Should you take collagen supplements for gut health?

Should you take collagen supplements for gut health?

Cutting board with vegetables and three bowls of broth, do you need collagen supplements for better gut health

Should you take collagen supplements for gut health?

This post is for general information purposes only, is not meant to diagnose or treat, and is in no way a replacement for consulting a medical professional.

Collagen – you might have heard about it over on social media, but exactly what is collagen, and do you need to take collagen supplements for gut health or irritable bowel syndrome?

 

What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and is the second most abundant substance overall after water! So it is pretty darn important.

Collagen is found in our connective tissue, which means in our bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, skin, hair, and nails. It’s the protein that gives the structure to all of these tissues.

In addition to providing structure to the body, collagen also helps maintaining healthy blood vessels and healing wounds. Most people seek out collagen for either bone and joint health or for beauty purposes (skin/hair/nails) or both!

Collagen is often used in the beauty world to claim anti-aging properties. However, the collagen particles are generally too large for the skin to absorb topically, so the positive benefits tend to be more attributable to the moisturizing properties of the product. That being said, collagen is important in maintaining skin strength and elasticity, it just needs to come from our diet instead.

Like all proteins, collagen is made up of various amino acids, which in this case are namely glycine, lysine, and proline. These amino acids need to be converted into a special form by enzymes to create collagen, a process that requires vitamin C. Therefore sufficient vitamin C is extremely important for the formation and maintenance of healthy collagen.

Other minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese, and sulphur are also cofactors for collagen production and maintenance. 

Factors negatively affecting collagen production

  • general aging –  our collagen breaks down over time
  • high sugar intake levels
  • excessive sun exposure
  • smoking / second-hand smoke
  • autoimmune disorders
  • repeated physical stress on a part of the body
Personal at a table holding a cup of broth, do you need collagen supplements for better gut health

Sources of collagen in the diet

The best source of collagen itself is through consuming something like bone broth. Bone broth is made from cooking animal bones, including the cartilage, for a long period of time so that it breaks down and turn the broth gelatinous. The yolks from chicken eggs also contain collagen.

Other ways to boost your collagen is through consuming foods rich in the cofactors needed by your body to produce healthy collagen. For example:

  • citrus or berries for vitamin C
  • salmon or pumpkin seeds for zinc
  • leafy greens for chlorophyll which is shown to increase the precursor to collagen

There are also some collagen supplements on the market, generally as a powder that can be mixed in with cold or warm liquids. Take care if you are using collagen as a protein powder in smoothies or shakes as it is not a complete protein; it could still be beneficial to add in some high quality whey powder along with it.

 

Do I need to supplement with collagen for IBS?

Are you a generally healthy person following a healthy diet? Then no, you don’t need to supplement with collagen.

The best way to ensure healthy collagen levels in your body is to consume collagen containing foods, or foods with the needed cofactors, rather than relying on a supplement.

That being said, it could be helpful to supplement with collagen during recovery from injuries or surgery.

But the most documented benefit of collagen supplementation is an improvement in skin, joint, and bone health through a reduction in pain and inflammation.

When it comes to gut health specifically, there’s not enough evidence to support collagen supplementation for IBS specifically. More research into this area is definitely needed.

First and foremost, for the average, healthy person, it is always best to start by focusing on a general healthy diet, one that is going to be giving your body naturally the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals it needs. Any supplementation should only come after this is achieved.

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How does the menstrual cycle affect IBS?

How does the menstrual cycle affect IBS?

Woman's bare torso with hand laying on belly; how does the menstrual cycle affect IBS?

How does the menstrual cycle affect IBS?

 This post is for general information purposes only, is not meant to diagnose or treat, and is in no way a replacement for consulting a medical professional.

What are hormones? 

Hormones are chemical messengers in our body. They are secreted into the bloodstream and are brought to the organs and tissues where they signal for a change to take place. Only a small amount is needed for a big impact, and even a small excess or deficiency can cause issues in the body.

There are different types of hormones, from ones that are part of the digestive process, to hormones responsible for regulating growth, to those involved in sexual function.

When we think about sex hormones involved in menstruation, we mostly think about estrogen and progesterone, and this is where the bulk of IBS research has focused on thus far. However, there are several other hormones also at play during the menstrual cycle.

 

The menstrual cycle basics

Different sources may group the phases of the menstrual cycle in different ways, but here we are going to look at 4 different phases of the cycle. Average cycle length can vary, while 28 days tends to be referred to as the standard, it can range from 26 to 36 days. (If you’re far outside of this range, definitely bring it up with your primary care physician.)

 

Phase 1: Menstruation

The first phase, starting on Day, 1 is your first day of menstruation (your period). Estrogen and progesterone levels drop which is what triggers your uterus to shed the lining, or the endometrium.

 

Phase 2: Follicular Phase

The drop in these hormone levels also triggers other hormone changes, like follicle stimulating hormone, to start to be released. This hormone, true to its name, stimulates the follicles in your ovaries to start getting an egg ready. Around Day 8 estrogen begins to rise again which stimulates the thickening of your uterine lining. Shortly after, testosterone also rises (elevating your libido).

 

Phase 3: Ovulation 

Estrogen levels spike around Days 12-14 and trigger luteinizing hormone to be released. This is the start of ovulation, when the ovaries release the egg. The egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus where it is either fertilized by sperm and implants in the lining or will dissolve and pass out of the body during menstruation.

 

Phase 4: Luteal Phase

The follicle in the ovary, that once contained the egg, now releases progesterone and estrogen. This tells your body to prepare for pregnancy. While estrogen was dominant during the first half of the cycle until ovulation, now progesterone is the dominant hormone. Progesterone peaks around Day 21.

If the egg isn’t fertilized, then the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, triggering menstruation, and the cycle starts again!

Hand holding half of a peeled mandarin, finger pointing to centre of fruit; how does the menstrual cycle affect IBS?

How does the menstrual cycle affect irritable bowel syndrome symptoms?

Estrogen and progesterone can impact our bodies beyond just our reproductive system, and so the rise and fall of these hormones throughout the month could be linked to a higher likelihood of experiencing IBS symptoms.

There are receptors for both of these hormones found in cells of the gastrointestinal tract, suggesting that the GI tract is meant to receive and react to them.

One study reported that around 40% of menstruating people with IBS found their symptoms were impacted by their menstrual cycle. However, the amount of these hormones is not different in menstruating people with IBS versus those who do not have IBS, even though the IBS symptoms appears to be more commonly triggered.

Some ways in which estrogen and progesterone have been seen to impact IBS symptoms during the menstrual cycle: 

  • Bloating and constipation tends to increase post ovulation as progesterone increases (until day before or day of menstruation)
  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea potentially increase in the days before and first days of menstruation
  • Visceral pain sensitivity may be higher during menstruation than other phases. A study using balloon distention in the colon showed that women with IBS are more aware and sensitive to discomfort during their menstruation phase
  • In general, gut transit time is slower in people who menstruate than in those who don’t (regardless of whether they have IBS) and some studies have shown that transit time is longer in the luteal phase than in the follicular phase
  • Changes in hormone levels can impact the muscle contractions of the GI tract, transit speed, and digestive hormone secretion which could affect gas production in the colon, the onset of bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements

 

What about menopause and IBS?

Unfortunately, the data here is inconsistent. Some sources show a decrease in the frequency of IBS after menopause. Other data has reported that symptom severity may actually increase after menopause.

 

What about pregnancy and IBS?

Again, there is no consistent data for how pregnancy will impact IBS. For some, symptoms may improve, for others they may worsen.

In general, progesterone levels remain high during pregnancy, and can thus result in a higher chance of symptoms like constipation and reflux. This can be especially true during the later stages of pregnancy when there is the added pressure of the growing fetus onto the digestive organs.

Fig with a small slice out of the centre; how does the menstrual cycle affect IBS?

What can you do to improve sex hormone related IBS symptoms?

The general consensus tends to be that symptoms increase in the second half of the cycle. It could be helpful to take extra care for your diet during these times, especially known trigger foods. The good news is that you may find that you can be less strict with trigger foods during the first half of your cycle!

During this time, make sure to get enough fibre and fluids to help reduce the chance of constipation. Bowel movements are an important part of our body’s natural detoxification process and we want to be sure we are getting rid of excess hormones.

Ensure you’re eating sufficient healthy fats, from foods like nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, etc. And put extra focus on those containing omega-3 essential fatty acids like in fatty fish, flax seeds, and walnuts. Our system needs healthy fats to produce sufficient hormones.

Make sure you’re eating enough; a severe calorie restriction can throw your hormonal balance off. If you’re struggling with this, especially due to food fears around IBS symptoms flaring, make sure to reach out to a nutrition professional!

Keep a food, gut, and cycle diary to track any patterns that may appear.

Don’t forget to work on stress management – excess stress and especially long-term chronic stress can lead to hormonal imbalances. Not to mention the well-known (at least if you’ve been around here for a while!) link between stress levels and IBS-symptoms.

Look for ways to reduce stressors in your life and make sure you’re incorporating stress management practices daily. This includes things like getting sufficient sleep, moving your body, meditation, journaling, social connection, eating nourishing foods, and spending time out in nature.

 

If you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance, make sure to bring this up to your health care team and nutrition professional.

Sources:

Heitkemper, M. M., & Chang, L. (2009). Do Fluctuations in Ovarian Hormones Affect Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Women With Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Gend Med, 6(Suppl 2), pp. 152-167.

Hye-Kyung, J., Doe-Young, K., & Il-Hwan, M. (2003). Effects of Gender and Menstrual Cycle on Colonic Transit Time in Healthy Subjects. The Korean Journal of Internal Medicine(18), 181-186.

Mulak, A., Tache, Y., & Larauche, M. (2014, March 14). Sex hormones in the modulation of irritable bowel syndrome. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 20(10), 2433-2448.

Palssoon, O. S., & Whitehead, W. E. (2017, October). Hormones and IBS. Retrieved from UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders: https://www.med.unc.edu/ibs/patient-education/educational-gi-handouts/

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What you need to know about fibre and IBS

What you need to know about fibre and IBS

6 clear jars spilling nuts and seeds onto a white surface, what you need to know about fibre and IBS

What you need to know about fibre and IBS

If you are going to try any sort of supplement, always discuss with your doctor and nutrition professional first. This post is for general information purposes only, is not meant to diagnose or treat, and is in no way a replacement for consulting a medical professional.

What is fibre?

Fibre is present in many plant-based foods. In general, it is the non-digestible portion of our food that ends up in our large intestine and instead is food for our friendly gut bacteria. The gut bacteria partially or completely ferment the fibre, producing gas as well as some important nutrients that your body needs. Understanding how and where to get fibre in your diet is important in general, and definitely necessary when it comes to fibre and IBS.

However, the definition can vary based on regionally specific nutrition guidelines, and in some countries (like here in Belgium), substances that act like fibre in the gut are officially grouped into the category of fibre (i.e., resistant starch).

As said, fibre is found in plant-based foods, namely:

  • Whole grains
  • Lentils and legumes
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Fibre is an incredibly important part of our diet; it helps keep our bowel movements regular and can add bulk to loose stools, as well as loosen up hard stools (sounds contradictory, but we’ll get into this more soon!). This is an important part of our body’s natural detoxification process, getting rid of toxins out of our system as well as other waste products like excess hormones. It can also have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, and increases satiation from a meal, leading to a lower likelihood of overeating.

The general recommendation (which can vary depending on a country’s nutritional guidelines, is that adults should strive for more than 25g of fibre per day, with some recommendations saying that we should be consuming at least 30g of fibre per day. Studies have shown a positive relationship between consuming 25-29g of fibre per day and a reduction in risk for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and all-cause mortality when compared to people eating less than this amount.

A bowl of salad with many brightly coloured vegetables all around, what you need to know about fibre and IBS

The categories of fibre that you should know about

There are different ways to categorize types of fibre, but the most used and most relevant when it comes to IBS is soluble and insoluble types. Foods usually contain both types of fibre at the same time but can be more dominant in one over the other.

Soluble fibre

This type of fibre will dissolve (is soluble) in liquids. In our gut it forms a gel-like substance (imagine it on a much smaller scale to the gel-like properties of chia seeds when immersed in liquid).

Soluble fibre slows the transit time of our food through our digestive system which can help stabilize blood sugar levels, keep you feeling satiated for longer following a meal, and allow adequate time for your body to absorb nutrients. Because it attracts water, like a sponge, it helps soften stool.

Soluble fibre can be found in:

  • Some vegetables & fruit
  • Oats
  • Lentils & legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Insoluble fibre

In contrast to soluble fibre, insoluble fibre does not dissolve in liquids. It helps add physical bulk to the stool and speeds up the transit time of our food through our gut.

Insoluble fibre can be found in:

  • Wheat bran
  • Rice bran
  • Fruit & vegetable skins
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Lentils & legumes
  • Whole grains

 

What’s the deal with fibre and IBS?

It was previously thought (and indeed still talked about in many spaces) that a low fibre diet could be a cause behind IBS. Because of this, a lot of health professionals still tend to advise people with IBS to increase their fibre intake. While not eating enough fibre is definitely an issue amongst the general public, it’s not quite so black and white when it comes to IBS.

Fermentability of fibre

Many types of fibre tend to be high fermentable by the bacteria in our gut. In general, this is a good thing as this keeps our gut bacteria healthy and in a good balance. However, when it comes to IBS this is likely a contributing factor to symptoms flaring up. The fibre sources that fall into this category are thus also considered part of the FODMAP-family (but not all FODMAPs are sources of fibre).

Soluble fibre tends to be highly fermentable whereas insoluble fibre tends to be low- or moderately fermentable and therefore better tolerated. It’s not necessarily a hard-and-fast rule, however, so it definitely takes time to discover what works and what doesn’t for your body.

Some examples of good sources of (low-FODMAP) fibre for IBS:

  • Chia seeds (2 tbsp = 8g of fibre)
  • Green kiwi, peeled (2 small kiwis = 6g of fibre)
  • Firm tofu (160g = 6g of fibre)
  • Oats (50g = 5g of fibre)
  • Flaxseeds (1 tbsp = 4g of fibre)
  • Raspberries (60g = 3g of fibre)
An assortment of many brightly coloured vegetables, what you need to know about fibre and IBS

Should you be supplementing with fibre for IBS?

If you are going to try any sort of supplement, always discuss with your doctor and nutrition professional first. This post is for general information purposes only, is not meant to diagnose or treat, and is in no way a replacement for consulting a medical professional.

In general, research has shown that getting sufficient fibre from your diet is more beneficial that fibre from supplementation. This is namely because our foods contain various types of fibre giving a wider range of benefits, whereas supplementation tends to be focused on specific types of fibre in isolation.

However, if you are struggling with fibre intake and experiencing a high amount of IBS symptoms, supplementation could be something to discuss with your health care team. The type of supplementation is going to be unique to the individual and what type of IBS symptoms you tend to have. Currently there is not much convincing results from research studies in order to give proper direction in IBS recommendations. 

Whether you’re starting with supplements, or just looking to increase your fibre intake with real foods, make sure to do so gradually, as a dramatic increase from one day to the next will likely result in significant digestive issues as your system isn’t used to these amounts. In addition, be sure to drink sufficient quantities of water – without proper hydration fibre can end up having the opposite effect of what is intended.

Type of fibre sources/supplements and IBS

Psyllium husk: tends to be well tolerated by people with IBS and research indicates it may be helpful for constipation.

Oats / oat bran: may be helpful for improving constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating but more studies are needed.

Flaxseeds: similar findings as with oats, up to 1 tbsp per day is considered low-FODMAP (flaxseeds are also a great plant-based source of Omega-3!).

Resistant starches: this type of prebiotic fibre tends to ferment slower throughout the entire length of the large intestine. Because of this, it may produce less gas-related symptoms. However, it hasn’t been shown to be helpful in regulating bowel movements.

Partially hydrolysed guar gum: has prebiotic properties and may be well tolerated in IBS for both constipation and diarrhea; however, more studies are needed. 

Sterculia: this non-fermentable source of fibre has gel-forming properties and may help with stool softening for constipation; however, more studies are needed.

Wheat bran: contains a high amount of fructans (a type of FODMAP) and may worsen IBS symptoms.

Wheat dextrin: no studies conducted in regard to IBS.

Inulin: highly fermentable type of fibre and may worsen gas.

Fructo-oligosaccharides & galacto-oligosaccharides (FOS/GOS): a type of highly fermentable fibre (FODMAP) and may worsen IBS symptoms.

 

The bottom line…

It’s not possible to give sweeping recommendations for fibre when it comes to IBS, regardless of the sub-type you may have. It’s always best to work with a health and nutritional professional to identify what foods will work best for you and your body.

Sources:

El-Salhy, M., Ystad, S. O., Mazzawi, T., & Gundersen, D. (2017). Dietary fiber in irritable bowel syndrome (Review). International journal of molecular medicine, 40(3), 607–613. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijmm.2017.3072 

Reynolds, A., Mann, J., Cummings, J., Winter, N., Mete, E., & Te Morenga, L. (2019). Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Lancet (London, England), 393(10170), 434–445. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31809-9 

https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/getting-enough-fibre/

https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/fibre-supplements-ibs/ 

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New Research: Potential Cause of Post-Infectious IBS Identified

New Research: Potential Cause of Post-Infectious IBS Identified

Woman typing on laptop with stethoscope next to it, Research Study identifying possible cause of Post-Infectious IBS

New Research: Potential Cause of Post-Infectious IBS Identified

In January, the results of an exciting research study were posted that looked into possible causes for IBS for people who have the onset of the syndrome after a gastrointestinal infection (a.k.a. post-infectious IBS).

An estimated 17% of people report the onset of their irritable bowel syndrome as being after a GI-infection.

A large portion of our immune system resides in our gut, and it works to balance out the immune response between actual pathogens and the harmless “good gut” bacteria and antigens from our food. This is to limit an immune response, like inflammation, when such a response isn’t needed. In a healthy gut, our immune system isn’t getting trigger by foods that we eat.

What this study showed, is that during a GI-infection, the presence of particular foods in the gut could lead to a sensitivity for that food even after the infection has been cleared.

Table lined with microscopes, Research Study identifying possible cause of Post-Infectious IBS

The study:

The researchers infected mice with a bacterial gastrointestinal infection, while at the same time feeding them a solution containing ovalbumin, a protein that is found in egg whites.

After the infection was cleared, they continued giving the mice ovalbumin challenges and saw that an immune response was provoked. The mast cells in the gut were activated, released histamine, and led to IBS-like symptoms in the mice (diarrhea, reduced GI transit time, increased fecal water content). This didn’t happen in the mice who received ovalbumin but did not have the GI-infection.

Visceral hypersensitivity (VHS) is another key symptom of IBS, essentially meaning that the pain perception in the gut is heightened for people with IBS than those without. In the mice study, overall VHS was heightened for 4 weeks after the GI-infection was cleared. At 5-weeks, VHS was observed when the mice were given the ovalbumin, but was not present when other, similar, antigens were given.

Finally, the researchers tested for this immune response in 12 people with IBS, by injecting food antigens (from gluten, milk, soy, or wheat) into the gut wall. They observe the same immune responses in these people as in the mice for at least one of the food antigens each.

 

What does this mean going forward and for me and my IBS management?

Considering the small number of participants in this study, much more research is still needed, and indeed there are still ongoing studies following up on this topic.

Not everyone with IBS reports its onset as after a GI-infection, so this doesn’t necessary answer all of the questions that are pending about IBS and may not be relevant for everyone. And as we know, there are many other factors often at play when it comes to IBS symptoms being triggered (like stress, poor sleep, etc.).

But if you do have the post-infectious subtype of IBS, this research would be very interesting to discuss with your healthcare providers especially in terms of potential irritable bowel syndrome management options.

And in any case, all research and innovation in this field is extremely exciting, especially considering that potentially up to 20% of the population may struggle with irritable bowel syndrome.

 

Read more about the research:

Aguilera-Lizarraga, J., Florens, M.V., Viola, M.F. et al. Local immune response to food antigens drives meal-induced abdominal pain. Nature (2021).

Click here for the press release about this study from KU Leuven

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Sweet Potato Nachos (low-FODMAP)

Sweet Potato Nachos (low-FODMAP)

A woman outside in workout clothes holding a drawing of a happy gut; find bloating relief and reduce IBS

Sweet Potato Nachos (low-FODMAP)

Often Saturday night is nacho night in our house. This version can easily be made into a low-FODMAP recipe that can work in your specific IBS diet. 

​And while sometimes we just go for the real thing with corn chips and all the toppings, this sweet potato version is a great alternative!

​With a sweet potato base and lots of veggies mixed into the minced meat topping, you can enjoy a comfort food with a good extra serving of veggies.

​The best part is, that the toppings are extremely customizable. Can’t do onion? Leave it out and up the green onion as garnish. Or swap it for the green part of a leek.

Have a bunch of leftovers in the fridge? Throw them on!

​Or maybe sweet potato is tricky? Do ⅓ sweet potato and ⅔ regular potato.

​Ready to make this tonight?

Sweet Potato Nachos

Light version of the classic nachos, made with sweet potato instead of corn chips.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • Mandolin

Ingredients
  

  • 500 g sweet potato*
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 200 g mince meat
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • 1 red onion** diced
  • ¼ zucchini diced
  • 1 medium tomato diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Optional Garnishes

  • green onion green top only for low-FODMAP
  • avocado ⅛ is low-FODMAP
  • sour cream lactose-free for low-FODMAP
  • fresh cilantro

Instructions
 

  • Pre-heat oven to 200C / 390F.
  • Wash and peel sweet potatoes, and slice into 0.5cm (0.2”) thick rounds using a knife or mandolin.
  • Lay sweet potato slices out on a lined baking sheet and bake in oven for 15 minutes until beginning to brown and crisp.
  • In a fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and cook until just soft (5-8 minutes).
  • Add the minced meat into the frying pan and cook until fully browned, (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove the sweet potato from the oven. Using the baking sheet from the sweet potatoes, overlap the cooked chips to form your nacho base.
  • Scatter meat and vegetable mixture across the sweet potato base. Top with diced tomatoes and shredded cheese.
  • Return to the oven and bake until cheese ismelted and beginning to turn golden;around 10 minutes.
  • Top with any of the optional garnishes, and enjoy!

Notes

* 75g of sweet potato is considered low-FODMAP, above this can be high in the FODMAP mannitol. If this is a problem for you, you could swap ⅔ of the sweet potato for regular white potato instead.
** If red onion is a problem for you, as it is high in FODMAPs (fructans) then replace this with diced green tops of leeks.
Keyword Gluten Free, Vegetables

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Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

Group of people cheersing with cocktails, Is alcohol a trigger for IBS

Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

With the holiday season upon us, the influence of alcohol in our lives only continues to grow. But does alcohol sit well with your IBS, or is that glass going to send you running to the toilet?

There’s not a whole lot of research done yet on the effect or link between alcohol and irritable bowel syndrome, but anecdotally around 1/3 of IBS-sufferers self-report that they are triggered by it (myself included).

And when I polled my Instagram community, this number was far higher!

However, since alcohol is often served along with food (and often more indulgent dishes) it can be tricky to differentiate any symptoms from your drinks versus your food.

 

The effect of alcohol on your digestion

Alcohol can be an irritant to the gut and can cause inflammation. It can reduce your absorption of vitamins and minerals from your food.

By potentially reducing the frequency and strength of certain muscle contraction in the gut, alcohol can also disrupt the digestion of carbohydrates in the small intestine, resulting in more poorly absorbed carbs coming into the large intestine.

Cue bloating, gas, and change in bowel movements. This is the same effect that FODMAPs can have on your digestion.

It also can mean an increased transit time (a.k.a. the time it takes for your food to move from one end to the other), which can result in diarrhea.

Alcohol can also interfere with the working of some digestive enzymes – one of which is lactase. Lactase is the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose, the milk sugar.

This means when drinking you could find yourself sensitive to lactose-containing dairy products even if you would normally do OK with some of them.

The pattern of alcohol consumption has been studied in terms of its impact on IBS.

While the study didn’t find an association between light or moderate alcohol consumption and next-day IBS symptoms, it did find an association between binge drinking (4+ drinks on one occasion) and next-day IBS symptoms.

Green cocktail in a martini glass, is alcohol a trigger for IBS

Alcohol and FODMAPs

While alcohol can function similarly to FODMAPs in the digestive system, they aren’t one and the same.

However, some alcohol can also contain FODMAPs (so possibly a double whammy on your gut) and warrant some additional focus. 

According to Monash University, the following are high-FODMAP containing alcohols / alcoholic drinks:

  • Cider
  • Rum
  • Sherry
  • Port
  • Sweet dessert wine

Conversely, the following are considered low-FODMAP:

  • Beer (but watch out for gluten if you’re gluten intolerant)
  • Red, sparkling, sweet, white and dry white wine
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Whisky

If you’re consuming a cocktail, don’t forget to take the additional elements into account as well for FODMAP content. (Check out the recipe at the bottom of the post for my favourite, festive cocktail!)

 

Drinking responsibly

In general, any potential benefits from alcohol don’t really outweigh the possible negative consequences. That being said, drinking alcohol is a personal choice, and it’s so interwoven into our social life that it’s understandable if you don’t want to abstain completely!

Just remember to enjoy it responsibly. While your country’s guidelines of alcohol consumption may vary, here in Belgium we recommend (for adults over the age of 18) a maximum of 10 units of alcohol per week, and several days with no alcohol.

One unit of alcohol is equal to:

  • 10g / 12.7mL pure alcohol
  • 250mL standard beer
  • 100mL wine
  • 50mL aperitif alcohol (sherry, port, etc.)
  • 35mL strong liquor (gin, vodka, etc.)

And, of course, remember the general recommendations: avoid alcohol when driving or operating machinery, if you’re pregnant, if you’re under 18 (and/or under the legal age in your country), when doing heavy physical activity, and talk to your doctor if you’re on any medications.

 

Practical tips for alcohol consumption 

  • Watch out for what you are mixing it with (pop, fruit juice, etc. could all contain FODMAPs or other triggers for you)
  • Abstaining might be the best option for you If you notice an increase in symptoms when drinking alcohol
  • Drink plenty of water: alternate each alcoholic drink with at least one glass of water
  • Consume food along with alcohol (but be sure to consider your food triggers)
  • Space out your drinks over a longer time frame
  • Swap in some non-alcoholic mocktails; no one has to know!
  • Avoid binge-drinking
IBS friendly cocktail mocktail, red cocktail in a glass surrounded by fresh cranberries and rosemary

IBS-friendly festive holiday gin & tonic:

Serves one

  • Ice
  • 35mL non-alcoholic gin
  • 35mL cranberry juice (check the ingredients list for any high-FODMAP additives)
  • Tonic water
  • Fresh rosemary and/or cranberries for garnish

Fill your glass with ice. Add in the cocktail ingredients in the order listed. Top off with your garnishes and enjoy!

 

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