Sue Watkins Nutritional Therapist & Wellness Coach, based in Hertfordshire

Nutritional Therapy

07773 689441
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects up to 1 in 5 people at some point in their lifetime, and symptoms often start as they reach their 20's or 30's and women are far more likely to be diagnosed than men.  The condition is often triggered by stress, stressful events or after consuming certain food or drink.

Sufferers complain of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation, as well as passing wind sometimes eased by a visit to the loo.  Urgency to visit the bathroom is common and sometimes a feeling of not having emptied the bowels is also a worrisome problem.  Symptoms can last a couple of days or for a few months at a time, often recurring from time to time.

Common Symptoms of IBS

Diarrhoea - This is often the most common symptom needing frequent and urgent visits to the toilet.  Often more severe in the morning after waking.  Eating and drinking can trigger urgent diarrhoea or feelings of stress.

Intermittent pain - Pain spasms and/or intermittent pain is experienced in the abdomen which may ease after passing wind or a stool.  Abdominal bloating and discomfort is common and may unfortunately be aggravated by medications.  Loss of appetite and nausea are often experienced by sufferers.

Constipation - The feeling of needing the toilet and yet unable to pass a stool or else a feeling of not having emptied the bowels when visiting the bathroom.

These digestive issues can impact other areas of the body, related symptoms include:
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Skin issues
  • Joint pain
  • Lack of energy
  • Low mood
Frequent need to wee - especially at night. Actual causes of this condition is unknown although the actual onset of symptoms may be traced to infections in the gut.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) which usually refers to conditions such as Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn's Disease.  What do these conditions refer to?
  • Ulcerative Colitis - small ulcers and inflammation are found in the colon and sometimes the rectum.  Symptoms include urgent and bloody diarrhoea, continual tiredness and pain.
  • Crohn's Disease - patches of inflammation, scarring and deep ulcers in the wall of the intestine at any point along the digestive tract but typically affect the small intestine and colon.  Symptoms include abdominal pain, urgent diarrhoea, weight loss and tiredness.Support for Irritable Bowel

Support for Irritable Bowel

Because each person experiences the condition in a unique way keeping a food and symptom diary can be a useful place to begin.  Certain foods or events may be identified as a stress trigger for symptoms, working this out can be useful in putting together support strategies.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Diet is often a key factor in supporting health.  Given that the symptoms are so variable what works for one person may not work for someone else.  Patients are often told to increase their dietary fibre but this may worsen symptoms, so what is happening?  Sometimes the changes that we make are too forceful for the gut to handle, the key is to work with our bodies to transition to a new way of eating.

Refined or processed foods, sugar and sweeteners may contribute to symptoms of bloating, flatulence, pain, diarrhoea and constipation.  Adding fibre into the diet can be supportive but is best achieved though fruit and vegetables rather than taking bran fibre alone which can be an irritant to the gut.  Using whole foods such as pulses and oats in the diet can provide fibre which often improves transit time and so reduce bloating and discomfort.

Adequate hydration and gentle exercise can improve gut motility and feelings of wellness.

A gradual increase in fibre is recommended to ease the gut through the changes.  Guidance on which foods to use is provided after working through your symptoms and food diary.

Food Sensitivities / Leaky Gut

For some the diagnosis of IBS is linked to food sensitivity or intolerances.  An example of this would be reactions to gluten.  Removing gluten from the diet has been shown to lessen symptoms.  It is possible to test for gluten reactivity and indeed for other similar reactive food types.

Gluten is a known cause of intestinal permeability or leaky gut.  The digestive tract is lined with cells tightly joined together to protect the body from bacteria and invaders.  Certain triggers such as gluten or other foods in the diet or increased stress can cause these cells to separate or leak allowing food particles to break through the gut and invade the body.  The body's defence system then attacks these invaders causing inflammation.

By identifying the food triggers from either a food diary or laboratory testing and removing them from the diet, whilst repairing the gut can supporting healthy digestion.

Supplementary Support

Accessing nutrients from our food can be compromised if we are struggling with gut function.  Often we lack the enzymes needed to break down foods as well as the nourishment needed to mend or replace damaged cells.  Supplementation can provide the necessary nutrients to help the gut to repair and allow better recovery.

Get a Complimentary Nutrition and Wellbeing Review

A 20 minute telephone or Skype call to review your current health situation and prioritise any health goals. We can agree an action plan to improve your health and well-being including any top tips to get you started.

Get in touch