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Food & Recipes

Reader Letters

Rx News & Research

Ask Heather

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Heather's IBS Newsletter ~ For Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What happens if IBS comes, then goes, then comes back again? What if you simply refuse to give up?

Last but not least, it's the final sneaky sin of the IBS diet!

Our most popular spring recipe ever - have you made it yet?

  Follow HelpForIBS on Twitter Twitter                                                        printer friendly version of the IBS diet and IBS recipe newsletter

Hello to everyone -

This week we have a terrific and inspiring letter from Jeff, who has had a rather unusual history of IBS. What would have overwhelmed and defeated many instead led him to a determination to prevail. I hope his story gives others the boost they need to keep giving all they have to their battle against IBS - it's definitely a war that can be won.

We'll also tackle the last on our list of the seven sneaky sins of the IBS diet. See if you're guilty!

Plus, as always, we also have a fabulous IBS-safe recipe and the latest IBS news and research.


Best Wishes,
Heather Van Vorous

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Lemon Asparagus Noodles

This is one of my most popular spring recipes ever! It's perfect with first-of-the-season asparagus, and its lovely bright green color is so welcome after a long winter. The Tummy Fiber not only adds extra soluble fiber for digestive stability, it also gives the sauce a rich, velvety creaminess that is simply luscious.

Makes 4 servings

1 lb. fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
zest (grated yellow skin) of 1 fresh lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Acacia Tummy Fiber
1 lb. angel hair pasta or pasta of choice
1/4 cup soy or rice Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces, setting aside tips. In a large stockpot cook asparagus stems in 5-6 quarts boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt until very tender (about 7-9 minutes). Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to a blender (do not drain pot). Cook asparagus tips in same boiling water until just tender, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer tips with slotted spoon to colander (do not drain pot).

Puree asparagus stems (not the tips) with lemon zest, olive oil, Tummy Fiber, and 3/4 cup asparagus cooking water until smooth.

Cook pasta in boiling asparagus cooking water until it's still very al dente (firm to the tooth). Reserve 2 cups cooking water and drain pasta. In drained stockpot, add pasta, asparagus tips, asparagus sauce, and 1/2 cup reserved water. Cook over high heat, stirring, about 4-5 minutes until pasta is done to taste and coated with sauce, adding a little more cooking water (1/4 cup at a time) if necessary. Stir in soy/rice Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

This recipe makes a wonderful dinner on its own, but for a really special treat serve it as a side dish with my delicious Sesame Chicken Sandwiches.

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.

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divider What Happens If You Just Refuse to Give Up?

Dear Heather,

I know this story is going to sound a bit odd given what we currently know about IBS but please bear with me. In January of 2005, I was downsized from an IT position at a large company. I was 44 at the time and spent all of 2005 doing everything known to humankind to secure another position with no success.

Early in 2006, I had the fortune of finding and purchasing a large collection of vintage children's books from an estate and began marketing and selling them on ebay. As these books were only once-owned and immaculately stored, they began to make consistent money.

It was a real relief getting the income monkey off of our backs. My wife and I even managed to take a long-overdue trip to Maine in October of 2006. This is where the story gets weird.

Keep in mind, at the time we went on vacation our bills were getting paid, we weren't having any marital problems and we were excited to be getting away together. We had a wonderful time and came back renewed. The weekend following our return we had company in from out of town. I began that weekend to develop GI symptoms but wrote it off as a bug or delayed food poisoning from some borderline seafood. I mean, we were in Maine for a week, you know?

I treated myself with an anti-diarrheal and the symptoms went away for a day. By Monday, it was obvious to me that it must be something more serious like an intestinal bug or the flu. Again, I treated the symptoms and tried to rest and take care of myself.

The diarrhea would never completely go away and I was finding that anything I ate caused me to have to go. I was pretty certain this was not a good thing but I wasn't terrified because I had a frame of reference from my past. Let me explain.

In 1987, I had just graduated from college and had not found employment. The bills were not getting paid, I was thrown out of an apartment (I was blessed to have found a duplex from a man who made deals based on his assessment of character and NOT credit reports) and things were generally not going well for me.

I eventually landed restaurant work close enough to my home to walk to. I was still struggling and receiving collector calls regularly. This is when IBS hit me the first time. It started with every meal I ate triggering a normal bowel movement but deteriorated to every piece of food causing diarrhea. I eventually got "caught" on my walk to work and I'll let you fill in the details. Suffice it to say, I didn't make it to work that night.

I went to the doctor and I was very fortunate to have found one who was up on the latest medical information. Not too much was really known back then about IBS but this doctor was able to make a diagnosis of spastic colon.

He told me that my body was hypersensitive to food and would have to be re-trained to use it properly. He said I should start with bland foods (pasta, bread, cereal, etc.) and gradually add other foods as my body would tolerate them. If something caused a problem for me I should make a note of it and take a step back for a few days. He stressed that it was critical that I continue to move forward. (I still can't believe how lucky I was to have found this doctor when I did. I've read other people's stories, yours included, and can't believe the stuff that people were being told at that time and much later.) I was back to eating my regular diet within about 3-4 months. Back to 2006...

I began searching on the internet for information about IBS and found your site immediately. I was mesmerized! I spent hours learning and reading forum posts and interacting with your IBS community. I realized the first thing I needed to do was to be checked out by a doctor again for this.

I had all the tests done and afterwards I was given, literally, a prescription form that had eight medications listed on it and the doctor just marked out the ones he didn't want me to get. You read that right....eight prescriptions on a form and all but the one he wanted me to get crossed out. I laughed when I saw it.

After looking up the side-effects for the drug he recommended, I decided to try another route. I bought some of your Heather's Tummy Care products and tried to gradually add foods to my diet. I ordered the Fennel Tummy Tea and Acacia Tummy Fiber.

I started putting a little of the Tummy Fiber on all of my foods and I noticed immediately that it was helping increase the consistency of my stools as well as reducing the chance of a reaction to any food.

The Fennel Tummy Tea had the biggest overall effect of calming my stomach and GI tract and giving me a weapon against any food that still bothered me. It didn't stop the reaction every time but it did give me the confidence to continue moving forward.

As you can imagine, the body of a 45 year old was not going to be as quick to rebound as that of a 27 year old. Though it took me all of 2007 to get to this point, I am now eating almost everything that I used to before this happened. I celebrated a one year reaction-free anniversary on February 27th.

I still haven't had my first beer but I'm so busy with my internet marketing business that I really haven't had much time. When I decide I want one, it will be slow and steady like everything else has been. I couldn't be happier with my progress. I owe a great deal to you, your products and your staff for getting me to where I am today. I simply could not have done it without you!

My goal here is not to claim that everybody will be able to do what I have done. I realize that for many being able to get to a point where you can function with IBS is a milestone in itself. I simply want to emphasize the importance of not giving up and always keep trying to get back your life.

Finally, the human body is an incredibly complex and intelligent thing. We must make sure we are sending it the right signals to let it help us get better. We can do this by truly believing we can improve each and every day.

Best to all,
Jeff Jones

Thanks you so much, Jeff! I know your story will inspire many others. ~ Heather

Did you miss the reent reader letter from Brian, no longer the world's worst farter?

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divider Acupuncture for the Treatment of Pain from a Gender Perspective
A recent study in Acupuncture in Medicine noted that pain shows variability where gender and sex related effects might contribute. The mechanisms underlying the differences between women and men are currently unknown but are likely to be complex and involving interactions between biological, sociocultural and psychological aspects.

In women, painful experimental stimuli are generally reported to produce a greater intensity of pain than in men. Clinical pain is often reported with higher severity and frequency, longer duration, and present in a greater number of body regions in women than in men.

Women are also more likely to experience a number of painful conditions such as fibromyalgia, temporomandibular dysfunction, migraine, rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. With regard to biological factors, quantitative as well as qualitative differences in the endogenous pain inhibitory systems have been implicated, as well as an influence of gonadal hormones. Psychosocial factors like sex role beliefs, pain coping strategies, and pain related expectancies may also contribute to the differences.

Being exposed to repeated painful visceral events (eg menses, labour) during life may contribute to an increased sensitivity to, and greater prevalence of, pain among women. When assessing the outcome of pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies in pain treatment, the factors of gender and sex should be taken into account as the response to an intervention may differ. Go here for more information about acupuncture for IBS.

Go here for more information about this article...

No Evidence of Sex Differences in Heritability of IBS
A recent study in Twin Rsearch & Human Genetics noted that while sex differences in prevalence and incidence of irritable bowel syndrome have been demonstrated, less is known about sex differences in heritability. Their objective was to investigate whether there were sex differences in heritability of irritable bowel syndrome while accounting for different prevalences among women and men in different age groups.

A sample of 45,750 Swedish twins found that the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome was greater among women than men and more prevalent at younger ages (e.g., women 10.3%, men 6.3% at ages 40-54 years vs. women 6.1%, men 4% at ages over 65 years).

The heritability of the disorder was approximately 25% in all age groups. They found no evidence for sex differences in heritability in any of the age groups. However, models allowing prevalences of irritable bowel syndrome to differ between sexes and age groups fitted best. Go here for more information about this study...

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

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divider The Seventh Sneaky Sin of the IBS Diet

While the IBS diet can be one of the most successful ways to manage all IBS symptoms, there are some common pitfalls. I hear from a lot of people who make a tremendous effort to modify their diet for IBS, but who still have abdominal symptoms they feel certain are associated with their eating habits.

This can be exasperating (to say the least) because it may seem like there simply aren't any steps left to take. But - it's much more likely than not that there are still dietary triggers involved, they're just being overlooked.

I've found there are seven specific traps that ensnare people as they adjust their diet - and I call them the Seven Sneaky Sins of the IBS Diet. We tackled number six, soluble fiber supplements, last time, and this week we wrap up the series.

#7. I drink water when I'm thirsty, and I have several glasses of soda pop each day, and I don't feel like I'm dehydrated. Shouldn't this mean that I'm getting enough water?

Fresh water is crucial for good health in all respects, but is especially important for keeping your digestive tract functioning properly. In particular, soluble fiber, which is the basis of the IBS diet, requires plenty of water in order to be effective. (Remember, soluble fiber works by absorbing liquids in the digestive tract to form a stabilizing gel that relieves and prevents both diarrhea and constipation.)

Together, fiber and water maintain gastrointestinal muscle tone, dilute toxic wastes in the GI tract, bind irritants, bring oxygen to the tissues, and help maintain the correct balance of intestinal flora. In general, the more water you drink the better, whether plain or as IBS-friendly herbal teas.

Please note that not just any liquid can substitute for fresh water, however. Beverages with caffeine - black or green tea, soda pop, coffee - can actually dehydrate you further, and this is on top of the fact that they also contain ingredients that are outright harmful to IBS. Coffee is such a strong GI irritant that it was the first deadly sin, while black tea contains tannins that can trigger acid reflux in susceptible people. Decaffeinated black or green tea may be more tolerable.

Soda pop, however, is one of the worst possible beverages for IBS. It's sweetened with either high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, both of which are likely to cause GI upsets. Carbonation triggers bloating, gas, and even abdominal cramping. Most sodas are full of artificial colors and flavors, both of which can bother sensitive GI tracts. The caffeine in sodas is just the last in a long list of detrimental ingredients, and it's problematic both because it is a stimulant (and can upset the rhythmic contractions of the gut), and due to its dehydrating effect. Do your digestion a favor and get in the habit of drinking plain fresh water, or caffeine-free herbal teas such as peppermint, fennel, chamomile, and anise.

At a bare minimum, make sure you're drinking at least 64 fluid ounces (eight cups) of fresh water each and every day, and aim for at least twice that amount - particularly if you're prone to constipation. (Research has actually shown that a person can safely drink up to 10 liters of water a day.) You may find yourself constantly running to the bathroom as you initially increase your water intake, but your bladder should adjust and become comfortable with your new routine after a week or two.

Many Americans are actually chronically dehydrated without ever realizing it, and this is a huge exacerbating factor (and sometimes even the underlying cause) for constipation. If you're on the opposite end of the spectrum and prone to diarrhea, you're at risk of losing too much water from your body too rapidly, and this can then result in dehydration. So no matter what your IBS symptoms, and whether they're flaring or in remission, please drink up!

~ Heather

Did you miss the recent "Ask Heather" and number six on the list of Seven Sneaky Sins?

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