25% of the population deal with digestive health disorders, which can be painful and socially isolating. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a collective term for a complaint that may involve several of the following symptoms – stomach cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, constipation and bloating.
While IBS is based in the digestive system, it is also associated with headaches, mood swings, anxiety, fatigue and general pain.
Ben Brown, a naturopath and expert in nutritional medicine had a health episode which ended in an IBS diagnosis after going travelling. Not content with the options he had presented to him, he set about researching and finding a solution.
The result was a book called The Digestive Health Solution, which will be released in February. Ben will be travelling to New Zealand and Australia after that to promote the book and talk to members of the public.
"The mind and body are interconnected when it comes to health and well-being," he says. "There is no single answer to IBS – it needs a whole lifestyle approach to change it."
Our modern lifestyle and environment is responsible for a number of health conditions, and he believes that we do need to acknowledge that. "It can be confronting, having a condition that has symptoms such as anxiety associated, because people feel judged," he says. "It is important to realise that we have an ability to control such symptoms by doing things as simple as getting good quality sleep, eating well and supplementing sensibly."
He also believes that taking probiotics has a measurable effect. Probiotics can rebalance the bacteria in your gut, and once you start feeling improvement in the physical symptoms, it flows on to improve mood.
Our health system is still primarily designed to treat specific symptoms with drugs or surgery, so a shift is required to treat patients more holistically.
Food sensitivities also contribute to IBS. "There are so many additives, not only chemical, but also in the form of excessive sugar and salt in processed food," he says. "People do so much better in general when they concentrate on eating whole foods, cooking from scratch and drinking mainly water in place of other beverages."
There are chapters in the books about specific allergies and sensitivities. "Again, it is not always about sensitivities," he says. "Sometimes it is a matter of eating less processed food at every meal, making changes to your lifestyle to improve the quality of your rest and reduce your stress levels. Research is showing that a reduction of emotional stress can lead to changes to the nervous system in your gut."
If you suffer from IBS or other gut conditions, Ben's book The Digestive Health Solution offers clear guidance and is easy to read and understand. It will be available in New Zealand shortly. GrownUps will have more information about his apperances in New Zealand closer to the time.