Everyone’s advice for a little bowel irregularity is fiber. Eat more fiber, you’ll feel better, right? Unfortunately when it comes to those of us who suffer from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fiber can have a nasty side effect.
Since IBS causes inflammation and is characterized by symptoms like pain and diarrhea, ingesting fiber (rough stuff) is the equivalent of dragging sandpaper over those inflamed areas. You’d think this would be obvious to medical professionals, but if you head into the emergency room suffering from an attack of diverticulitis (means pain/inflammation), don’t be surprised if the doctor tells you that you need more fiber. Confused? You should be, but don’t worry. Here are some ground rules to follow for fiber if you have IBD.
1. If you have IBS, Colitis, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohns, Diverticulitis, Leaky Gut (or just lots of urgent diarrhea especially just after eating), you should be eating a low fiber diet. That means no raw fruit, no raw vegetables, no nuts, seeds or corn. This also goes for fiber supplements.
2. NEVER do a colon/bowel cleanser when you are in this state. This is the fastest way to accelerate your symptoms like bloody stools and mucus. This will certainly land you back in the emergency room and even a prescription for steroids, like Prednisone.
3. Now, this is where it can be complicated. When you are being PROPERLY treated by using supplements that will be putting down layers of microscopic tissue (the mucosal lining) on top of the damaged tissue. You will notice a decrease in symptoms.
4. A naturopathic doctor who is experienced in holistic gastroenterology will be able to interpret the body’s language via its symptoms, and guide you as to when reintroducing fiber to your diet will be manageable.
5. The reason for more fiber at this time is that it is needed to hold the stool together, effectively sopping up the excess water. Fiber is also essential at this point for strengthening the bowel muscles and creating proper peristalsis.
6. This process can be tricky. Not only do you need to determine when the bowel will tolerate the fiber, you also need to determine what kind of fiber is needed. It’s a tricky timeline to navigate during treatment, and it has taken me 30+ years to figure it out.
7. The GI tract has 8 distinct groups of muscles and each one needs a different type of fiber. Not only that but you must be able to determine which group is the one (if not all of them) that is damaged. It’s all about being fluent in the body’s language and how to read the symptoms.
8. At this stage you need to use the PROPER fiber supplement with 8 DIFFERENT types of fiber for each muscle group because one size does not fit all. The wrong one can set you back. Dietary fiber from foods at this stage are too rough and unpredictable.
9. Once we have you stable, meaning no symptoms of pain, bloating, diarrhea etc., we take away the fiber supplement and then strategically reintroduce fiber foods one-by-one until you are able to eat any food without relapse – even 6 bowels of popcorn washed down with 14 beers with no ill effects.
10. There you have it- the proper use of the simplest form of food that we consume, fiber, complicated by having a manmade condition- Irritable Bowel Disease.
Jennifer Jacob on behalf of Dr Alberto Snow, a Naturopathi doctor specializing in holistic treatments of inflammatory bowel conditions like IBS, Crohn’s Colitis, and Ulcerative Colitis through natural remedies and dietary lifestyle changes.