Travelling with IBS and food intolerances

This week’s blog update is coming from guest blogger Angi, who travels extensively, while still managing to look after her gut, by finding eateries that are food intolerant friendly.

Do you love travelling? If yes, you’re the same as me. My name is Angi and I’ve been wandering the world for over a year – with my gut issues always by my side.
I have IBS-C and many food intolerances (lactose, fructose, wheat, onion and garlic, just to name a few). And even though this obviously sometimes gives me a hard time, it’s been the best year of my life!Angi The Intolerant Wanderer
Travelling has always played a huge role in my life. It’s my passion and I said to myself that I won’t let anything stop me from doing it. Was it difficult at times? Yes! And overwhelming? Absolutely! Especially at first. But with a little preparation and calmness everything is doable. Also it gets easier with time. And along the way I learnt a lot about myself and how I deal with different situations. It’s definitely been a journey in every aspect – for my body as well as for my mind. If you want to read some more tips on how to travel with food intolerances, check out the article I wrote for intolerant.me.

intolerant.me is a platform I created together with my partner Pam while travelling. Our main goal with it is to make life a bit easier for people with food intolerances and allergies. There is a lot of information out there scattered around. That’s why we try and channel some of it on our Instagram profile by sharing worldwide recommendations for restaurants, products and recipes – all food intolerance and allergies related. Currently most of the action happens on Instagram. But we’ve already organised some events and have many more ideas what to do next.

Besides this, I have my personal Instagram profile the intolerant wanderer on which I talk about personal stuff, my travels and how I deal with my intolerances. It has helped me a great deal to openly speak about my gut issues and interact with others who go through the same. It’s people like Meredith who give me so much and keep me going. Thanks! Also for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself here.

About Angi:

Angi is originally from Switzerland but feels home wherever she is in the world. As the intolerant wanderer she portraits her journey. With that she wants to help others and show that it’s still possible to travel and enjoy a location independent life, even if you have food intolerances. Together with her partner Pam, she also created intolerant.me which is a platform for people with food intolerances and allergies. It’s supposed to be a place for inspiration, information and interaction – and to make life a bit easier.

 

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SIBO diet kitchen essentials

Having your kitchen stocked with the right ingredients is going to help set you up for SIBO treatment success. It’s not just about what to have in the kitchen, it’s what not to have; if you’re anything like me if there’s chips or chocolate readily available, I am very, very tempted, especially if I know it’s restricted, so keeping these things out of your house while you’re going through treatment is going to save you a lot of heartache.

SIBO friendly salad and kitchen essentialsLet’s go through the staples that are going to set you up for success:

Eggs

Unless you’re intolerant, eggs are your best friend; fry, scramble or boil them, make a frittata or Spanish omelette, shakshuka (eggs cooked in tomato, spices and veggies), pancakes or add them to a stir fry. These nutrient dense little powerhouses will keep you going.

Protein powder

Find a protein powder that works for you, it’s important to try and find plant based sources of protein and fats as the SIBO diet can be very animal protein heavy which isn’t great for your body. I like Sacha Inchi protein powder personally. Adding a quality protein powder to a smoothie will help make it into a meal.

Salad ingredients

Crunchy fresh salads are usually avoided during herbal treatment, this is because we don’t want to give our gut microbes food to ferment. Sometimes though you just feel like a salad, especially if the weather is warm so I suggest keeping the fridge stocked with ingredients like fresh herbs, capsicum, cucumber, celery, cabbage and lettuce.

Coconut aminos

During my treatment coconut aminos were a saviour! Such a great substitute for soy sauce and so much better for you.

Garlic infused extra virgin olive oil

Another saviour if you miss garlic in your food, just don’t heat extra virgin olive oil because you’ll lose the health benefits.

Ghee and coconut oil

Ghee and coconut oil are my two top oils for cooking as they have a high smoke point.

Mustard

Get it from your health food store and read the label to make sure there’s no onion or garlic. Mustard such as Dijon can be added to extra virgin olive oil and lemon to make a salad dressing, or can be a great accompaniment to a steak.

Bone broth

Try to keep some in the fridge so you can have some as a drink but so you can make wonderful nutrient dense soups to heal your gut.

Tinned wild Alaskan salmon or sardines

Add them to a salad or maybe mash the sardines on some SIBO friendly toast. These will be a source of calcium on a dairy free diet.

Nutritional yeast

This one may be controversial being yeast, but it’s a form of yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii which has been shown to have health benefits for IBS. However, if unsure ask your health practitioner. I love it because it adds a cheesy flavour to food.

I hope this list helps you navigate your SIBO / IBS diet journey. It’s not exhaustive by all means, so if you have any pantry essentials you love – leave a comment below.

Health and healing,

Meredith

 

Overcoming SIBO

Following my diagnosis of SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) in 2015 after surgery for endometriosis, I made it my mission to learn as much as possible about this gut condition; I’ve read scientific literature, listened to interviews with experts, spoken to countless health professionals and am gaining knowledge through my nutrition degree.

Initially I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis, but then the super strict treatment regimen combined with round after round of treatment not working took its toll on me. I started to lose hope and became exhausted and malnourished. However, following my last round of treatment in January 2018 I’ve experienced a turnaround in my health.

Meredith overcoming SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)

Because of my experience (and that I’m feeling a whole lot better), I wanted to share what I believe are some of the most important things to consider when trying to overcome SIBO:

 

STRESS

This is number 1 on my list of things to address as it’s key to helping your nervous system and gut functioning optimally. It doesn’t matter how dedicated you are to your treatment, if you aren’t coping, are struggling with anxiety or depression or think you might be, it’s essential to address it. Anxiety or depression can be due to nutritional deficiencies so it’s important to get this investigated. Otherwise, gain healthy habits that you can fit into your life; practise yoga, learn to meditate, have coffee with friends or spend time in nature.

Diet restrictions can cause their own anxiety, be conscious and acknowledge it if this happens to you; my suggestion is to not worry if you ate those chips or that piece of cake, what’s more important is how you eat the rest of the time. Remember to chew your food and eat slowly, it seems Grandma did know best with that one!

FIND THE ROOT CAUSE

Find the root cause if you can, consider the possibility there may be other conditions co-existing with SIBO (or even causing it). You need a good, thorough health practitioner to help with this (an integrative doctor or naturopath is helpful here).

PERSONALISE AND TWEAK IT

Personalise your diet and your treatment – it may look different to others, try out different approaches and see what works for you. See a qualified nutritionist who understands SIBO to help you work through your individual needs. Also remember that when you start to reintroduce certain foods you’re likely to have a reaction; it’s not necessarily a bad sign, more just an adjustment period, just go slowly when reintroducing foods.

SUPPLEMENTS

Don’t dismiss pre or probiotics, they might just help. I know it’s controversial when it comes to SIBO though. For the last 4 months I’ve been using hydrolysed guar gum (a prebiotic) and specific probiotic strains after avoiding them for years, but I feel like they are helping. I also tried FMT (fecal microbiota transplant), but I wouldn’t recommend FMT unless your gastroenterologist recommends it specifically for you as it’s not really used for SIBO. It’s also important to tackle the issue of low stomach acid if that’s a problem for you and slow motility by using a pro-kinetic such as ginger (again, only if this is relevant for you). There are loads of other supplements I could talk about here but it’s best to chat your health practitioner about what’s right for you.

LET IT GO

Let go of the outcome, it’s important for your mental health. This one ties into to my first point about reducing stress. Letting go isn’t about giving up; if you’re really attached to an outcome it can make you anxious and then disheartened if the treatment doesn’t work exactly as you hoped. Remember that most people require rounds of treatment to get better, not just one.

Health and healing.

Meredith x

 

 

 

Cauliflower soup with coriander oil

Roast cauliflower in spices, potato for added creaminess and the coriander oil drizzled through adds depth of flavour and contrast to the warm spices.

I’ll start off by saying this may not be suited for those with IBS or SIBO. Everyone is different though and it might come down to portion size; if I ate a huge bowl of this it might trigger symptoms in me so I have this as a starter to a meal, not a meal on its own. If you don’t have gut issues (lucky you) then no problem! It’s definitely suitable for those with endometriosis and can also be made vegan.

Cauliflower soup with coriander oil

You’ll need:

Coriander oil

  • 1 bunch of coriander, washed and torn
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I use garlic infused evoo)

Cauliflower soup

  • 1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped roughly into florets
  • 2 white potatoes (I used dutch cream), chopped in quarters
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Ras el hanout*
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

* Ras el hanout is a spice mix which can be bought from delicatessens, markets or speciality grocers, it’s definitely worth investing in a jar to keep in your pantry.

Method:

Preheat the oven to a moderate heat, about 175 degrees celsius (fan forced).

Combine the turmeric and ras el hanout. Coat the cauliflower in the light olive oil and spices.

Place the cauliflower on a baking tray and bake for 25 minutes.

Add a little light olive oil to a pot and heat the stove top to a medium heat, add the potatoes, salt and pepper. Cook and continue turn the potatoes for about 2 minutes, add the cauliflower, garlic and stock. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, make the coriander oil by combining the extra virgin olive oil and the coriander in a food processor until it reaches the desired consistency. I don’t process it much but it’s purely a personal choice.

When the soup is ready, allow to cool slightly then blend, ladle into bowls, then add some coriander oil to each bowl and serve.

Enjoy!

Meredith x

 

What is the right diet for endometriosis?

I’ve tried many different diet approaches and I have found that when my gut is happy, so is my endo. Before I jump straight into what the diet for endo looks like, let’s understand a bit more about the disease and why diet is important:

 

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Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition and an estrogen dependent disease.

Estrogen is a hormone which plays an important role in the female reproductive cycle; it assists in the growth and thickening of the endometrial tissue, when fertilisation doesn’t take place progesterone (another hormone) and estrogen levels decline which causes menstruation. Estrogen can also be spelt oestrogen by the way (just to clear up any confusion!).

Estrogen is processed through the liver and excess estrogen is then excreted via the gastrointestinal system; therefore the liver and gut both to be functioning well to process and remove excess estrogen. Fat tissue can also contribute to estrogen production, therefore weight management may also be a consideration with endo and overall health.

Why is endometriosis an inflammatory condition? Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows in other places than the uterus. When menstruation occurs the lining (or layers of endometrial tissue) is shed and the tissue located outside the uterus also bleeds. The bleeding creates inflammation, scar tissue, cysts and adhesions. This can also result in organs being stuck together by the adhesions. Therefore a diet that is anti-inflammatory is an important component when managing endometriosis symptoms.

Taking this into consideration, what should the endo-diet look like? I’ve seen many different approaches through social media; some may say that being vegan is the answer to managing endo symptoms, others prefer paleo, or a low-carbohydrate diet (such as the keto-diet). Recently someone told me about ‘seed cycling’ which involves managing the menstrual cycle by consuming different seeds at different stages. There are so many opinions out there, it would be perfectly understandable if you’re feeling confused!

So what is the best approach? It actually depends on the individual, what works for one person may not work for another; for example, if other health issues are coinciding with endo, then the diet may need to be modified accordingly. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to nutrition.

However, there are some guidelines (backed up by science) of what dietary approaches can be followed to help manage endo:

  • A diet high in fibre will help remove excess estrogen. A diet rich in plant based foods such as vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and legumes (except soy based foods). Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli get a special mention for their detoxifying effect and their benefits on estrogen metabolism, turmeric also gets a special mention for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, so be sure to consume these regularly.
  • A diet low in xenoestrogens (xenoestrogens or phytoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body), such as soy based foods and certain seeds such as flax (or linseed).
  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods, this means avoiding sugar, processed food, fried food, gluten and animal products that are a product of factory farming. An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, wild caught fish and healthy fats such as olive oil. Meat and poultry are okay as long as they are free from chemicals and not char-grilled, try cooking slowly instead. Eat red meat sparingly and always choose grass fed, as it’s suggested that grass fed meat offers the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (which are anti-inflammatory).
  • Dairy may be ok, it depends on the individual. Stick to small amounts of organic, additive free goats or sheep’s yogurt, cheese or kefir as these are lower in lactose and casein which can cause inflammation. Kefir has shown to be beneficial for a range of therapeutic actions including improving gut health, blood sugar, cholesterol control and immune function.
  • Stick to oils with health benefits such as cold pressed olive oil as it is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, but don’t cook with extra virgin olive oil as it becomes unstable and loses its health benefits with heat. When cooking over high heat, use fats and oils with a high smoke point, for example ghee, avocado oil or extra light olive oil.
  • Avoid alcohol, limit coffee to 1 cup per day (or avoid it altogether) and drink about 2 litres of water throughout the day. Lemon in warm water is a great way to start your morning.

If you have other conditions co-existing with endo such as IBS or SIBO, a high fibre diet could make you feel terrible! In this instance wholegrains and legumes (the main sources of protein on a vegan diet) are often avoided and that’s when diet starts to become a bit more complex. Despite this, the guidelines can still be followed but you may need to tweak things and try a low FODMAP diet, a SIBO specific diet or the Fast Tract diet which all remove foods that can create symptoms such as bloating.

There is no quick fix to managing endo symptoms naturally, these guidelines are a long term strategy and should be incorporated into a lifestyle that also includes regular movement. It goes without saying if you’re following a healthy diet for endo, but still drinking bottles of wine on the weekend or devouring entire family size blocks of chocolate on a weekly basis, then you’re probably not going to see the full benefits.

What types of food work for you and what doesn’t? Drop me a note below!

Health and healing,

Meredith x