Coeliac disease, gluten intolerance, IBS and other digestive conditions
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This section covers the autoimmune condition, coeliac disease and a range of digestive conditions, many of which are food related. With the exception of irritable bowel symndrome (IBS) most are medically defined conditions with specific treatment protocols. However, IBS (see below) tends to be used as a non-specific diagnosis of last resort and therefore generates a good deal more speculation amongst out readers.
IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is a term used to describe a wide range of digestive symptoms (bloating, nausea, flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea, pain etc) for which no organic cause can be found despite very extensive (and often invasive) medical investigations.
What causes IBS is the subject of vigorous (and sometimes vitriolic) debate. A severe gastrointestinal upset (maybe while travelling) often seems to be the initial trigger after which flare ups can be caused by stress, trauma, other unconnected illnesses, lifestyle issues - and a range of foods.
There is little agreement as to whether stress (or the stress associated with a traumatic event) can actually cause the condition but it is widely agreed that, as with most illness, it does make it worse. The fact that digestive problems such as frequency and urgency are hugely embarrassing and stressful in themselves, does not improve the situation.
However, although some might see stress as the most important factor, others see specific food sensitivities as being the crucial element which, if they can be resolved, will improve general health and therefore, de facto, stress levels. Certainly a number of IBS sufferers find that excluding a range of foods from their diet does minimise symptoms. The most common amongst these are dairy products, wheat, citrus fruits and caffeine but both IBS and the foods which trigger it are very individual and each person needs to work out a regime which suits them.
Foods Matter articles approach IBS from many angles - and we hope that you find helpful.
The main support organisation in the UK is the IBS Network but there are a large number of other support and self help groups both in the UK and the USA. You will find many of them on our links pages or by 'searching' on the web for IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
NB Information on this site is not a substitute for medical advice and no liability can be assumed for its use.