Two in three people experience bloating after meals. Eight in ten don’t go to the loo every day (you’re meant to go twice). One in four women complain of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). All these, and other digestive problems, are resolvable. The answer, unsurprisingly, is what you put in your mouth.
My 100% Health Survey, based on volunteers completing a free online 100% Health Check at patrickholford.com, assesses a person’s digestive and overall health. I found that those with digestive problems gained weight, and lost it when they resolved their digestive issues.
Finding your food intolerances
The most common kind of immune reaction against foods isn’t a food allergyA food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to a specific food as it is perceived as a threat. In the most…, in which the immune system produces an IgE antibodyAn antibody is a protein produced by the body’s immune system when it detects a harmful substance known as an antigen. Examples of antigens include… that attacks the offending food, but a food intoleranceFood intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. Food intolerances tend to cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, cramps and diarrhoea, but are…, which leads to the production of IgG antibodies. IBS sufferers have much higher levels of these IgG antibodies, according to researchers at London’s St Georges Hospital Medical School (1), but no difference in IgE antibodies.
Knowing that IBS sufferers have significantly raised levels of IgG antibodies to specific foods, researchers at the University of York devised an ingenious study (2) to discover if cutting out these foods made a difference.
They ran an IgG test, YorkTest laboratory’s FoodScan, on 150 IBS sufferers and then gave their doctors either the real or fake results, along with a diet to follow for three months. Those with the fake results were given a list of random foods to avoid. At the end of the period only those following a diet based on avoiding the foods highlighted as a problem on their test results reported significant relief from IBS symptoms. What’s more, those who stuck to it the most strictly had the best results. Level of compliance, on the other hand, didn’t make a difference in those on the sham diets.
Many people with IBS suffer terrible bloating and gain weight. Cathy was a case in point:
“When I say I was “bloated” it doesn’t really do justice to my symptoms. I was asked on a regular basis if I was pregnant and when was I due. It was terribly upsetting and humiliating, and to add to the problem my weight started going up even though I had never had a problem with my weight in the past.”
Since avoiding her offending foods Cathy’s bloating has been banished and, along with it, she lost over 30lbs in weight in 7 months. “I have increased energy levels. My depression has totally lifted and my whole attitude to food and life has changed. I am delighted to see my body changing and my new shape. My confidence levels have soared and I couldn’t be happier.”
The YorkTest findings are completely consistent with a previously published study in the US, which reported an average 12lb weight loss after 60 days in a group of 120 people tested for, and avoiding their IgG-positive foods (3).
Improve Your Digestion
Every day your body produces a staggering 9 litres of digestive juices containing enzymes to digest your food into tiny particles ready for absorption. ProteinProteins are large molecules consisting of chains of amino acids. Proteins are essential nutrients for the human body – they are a building block of… is digested down into amino acidsAmino acids are commonly known as the building blocks of protein. There are 20 standard amino acids from which almost all proteins are made. Nine…. Complex carbs into simple sugars. All this ‘work’ is done by digestive enzymesDigestive enzymes break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins into their smallest components, allowing them to be absorbed by the body. Examples of digestive enzymes include… and stomach acid. Some people produce insufficient amounts of the enzyme, alpha-galactosidase, that digests beans. Others produce too little amyloglucosidase, the enzyme that digest greens. Many older people produce too little stomach acid so can’t digest protein properly and get belching as a result, which leads to heartburn.
Indigestion is a very common cause of bloating. If you bloat after beans or lentils or greens this doesn’t mean you’re allergic to them. You may just not be good at digesting them. Many people learn to take digestive enzymes with a meal containing a challenging food to support healthy digestion.” Digestpro is a comprehensive digestive enzyme supplement with probiotics, available from HOLFORDirect.com.
Modern Wheat versus Ancient Kamut Wheat
The most common food linked to bloating and IBS is wheat. Most people who report being sensitive to wheat don’t have an actual allergy, which is called coeliacs disease.
Professor Francesco Sofi, at the University of Florence, had a hunch that it might not be wheat per se, but glutenGluten is a protein found in the cereals wheat, rye and barley. Obvious sources of gluten in the diet are bread, pasta, breakfast cereals and… and other proteins which have been changed in modern wheat compared to that of ancient wheat. So he devised a randomised double-blind study involving 20 people with IBS to test his theory (4).
The participants were given foods (bread, pasta, biscuits, bulgur) made from either modern wheat or ancient organic Kamut ‘khorosan’ wheat. This is the same wheat that was eaten thousands of years ago and is genetically much simpler compared to modern wheat. They didn’t know which kind of food they were eating and they were randomly assigned to eating either modern wheat products or Kamut products for six weeks at a time. Then, after a break for six weeks, the type of wheat they were eating was switched and they continued to eat the new diet for another six weeks. Their symptoms of IBS were meticulously recorded.
During the modern-wheat weeks they had no improvement, and continued to suffer from abdominal pain, bloating, tiredness and irregular and unhealthy bowel movements. However, when they were unknowingly eating Kamut, everything got better. They reported significantly less bloating, abdominal pain, irregularity and tiredness, with a much higher overall measure of quality of life. Every single person in the study reported benefit.
Also, convincingly, markers of inflammation in the blood, known as pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are usually raised in people with IBS, all reduced.
Mary is a case in point. She had suffered with bloating, wind and urgent trips to the loo, for the previous four years – seemingly after eating wheat.
“I assumed it was gluten intolerance, but it wasn’t because I even reacted to some gluten-free flours, especially cornflour. I also react to spelt, but when I started eating Kamut wheat, to my amazement, I had absolutely no problem. I can eat a whole loaf of Kamut bread in a day and not suffer any ill health at all. My health has returned and I feel alive once more. Last week I ate some regular bread and reacted immediately. I make my own Kamut khorasan bread, which is delicious, and it’s the best flour I’ve ever used for bread and other products. It tastes as if it is doing you good and, in my case, it clearly is.’
Kamut pasta, bread, flour and bulgur is available from HOLFORDirect.com.
Relief from Constipation
Healthy digestion depends on healthy elimination. You should go, without straining, twice a day. Contrary to popular belief, eating lots of fibreFibre is an important part of a balanced diet. There are two type of fibre; soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fibre helps your bowel to pass… such as bran doesn’t make much difference. However, increasing soluble fibres, which are the kind found in oats and also chia seeds, does.
In Japan people eat ‘konjaku’ a fibrous jelly made from glucomannan fibre. It’s the most super-soluble fibre of all, absorbing one hundred times its weight in water. Given that the contents of the digestive tract are very watery this makes for light, easy matter to move along.
A study in China giving just 1.5 grams a day (that’s two capsules or half a teaspoon) of glucomannan fibre had a significant effect in relieving constipation and promoting healthy gut ecology with more beneficial bacteria (5). Glucomannan is available in the UK as Carboslow®, either in capsules or powder, always taken with a large glass of water.
Eating less meat and more whole foods and vegetables is also important for gut health. In the 100% Health Survey (6) those eating red meat more than eight times week increased the likelihood of very poor digestive health by two thirds. The foods associated with good digestion were nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and fish – and drinking enough water.
Six top tips for digestive health:
• Find out which foods your body fights with a food intolerance test with YorkTest’s FoodScan fingerprick test.
• Try digestive enzymes with probiotics such as Digestpro if you suffer from bloating, indigestion or heartburn
• Substitute modern wheat for ancient Kamut wheat
• Increase your intake of soluble fibres from oats and chia seeds. If you suffer from constipation try Carboslow glucomannan fibre.
• Reduce your intake of red meat, eating more wholefoods – nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and fish instead.
• Drink six glasses of water a day, cold or hot as in teas.
CHECK: Take our FREE online Digestion Check.
READ: Patrick Holford’s book Improve Your Digestion is available to pre-order now.
TAKE: Digestion friendly foods and supplements – available from HOLFORDirect.com.
1. Sameer, Z., et al, ‘Food-specific serum IgG4 and IgE titers to common food antigens in irritable bowel syndrome’, American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005; 100:p1550–7
2. Atkinson, W., et al., ‘Food elimination based on IgG antibodies in irritable bowel syndrome: A randomised controlled trial’, Gut, 2004;53:1459–64
3. Lewis, J., et al., ‘Eliminating immunologically-reactive foods from the diet and its effect on body composition and quality of life in overweight persons’, J Obes Weig Los Ther, 2012, 2:1
4. Sofi, F., et al., ‘Effect of Triticum turgidum subsp. turanicum wheat on irritable bowel syndrome: A double-blinded randomised dietary intervention trial’, Br J Nutr, 2014, Jun;111(1):1992–9
5. Chen, H., et al., ‘Supplementation of konjac glucomannan into a low-fiber Chinese diet promoted bowel movement and improved colonic ecology in constipated adults: a placebo-controlled, diet-controlled trial’, J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Feb;27(1):102-8
6. Holford, P., et al., ‘100% Health Survey’, pub: Holford & Associates – www.patrickholford.com/books/100-health-survey
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