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Heather's IBS Newsletter ~ For Irritable Bowel Syndrome

February 7, 2006

Simple Changes Make a Big Difference and Dairy for IBS?

Hello to everyone -

Happy upcoming Valentine's Day! This year, our newsletter gives you ways to treat yourself as well as your sweetie. Sometimes it's the little changes in life that make a big difference for IBS, and that's our focus this week. Just a few kitchen substitutions in our Ultimate Brownie recipe give you the most decadent, but digestion-friendly, dessert imaginable.

Our special reader letter this week shares the story of how, for one man, it was all about the little things he did that added up to success in overcoming his IBS. We'll also look at one of the most basic dietary changes you can make, today, to start taking control of your own symptoms. As always, we've also got the latest IBS news and research. Enjoy!

Best Wishes,
Heather Van Vorous

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Ultimate Chocolate Pudding Brownies

This recipe makes a rich, gooey, divinely dark chocolate brownie with its own hot fudge pudding sauce built right in! You'd never guess it's low fat, dairy free, and comes together in just ten minutes of kitchen time.

The key substitutions for good digestion are soy milk for dairy and unsweetened cocoa powder (which is very low fat and caffeine free) in place of solid chocolate. The small amount of decaf instant coffee powder should be very tolerable in the brownie's soluble fiber base, but you can also simply omit it and the end result will still be delicious!

Makes 8 servings

1 C granulated sugar, divided
1 C all-purpose unbleached flour
2 T Acacia Tummy Fiber (optional)
1/4 t salt
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Hershey's), divided
2 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 C canola oil
1/2 C soy or rice milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 T decaffeinated instant coffee powder (optional)
1 C boiling water

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat an 8" or 9" square baking pan with cooking oil spray.

In a large bowl, sift and whisk together 2/3 C of the sugar, the flour, Tummy Fiber, salt, 1/4 C of the cocoa, baking powder, and cinnamon. Whisk well to blend. Stir in the oil, soy milk, and vanilla (batter will be stiff). Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/3 C sugar and 1/4 C cocoa. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter. Dissolve the coffee powder (if using) into the boiling water, and pour water over the cake. Do not stir.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the top of the cake looks crisp and crackled. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, and serve warm.

Are you just learning how to eat for IBS? A little intimidated at the thought of special IBS recipes? Not quite sure just what makes these recipes special in the first place? Don't worry! Come see the IBS Diet pages, and find the answers to all your questions.

Fennel Tummy Tea Peppermint Tummy Tea
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Now in New Jumbo Organic Teabags!

Fennel is terrific for bloating & gas, Peppermint is great for IBS pain & spasms.

divider Just a Few Changes Can Make All the Difference!
Dear Heather,

I just read your newsletter today and saw the story about the 19 year girl, and it dawned on me that I don't have to deal with that anymore, and that I really should let you know because it simply wouldn't have been possible without your books and website.

You have helped many people solve a difficult problem that they would otherwise struggle with for perhaps their whole lives. What impresses me even more, however, is how you dealt with your problem. You were brave enough to get past the so-called experts who said that nothing can be done and dared to tackle the problem yourself. That is something I wish everyone could learn to do. But most importantly, you were brave enough to take your experiences and share them with untold numbers who were also suffering in silence. You have a powerful story and I thank God you were brave enough to tell it. That story alone is one of the first and most comforting steps to a cure: hope. I still remember that dreary January Sunday I was randomly Googling for anything to help me and I came across your website. It was like being rescued. There are few people in my life whom I've never personally met yet have felt very indebted to. I hope you never forget the impact of your work on peoples' lives -- many of which you will probably never know.

I am sure you get many emails thanking you. I thought I would add to them. I'm 34 and I've struggled with IBS all my life, although I never had a name for it until recently. Like so many people, I had to grope in the dark and make a lot of the same mistakes incurred from doing the obvious things like going to the doctor.

Your book has literally changed my life. It's been about a year long journey now adjusting to a new diet and habits, but today I am better than I've been in ten years. I struggled silently with IBS and it was one of the most unrelenting and unmerciful problems I think I've ever had. I was helpless and completely alienated. I went to my GP, to a gastroenterologist, had test after test with no conclusive outcome, and everything they told me (take insoluble fiber) was the diametric opposite of what I needed to do. The GE gave me a barium and colonoscopy and said everything was completely normal. He gave me some prescription laxative powder to take which while it helped some, caused me to cramp more.

With your book, I made just a few lifestyle changes over a six month period, and now that a year has passed, it's made all the difference. I changed my diet, incorporated soluble fiber, and started a regular exercise routine. For the first time I am confident that I understand what is going on and my digestive tract and I have finally reached a mutual understanding. The most effective changes for me were:

1. Eliminating all milk related products. Milk, ice cream, and yogurt are very bad for me. I replaced milk with soymilk w/calcium. If I take antibiotics, I take lactinex tablets rather than yogurt.

2. Jogging. I started with 2 days a week and worked up to 6 days a week. Jogging, while I hated it, has had more positive effects on my life than just helping with IBS. I get my MP3 player, load up a long playlist, and for 45 minutes each night I decompress and disappear into the moonlight. It has been an almost religious experience. I learned to actually like jogging. The effects have been wonderful.

After six months I had to get a new wardrobe, and I look ten years younger. I manage stress better. I sleep better. I feel better throughout the day and have much, much more energy. I feel like a different person.

3. Eliminate coffee. I was a regular coffee drinker. I stopped drinking it altogether for three months, and now allow myself an occasional cup on weekends. I drink peppermint tea now. I don't drink soft drinks (although I never drank many anyway).

4. Eliminate alcohol. I did the same with beer as I did with coffee.

Finally, I don't question the value of soluble fiber, which I take twice a day. Each change is not a cure. And there is nothing instantaneous. For me, it has been a slow gradual process resulting in steady improvement. Lifestyle changes are slow and take time. All of the changes were really too much for me all at once so I worked them in little by little. They seem almost trivial now (but I know better).

I have reached a comfort level where I know what I need to do as second nature, and I know what I can get away with. I know when I can splurge and have a beer or two. I can easily spot good foods from bad, and weigh other foods which have both. If I order a potato at Jason's Deli, I know what to strike out, and what to keep in. I can keep a kind of internal balance sheet each day as to where I am and what I need to do to maintain decorum.

The net result is that I have effectively removed 99.999% of IBS from my life. I live with it in that I actively lead a lifestyle to avoid it, but I never have to experience the helplessness, fear, confusion, or alienation I used to. A few simple changes in my life made all the difference, and without your book I never would have found them. I cannot thank you enough. I can't imagine having to live the rest of my life with the awfulness of IBS I once knew. I've been set free.

~ Mike O.

A huge thank you to Mike for sharing his story! I love the idea that he had to reach a mutual understanding with his digestive tract. I feel that this is exactly the philosophy by which I manage my own IBS, and it is just wonderful to hear someone else's experiences. ~ Heather

Did you miss the last reader letter? Find it here...

~ Heather's Tummy Fiber ~
For the Dietary Management of Abdominal Pain, Diarrhea, &, Constipation

IBS Acacia Tummy Fiber

Organic Acacia ~ Pure Soluble Fiber

The prebiotic fiber that relieves both diarrhea and constipation!

divider Dietary Means of Diagnosing IBS
A recent study in Gut noted that diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome is based on arbitrary criteria due to the lack of an accurate diagnostic test. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether recto-sigmoid tone modification after a meal represents an accurate diagnostic approach. The study concluded that a post-prandial reduction of recto- sigmoid tone of at least 28% of fasting value after a low- caloric meal accurately separates organic and functional gastrointestinal disease patients. This parameter may, therefore, be used in the positive diagnosis of IBS. Go here for more information about this study...

Relationship Between Colonic and Rectal Hypersensitivity in IBS
In irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it remains unclear whether rectal hypersensitivity is a 'marker' of colonic hypersensitivity. This study in Neurogastroenterology and Motility aimed to examine the relation between colonic and rectal sensitivity in IBS patients, comprising phasic and ramp distension techniques.

Twenty IBS patients and 12 healthy subjects underwent stepwise ramp and random phasic barostat distensions in the colon and rectum in random order. The sensory threshold pressure (ramp distension) and the visual analogue scale score (VAS, phasic distension), for pain and non-pain, were recorded. The study concluded that colonic and rectal sensitivity in IBS are correlated in response to phasic but not ramp barostat distensions. The rectum serves as a legitimate 'window' for evaluating colonic hypersensitivity in IBS, provided that phasic distensions are employed. Go here for more information about this study...

Discrepancies Between Patient / Clinician Reported Outcomes of IBS
A recent Value in Health study aimed to explore the degree of agreement between patient- and clinician-reported outcomes (PROs and CROs, respectively) in three chronic diseases, including IBS.

The study found that pain intensity estimated by clinicians was lower than as estimated by patients with IBS. Pain estimated by patients only partially reflected their Quality of Life rating. Clinicians underestimated QOL impairment in most dimensions of the IBS questionnaire (in six of eight dimensions). Although correlated, PROs and CROs differed. In addition, their relationship was not consistent across diseases. PROs are therefore concluded to be essential to take account of all the aspects of diseases. Go here for more information about this study...

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Complementary and alternative medical therapies and practices are widely employed in the treatment of the irritable bowel syndrome. A new review in Alimentary Pharmacology Therapies aimed to review the usage of complementary and alternative medicine in the irritable bowel syndrome, and to assess critically the basis and evidence for its use. The article found that there is evidence to support efficacy for hypnotherapy, some forms of herbal therapy and certain probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome.

The study concluded that doctors caring for irritable bowel syndrome patients need to recognize the near ubiquity of complementary and alternative medical use among this population and the basis for its use. All complementary and alternative medicine is not the same and some, such as hypnotherapy, forms of herbal therapy, specific diets and probiotics, may well have efficacy in irritable bowel syndrome. The study noted that we need more science and more controlled studies; the absence of truly randomized placebo-controlled trials for many of these therapies has limited meaningful progress in this area. Go here for more information about this study...

Looking for more IBS research and news? Check the IBS Research Library!

~ Heather's Tummy Tamers ~
For the Dietary Management of Abdominal Pain &, Bloating
IBS Peppermint Caps
Peppermint Oil Caps with Fennel and Ginger Are Amazing!

Because our Peppermint Oil Caps have the added benefits of fennel and ginger oils, they are truly unbeatable for preventing abdominal pain, gas, and bloating!

divider Dairy and IBS
"I have IBS - is it okay to drink lactose-free milk or eat yogurt?"

Unfortunately, lactose is just one of many elements in dairy that can cause digestive distress. There are several other components in dairy that can all trigger IBS problems.

Lactose intolerance is often misdiagnosed or confused with IBS, but they are two different disorders. You can be lactose intolerant and have IBS. You can also not be lactose intolerant and have IBS, and dairy will still cause trouble. Why? Because dairy is an IBS trigger even if you're not lactose intolerant.

It's simply not just the lactose that's at fault. The high fat content of most dairy products can also cause your IBS to flare. But, even skim and lactose-free dairy can trigger IBS attacks. This is because, in addition to fat and lactose, dairy contains components such as the proteins whey and casein, which can cause severe digestion problems.

Though yogurt is traditionally recommended as an "easily digestible" dairy product because fermentation has reduced the lactose levels, even non-fat versions contain whey and casein, and should be avoided. If you want the benefits of the live cultures in yogurt choose a soy yogurt instead, or take a probiotic supplement.

Even if you're not lactose intolerant, but you do have IBS, it's safe to assume dairy is a likely trigger and avoid it entirely. You're much better off using soy or rice substitutes for milk, cheese, ice cream, and cooking. There are many good brands of dairy replacement products on the market, with more appearing every day. The brownie recipe above is a wonderful example of how to use soy milk for dairy for a delicious as well as digestion-friendly result. As always with IBS, the key is substitution, and never deprivation.

As Mike noted in his letter above, completely eliminating dairy from your diet can be one of the simple concrete changes that makes the biggest differences to IBS.

~ Heather

Did you miss the last "Ask Heather" about Acupuncture for IBS? Find it here...

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