IBS & Food intolerance

There is much talk in the media about NHS overspending. One area where the amount spent could be reduced drastically is that of gut problems, especially IBS. IBS is a diagnosis given to people with any of the following symptoms: bloating, abdominal pain, loose stools, diarrhoea and/or constipation.

“I had a terrible problem with wheat. I used to bloat right out as if I was 6 months pregnant, and it made me sleepy and spotty. Now I can eat it – no problem – and feel fine after. My skin is much better and the constipation has completely gone. I have got more energy than I have ever had before.”

I see several patients every week with IBS. Those who have seen their GP are generally sent to hospital to see an expensive consultant and get expensive tests: endoscopies, colonoscopies and so on, to rule out any pathology. In the majority of cases nothing is found to be wrong.

This is because most cases of IBS are caused by food. Doctors have been known to laugh at this suggestion, or at best they suggest the patient keeps a food diary. However, it is hard to see a direct relationship between symptoms and foods that are being consumed daily, such as cow’s milk and wheat. Cow’s milk protein is by far the most common cause of IBS, with wheat coming second, especially when constipation is a feature.

“I went to see Katharine after I was diagnosed with IBS. She quickly established that I had an intolerance to wheat, grapes and white wine. I cut out wheat and wine from my diet for two weeks, then gradually introduced them again after she worked on me. My symptoms such as bloatedness, constipation and indigestion had disappeared, never to return again. I also had a cat allergy, getting severe rashes if I so much as went near my cat. This was also sorted out in one session.” – ES, Tunbridge Wells

It makes common sense that the food we eat might directly affect the gut. People often know that they feel bloated and sleepy after eating wheat or that they get an attack of diarrhoea after eating cream.

Surely it would make sense, and save the NHS money, to carry out a simple and cheap test to see if food is causing a person’s IBS? If they stop eating that food and the symptoms disappear (which they usually do within a few days) then there would be no need to go on to do expensive tests, leaving those for people who really need them.

If you want to check if dairy or wheat are causing you a problem it does not hurt to cut them out of your diet for a week or two and see if there is an improvement. You do have to avoid them completely though, reading all the ingredients on things to make sure it is not creeping into your diet anywhere.

Various allergy and food intolerance tests are available at your own expense. I would not advise blood tests that only look for gluten allergy or lactose intolerance as they tend to miss the far more common problems with wheat and cow’s milk protein.