Notes from Christi Lehner’s teleclass: “Managing Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)”

If you want to learn why IBS is such a personal topic for me, read my IBS story.

Here are the books I've found to be most helpful/positive::
- The First Year - IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome): An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed by Heather Van Vorous
- What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About IBS by Richard Ash, M.D.
- Healthy Digestion the Natural Way by D. Lindsey Berkson

Helpful Website:

What Is IBS?

The technical definition of IBS is “a functional bowel disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, characterized by abdominal pain and alterations in diarrhea and/or constipation.

IBS is a disorder of function. No inflammation, infection, or abnormal growths show up on any of the tests.

Our bodies communicate from gut to brain and brain to gut. For those of us with IBS, the communication between our brain and gut doesn’t function properly. Our colons feel things that other people’s colons don’t. We’re more sensitive to digestion.

The normally rhythmic muscular contractions of the digestive tract become irregular and uncoordinated, which interferes with the normal movement of food and waste material, and leads to accumulation of mucus and toxins in the intestine.

I think this is actually a good thing, because it forces us to eat healthier and listen to our bodies. Other people get away with ignoring many of their body’s warning signs. But when you have IBS, you HAVE to listen!

IBS is often a diagnosis in the absence of a diagnosis. IBS is a catch-all term the medical community uses when they’ve ruled out everything else and they can’t find anything wrong. So, it really could be called, “I’m Basically Stumped.”

Or as my mother used to say, “Isn’t Bloating Sucky?”

IBS Facts

IBS affects more than 40 million Americans – over 70% are women.

It accounts for more than 3 million doctor visits in the U.S every year, and it’s the biggest reason why people visit GI specialists. The sad part is that most people don’t seek medical help, so there are even more people out there suffering in silence from IBS.

It is second only to the common cold as the reason why people miss work.

How Is IBS Diagnosed?
IBS is usually diagnosed doing a series of tests to make sure nothing else is wrong. Tests rule out lactose intolerance, diverticular disease, candida, cancer, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, gallstones, food poisoning, etc. These tests include barium enema, colonoscopy, rectal biopsy, sigmoidoscopy, stool examination... among others.

Here are the most common symptoms I’ve heard my clients complain about (I’ve had them all, too!):
Bad gas
Abdominal pain – aches, tightness, shooting pain, cramping
Alternating back and forth between the two
Feeling of incomplete evacuation
Pain that is relieved when you go to the bathroom
Pain that is triggered by eating – people with IBS often fear eating.

The one thing I want to stress tonight is that there are many different kinds of IBS. Your IBS is different than the IBS experienced by anyone else’s. That’s why your treatment and healing methods have to be unique, too.

IBS Is Like a Toddler
You know how a toddler will annoy you, cry, scream, or tug on your leg until he gets the right kind of attention and love? Your IBS is the same way.  It will bug you and bug you until you listen to it and give it attention. 

It’s important to pay attention to what your IBS is trying to tell you! Are you in the wrong job? The wrong career? Are you doing too much? Eating the wrong foods? Eating too quickly? Not having enough fun?  If you continue to do these things, your IBS will have no choice but to continue kicking, screaming, and tugging on your leg (or belly!).

Tools For Healing IBS

Managing IBS is tricky. If you’ve ever bought something you hoped would cure your IBS because you saw a commercial about it, saw it in a magazine or on TV, or heard about it through a friend… chances are, you may have been disappointed.

That's because everyone’s IBS is different. Don’t take someone’s advice just because they or someone they know has IBS. This does not mean this treatment will work for you and your IBS symptoms. Do experiments to see what works for you.

I have compiled a list of more than 120 different things – foods, techniques, lifestyle changes – that my clients and I pick from to heal their bellies. It’s a very personalized approach. But for purposes of the teleclass, I picked out the tools that I think are universally helpful for people with IBS. I'll cover them briefly in the notes.

What To Eat

1. Identify Your Healing Diet – the foods that are really safe and soothing for your belly. Return to this diet often to give your belly a break. For me, it's brown rice and butternut squash. I go back to this diet at least once every few months to get things back on track.

2. Eat Home-Cooked Food as much as possible. Less chemical, processed junk, food bacteria, and dead ingredients.  Your stomach will thank you.

3. Simple meals/small quantities (don’t make your body work so hard!)

4. Drinks lots of water!

5. Eat soluble fiber foods first – this kind of fiber dissolves in water and will be gentle on your system. Soluble fiber foods include:
Pasta (try whole grain)
Rice (try brown)
Potatoes (try red or sweet)
Rice cereals or corn cereals
Polenta or cornmeal
Flour and corn tortillas
Soy – tofu, edamame
Sweet veggies – yams, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips, beets, squash, pumpkins
Mangoes and papayas

** Try having a soluble fiber drink every day (Metamucil, FiberSmart, Acacia Fiber, Citrucel, FiberCon). These mixtures treat diarrhea as well as constipation.

6. Eat smaller amounts of insoluble fiber and cook them well. Eat them after soluble fiber foods so that your belly is already in a good space. Insoluble fiber foods include:
Whole wheat and whole grains
Raw fruits
Raw vegetables (especially sulphuric ones like garlic, broccoli, onions, leeks, cauliflower, cabbage, b. sprouts)
Raw greens
Raw sprouts
Seeds & nuts

What Not To Eat

Avoid the following foods:
- Packaged, processed foods.
- Meat and egg yolks
- Fattening, greasy food - use fruit purees instead of butter and shortening. Use chicken broth instead of oil.
- Chocolate - bake with cocoa powder instead – it’s fat free
- Carbonated drinks
- Artificial sweeteners and MSG
- Spicy food
- Coffee – even decaf (sorry, but it has enzyme that irritates the GI tract)
- Alcohol
- Dairy – use rice, soy, or oat milk instead. You can buy soy, rice, or almond cheese substitutes.
- Wheat
- Sugar

How To Eat

These may sound simple, but they really do work amazingly well!

1. Chew 40-50 times per bite.
2. Avoid eating under stress. Your body can't fight stress and digest at the same time.
3. Always eat sitting down.
4. Don’t drink while eating.
5. Eat foods at room temperature.
6. Avoid overeating.
7. Eat your dinner early in the evening.

Other Natural Healing Methods
1. Use a hot water bottle to sooth and relax your stomach muscles
2. Magnesium – for C
3. Tea – peppermint, ginger or fennel tea – for both C&D
4. Enteric-coated peppermint capsules or peppermint essential oil – for both C&D
5. Rice water for D (Cook 1 C. rice in 4 C. water. Strain. Mix with salt. Drink)
6. Bananas with applesauce and fiber mix – for D
7. Probiotics – for both C&D
8. Sitz baths for D

A Final Note
IBS is a very personal thing – one thing that really helped me was working with my health counselor to talk about my IBS. She helped me give myself permission to do all of the things that I knew I needed to do to feel better.

I want to invite any of you who want support in healing your belly to schedule a consultation with me. We’ll spend one-full hour talking just about you and your IBS. We’ll take a detailed look at your diet, your health history, your wellness routines, and we’ll figure out together what will work best for you.

If I’m not the best person to support you, I may refer you to a naturopath or another doctor. But if you want to start feeling better today, I urge you to treat yourself to a consultation. Please email me for more details.


All content on this site is copyright 2004 by Christi Lehner. All rights reserved. No material on this site can be reproduced without written consent from Christi Lehner.

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