With all the different diet advice you hear, it can be hard to know just which foods make you feel better and which foods lead to discomfort and illness. We feel safest when we make our choices based on the food pyramid suggested by the FDA and recognized nutrition bodies, but sometimes even when we choose foods from this trusted source, our bodies don’t respond well. If you have been noticing digestive troubles, it could be your body has sensitivities to certain foods. While not as serious as allergies, food sensitivities can definitely leave us feeling less than our best. One of the most common culprits in this area is wheat – or more specifically the gluten found in wheat.
We all have individual immune systems and they operate slightly differently. Our immune system produces white blood cells and antibodies to help us fight off illness and resist infection. Our immune system acts as a “radar” of sorts and constantly seeks out foreign substances that might make us sick. If your immune system is highly sensitive, it may over-react to certain foods. This sensitivity can be caused by changes in the white blood cells or antibodies, which aren’t detected in other ways and only become obvious through the adverse reaction to certain foods. When the body becomes hypersensitive to certain nutrients, it will try to get rid of it through the digestive tract.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and it is often mistakenly identified as a foreign body by many people’s immune system. Interestingly enough, the mis-identification of gluten as a toxic substance in the body can be a temporary problem and may even disappear once the system has been flushed out.
If you have sensitivity to gluten, your body may react with symptoms of either diarrhoea or constipation, along with cramping and excessive bloating in the abdomen. This set of symptoms is known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. IBS does not cause serious disease, which is good news, but it can certainly make your daily life uncomfortable and inconvenient. Changing the way you eat is often the best treatment for IBS – and it often involves removing wheat products from your diet. Although the fibre in wholegrain bread products is usually very helpful to the digestive system, it is often one of the most common triggers of IBS. Other forms of grain that are frequent offenders for those suffering from IBS include bran, oats, barley and rye. Dairy products such as milk, cheese and cream can also trigger IBS.
Many people find when they eliminate gluten from their diet, their IBS symptoms disappear. They may actually begin losing weight as the body starts eliminating the bloated fluid it has retained from the IBS. In time, some people can begin slowly adding wheat products back into their diet, with no further adverse effects.
If you struggle with regular boats of diarrhoea, constipation (or both) accompanied by bloating and cramping, you may be suffering from IBS. Talk to your doctor to rule out more serious possibilities and then consider eliminating wheat gluten from your diet. You may find yourself feeling better in no time. You can also read more about overcoming IBS in the book No More IBS which I co-wrote with Dr Alan Stewart, and is published by Vermilion.
Do you want to know more about learning to love yourself? Become empowered and learn how to live an active life with healthy foods that won’t leave you feeling that you are greedy and weak willed.