I know far too many people – mostly women (but that may be because guys just don’t talk about it) who have bowel pain issues. I don’t just mean they are constipated – although that in and of itself can be very uncomfortable.
What I am talking about here are the nasty ones such as Crohn’s Disease, IBS (Irritable Bowel Disease), Ulcerative Colitis, Celiac Disease or (my own particular nemesis) Diverticular Disease. All of which can be extremely painful.
The Gastroenterological departments at hospitals and clinics are kept very busy I know with new and existing patients seeking appointments – looking for a quick fix – a magic pill that will help them recover pronto.
Sadly I don’t believe there is a quick fix – I Know you did not want to hear that either!
That is not to say that I don’t believe it can be fixed – repaired – made somewhat or even completely better – but NOT with one magic pill.
When patients go researching and looking for the cause and fixes for these most debilitating of aliments, they will get a lot of information about the need to consume a fibre rich diet to keep their bowels open, regular and healthy. I believe this is wrong!
Your bowel lining is quite delicate. Imagine if you will having steel wool dragged down and tossed about through that most delicate of apparatus. Sure it will clean most nooks and crannies, but it will also scratch and mar the endothelium.
There are different types of fibre and they do act and react differently as they make their journey from mouth to anus. There are different schools of thought in how to treat these conditions too.
One school believes it necessary to ensure plenty of fibre in the diet:
Dietary changes are also very important. Eating healthily, including plenty of fiber into your diet, and excluding dairy products will all help you to control the symptoms of IBD. source
Other’s believe that a diet low in fibre will help the gut to heal:
You may need to be on a low residue fibre diet if you have diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or bowel inflammation. Sometimes people are put on this diet after certain kinds of surgery, such as an ileostomy or colostomy. You may need to follow this diet only for a short period of time or for the rest of your life. Your doctor may refer you to a dietician for help with meal planning. source
Before I confound you completely let’s look at fibre in the food supply.
Wikipedia explains it quite simply:
Dietary fiber, dietary fibre, or sometimes roughage and ruffage is the indigestible portion of food derived from plants. There are two main components:Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It is readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active by-products, and can be prebiotic and/or viscous. Soluble fibers tend to slow the movement of food through the system.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It can be metabolically inert and provide bulking or prebiotic, metabolically fermenting in the large intestine. Bulking fibers absorb water as they move through the digestive system, easing defecation. Fermentable insoluble fibers mildly promote stool regularity, although not to the extent that bulking fibers do, but they can be readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active by-products. Insoluble fibers tend to accelerate the movement of food through the system.
Confused yet? Wondering why it is that Government Health Agencies advocate the daily ingestion of X% of dietary fibre in our meals, and is it really all that beneficial to us?
Chris Kresser tells us: many studies have demonstrated that excess intake of fiber may actually be harmful, particularly for gut health.
The majority of the research supporting the benefits of dietary fiber come from epidemiological studies ** that link the consumption of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables with a lowered risk of certain diseases such as obesity, heart disease and cancer, particularly colon cancer. (1) Yet when tested in the lab, controlled intervention trials that simply add fiber supplements to an otherwise consistent diet have not shown these protective effects. (2) (3) (4)
(** Epidemiological studies can never prove causation; that is, it cannot prove that a specific risk factor actually causes the disease being studied. Epidemiological evidence can only show that this risk factor is associated (correlated) with a higher incidence of disease in the population exposed to that risk factor. The higher the correlation the more certain the association, but it cannot prove the causation.)
The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily fiber intake of 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women (5), which may come from dietary fibers, both soluble or insoluble, or the addition of “functional fibers” to the diet. The IOM defines functional fibers as non-digestible carbohydrates that have been isolated or extracted from a natural plant or animal source, or they may be manufactured or synthesized. Examples of functional fibers are psyllium husks, chitin from crustacean shells, fructooligosaccharides, polydextrose, and resistant dextrins. (6)
Take a look at the bread you have bought or the cardboard packaging on the cereal box – no doubt it will tell you (for your health benefit) it has added fibre. Yet nowhere does it tell you where these health claims have been proven.
The article is LINKED for you to read in its complete format, whilst here I include only snippets pertaining to our current discussion.
A high-fiber diet has also been described as a preventative strategy for the development of diverticulosis, a disease that is markedly more common in Western countries. However, when researchers tested the theory that a high-fiber diet prevented diverticulosis, they not only found that a high intake of fiber did not reduce the prevalence of diverticulosis, but that a high-fiber diet and greater number of bowel movements were independently associated with a higher prevalence of diverticula. (12) Interestingly, this study found no association between the presence of diverticulosis and red meat intake, fat intake, or physical activity, which are other factors commonly attributed to diverticulosis.
Our digestive tracts are loaded with bacteria – both beneficial (good) and non beneficial (bad). This is a scenario which we really ought to learn more about. It is hypothesized that the fibre we consume, particularly the non digestible type sets of a dysbiosis in our gut…. that means causing the gut bacteria to become unbalanced, thereby setting the scene for disease and inflammation to take a hold… and quite quickly too.
It is possible that the high levels of excess fiber and overgrowth of intestinal bacteria may have contributed to the development of diverticular pouches in the colon.
What Are We To Do? Which school of thought should we follow?
Of course this is a very personal journey. My bowel pain, disease and discomfort will be very different from yours. The things that possible irritate my condition also – may be very different from yours. I suggest strongly that you do loads of reading and research, and ask copious questions of your gastro.
However when it all boils down to it – it is your body you will be discussing and attempting to heal. If you are convinced that there is (what I call) an external trigger which sends your gut into a flare, and trust me I always know when I have consumed something wrong (for my own condition), then if you want to prevent this from reoccurring, you have to stop consuming whatever it is/was that caused the problem.
It all sound so logical and simple – yet I know from experience it isn’t.
Currently I do KNOW what I suspect is the current villain in my present flare, and I must admit it has surprised me.
I am on a grain free diet – that means NO grains at all are consumed. I was doing exceptionally well and decided I wanted to make something for myself as a treat. Something ‘healthy’ and preferably low carbohydrate. Almond Flour/meal cookies/biscuits seemed ideal as they contain NO grains.
The recipe was simple. Portion of almond meal. Fresh butter, eggs and sweetener. They turned out a little on the dry side, but were edible and I enjoyed a few of them with some lemon butter – homemade and some double thick cream.
It took less than 24 hours for them to affect me in
a very NOT NICE WAY.
Nothing else in my diet had changed, so I did some investigation as to the WHY this maybe so. After all I had not eaten whole nuts which I do know can cause me digestive issues.
It did not take me long to discover what maybe the problem for me:
Get this: A cup of almond flour contains about 90 almonds! I calculated that by dividing 640 calories in a cup of almond flour by 7 calories in an almond. Almond flour disguises the consumption of the nuts. source
The other thing that stuck out for me was the mention that Almonds are rather high in Omega 6’s which are pro-inflammatory.
Oh well….. they were OK to eat as a treat – but who needs a treat that is going to lay them low in debilitating pain for a couple of weeks?
I am attempting to deal with this without the use of antibiotics – that is a whole other story! If worst comes to worst I will have to take them and suffer the other consequences. An attack like this can lay me low for a couple of weeks and this is NOT what I had planned when I decided to bake cookies!
So Dear Readers, get to know your body, do your own reading and research. Don’t be fooled by pharmaceutical company employees into believing their drugs will definitely make you better. Sometimes it is what we can remove from our diets – not what we can add in – by way of a pill or potion, that will ultimately benefit us – on the journey back to wellness.
Till next time, be as well as you can.