history of people telling them that nuts are fatty or fruit is too sugary and those kind of things.

So we can work through some of those difficulties around food by just looking at the composition. However, like I said, it’s not essential that everybody follows this all the time.

Okay, I’ve got a couple more to do. The next one is quite an easy one, really. But I often talk about. Listening to your gut and there is that phrase, you know, trust your gut, listen to your gut, and it can be really helpful.

My advice is often about tuning into your body, really listening to what is going on here. However, for some people, this is really difficult and might need some support before you try to tune in to your body. You might find a lot of resistance within yourself about what it is to listen to your physical sensations and also listen to your emotions.

I guess just saying listen to your body can be quite challenging when you’ve spent years trying to avoid listening to it because the signals that it was giving you or the messages coming back from your gut have been ones around pain, embarrassment, like worry, And so, you’ve tried to minimise connection to your gut for lots of reasons, but people telling you, just listen to your gut,

isn’t always helpful.

And I just wanted to add that little bit of nuance to that one.

The next section I wanted to talk about was eating a lot. without distractions or mindful eating. Listen to episode two for loads of information about mindful eating and all my advice about slowing down to eat and chewing. And one of the things I often say to people is about trying to eat without watching TV

or having your laptop on the table and watching the latest Netflix series you’re into. This is important because it helps your body to digest your food better because you’re focusing on chewing, you’re focusing on eating, you can notice how the food feels as it hits your stomach and how you’re reacting to it and it can just be more helpful to tune in a little bit to our body.

Like I just said in the last section. However, some people will find it very difficult to do this and may struggle to eat enough food. And so sometimes actually eating whilst you are a bit distracted can be an okay thing too. So whilst for the majority of people, I really recommend not having the TV on when you’re trying to eat, not even reading.

Ideally, like just have the radio on or put a podcast on Whilst you’re eating, if you are eating alone and obviously with other people, just try and have a conversation and chat around the table. But where you eat on your own a lot, and you find that quite difficult, sometimes it can be helpful to sit in front of your favorite program and just feel like you are not alone.

Partly it’s a loneliness thing, but also people. With ADHD may find that quiet sort of concentration quite tricky and may find you actually eat better when you are a little bit distracted. So it’s a very personal thing and you need to work out what’s going to be your ideal way of eating. But maybe experiment a bit and that’s one of those like rules or guidelines I suppose that I often say is don’t eat with loads of distractions on.

It might not apply to you if there are other things going on in your life and your health that require you to just be a bit different. Then to wrap it up, the last bit of advice I want to give you that I want to tear down from my own experience. Vault of advice is just anything that I’ve ever said that doesn’t suit you.

Obviously, if I’m working with you on a one to one basis, we’ve got loads of time to talk through these kinds of things and you can explain to me why it wouldn’t work for you. But in this kind of situation where I’m just broadcasting this information, there are lots of things I could be saying that don’t work for everybody.

Use your Sense of what’s going to be helpful for you and what you need to pick up and what you need to ignore. And the same thing applies to every podcast, every blog post, every bit of Facebook group advice that you see out there, just because somebody has once said it doesn’t mean that it is going to be right for you.

So use a little bit of your. sense of your own body. However, working with somebody on a one to one basis is the best way to get round all of this because we can talk through the pros, the cons, like the implications of doing something and not doing something and experiment a little bit. And you can rely on somebody else’s opinion as well as your own personal feedback loop inside Yourself and your own thoughts on things to get your best result.

And so on that note, if you want to work with me, you can. I have clients from all over the world and I work with people for three months. And during that time, I can get to know a lot about you and your preferences, your habits, and of course your health conditions and My three month gut reset is available to book, but I ask everyone to have a quick call with me first, and during that time I will ask you about what are your symptoms, what do you need help with, what have you already tried, and what kind of things have you, um, had ruled out, like what kind of medical tests you might have already had.

So, if you want to book a discovery call with me, I will put a link in the show notes and we can get that process started. And that’s just to see if we both think it’s a good fit for us to work together. And if not, I might be able to signpost you to somebody who would be a better fit for you. Okay, thank you for listening to this episode of the Inside Knowledge for People with IBS.

Better digestion for everybody.

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