Painful, distressing and emotionally challenging, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has a serious impact on a person’s quality of life causing uncomfortable, embarrassing symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, excessive wind and stomach cramps. It can also have a deep psychological impact, leading to anxiety and depression.
Even though it affects one in six people in the UK and between 9 and 23 per cent of the population worldwide, many people feel reluctant to talk about the condition. IBS Awareness Month, which runs throughout April, is a worldwide campaign that aims to help reduce the stigma and focus attention on the importance of diagnosis, treatment and support for those affected.
Identifying your food fingerprint
Symptoms of IBS can be managed with lifestyle and dietary changes. Certain foods are known to stimulate gut reactions, but a diet suitable for one person may not help another as every individual has his or her own triggers. Many people try a food diary or cutting out certain foods, but it can be hard to ascertain what is causing a reaction.
One way is to test for IgG antibodies in the blood – your body produces the antibody as a defence against certain foods that may not agree with you. A food-specific IgG test, such as the YorkTest IBS Diet Programme, is designed for IBS sufferers and can pinpoint what your body is reacting to. It involves a simple finger prick blood test carried out at home that analyses reactions to 158 foods and drinks.
In the largest study of its kind, Allergy UK commissioned a retrospective postal survey of 5236 customers, who had elevated food specific IgG levels and had purchased a YorkTest food-specific IgG-guided diet programme. 3,626 stated that they had followed the diet rigorously and 76% of those reported improvement in their condition. Patients with gastroenterological or psychological illness showed the greatest improvements and the results were noticeably better again in those with several different symptoms. 92% of those who had followed the dietary changes rigorously and responded positively, reported a deterioration in symptoms after reintroduction of the implicated foods showing that this is a specific and targeted approach. A subset of data from the study were further analysed which identified 777 out of 3026 subjects self-reporting to have IBS. 84% of these reported improvement in their condition following the food-specific IgG-guided elimination diet.
Dr Gill Hart, Scientific Director at YorkTest and author of white paper “Food-specific IgG guided elimination diet; a role in Irritable Bowel Syndrome?”, explains: “A food intolerance can have a range of effects on the body, many will cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, flatulence, IBS, diarrhoea and constipation. These symptoms are often treated with drugs to alleviate symptoms when, in fact, dietary changes can be equally or more effective. Of course, it is always important to have serious medical problems ruled out first, but when these prove negative a food intolerance test+ should certainly be the next step.”
IBS case studies available.
*Hardman and Hart, 2007
+ Food intolerance defined as a food-specific IgG reaction
YorkTest – Helping identify your personal food fingerprint
YorkTest Laboratories have over 35 years of excellence in laboratory diagnostic testing, and are Europe’s leading provider of food and drink specific IgG antibody testing programmes.
The expert team at YorkTest are passionate about offering health screening services that can support wellbeing, underpinned by the principle that each person’s digestive sensitivities are unique to them. Endorsed by medical professionals and elite sports players, YorkTest tests measure food-specific IgG antibodies to help pinpoint food triggers that may be affecting an individual’s health and lifestyle.
Beginning with the FirstStep Test and using a simple finger-prick blood sample taken at home, YorkTest’s qualified scientists measure food-specific IgG antibody reactions from its accredited UK laboratory. If IgG reactions are found, then clients can choose from a range of full programme tests which include colour coded results, alongside a 12 week food diary and guidebook, including help and advice about nutrition and optimising your diet.
For those selecting one of the full testing programmes, expert aftercare is provided by BANT -registered Nutritional Therapists who provide guidance on an individual’s ‘food fingerprint’ – advising on nutritional optimisation and how to safely remove ingredients, whilst ensuring a healthy balanced diet.
Three out of four people who undertook one of the full testing programmes, and tested positive for IgG reactions, reported an improvement in wellbeing after embarking upon their elimination diet, and for 68% this was within three weeks*.
Keep updated on YorkTest via the website: www.yorktest.com, which includes blog posts about food intolerance issues, key trigger foods and diet management advice. Follow YorkTest via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@yorktest_uk).
 British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy
*Hardman and Hart, Nutrition and Food Science (2007)
FirstStep Test – initial positive/negative result for food intolerance
Full Programme Tests (4 options available) – test for reactions to 158 food and drink ingredients, including full colour-coded results, 12-week food diary and guidebook, and expert nutritional support from BANT Registered Nutritional Therapist.
“My breathing has improved and exercising is so much easier”
- For years, Sonja Brown suffered abdominal pain and bloating after eating
- Blood test revealed she was intolerant to cow’s milk and yeast
- Since eliminating her trigger foods, her debilitating symptoms have improved and her stuffy nose has cleared up, enabling her to enjoy a more active life
The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and bloating had ruled Sonja Brown’s life for years. “As long as I can remember I’ve had digestive issues and fatigue,” recalls the retired IT manager. “I always felt so tired and unwell and I was often in pain and discomfort for days.”
Sonja, 64, who lives in Cheshire with her husband of 42 years, Cliff, found that simple pleasures such as going out for a meal became a minefield as the abdominal pain, bloating and trapped wind she experienced afterwards ruined the experience. “I knew I would usually suffer afterwards, especially if I had a large meal, as it would keep me awake all night.”
This also impacted on what she wore – she had to have different clothes for days when she felt sore and bloated. “Then I found it very uncomfortable wearing my normal size trousers, so had a bigger pair with a stretchy waist.”
For years she visited doctors, but recalls them being rather unhelpful. Despite having a few tests, results came back normal and she was told the symptoms were stress-related. “They did offer various medications, such as peppermint oil capsules and antispasmodics to ease the stomach pain, plus I tried over-the-counter remedies, herbal teas, vitamins, minerals and charcoal tablets.” Unfortunately, her symptoms were not improving and Sonja was forced to battle on. Carrying out research online one day, she found references to YorkTest food intolerance testing, so decided she had nothing to lose by trying one. The process, which involves sending a finger prick blood sample to the company’s laboratory to test reactions to up to 158 foods, revealed that Sonja had reactions to cow’s milk and yeast.
Although she suspected she had an intolerance to gluten, Sonja was surprised at her results. Daunted by the prospect of overhauling her diet, Sonja booked a telephone consultation with one of YorkTest’s Nutritional Therapists, who provided her with support and information. “She gave advice on nutritious alternatives and pointed me in the direction of useful websites where I could buy free-from foods.”
Within a week, Sonja noticed a difference. “The first thing was my stuffy nose clearing up – I had never really associated that with my symptoms – and after five weeks, my IBS became more settled. Now my breathing has improved I find it easier to exercise.” And even though Sonja wasn’t overweight, she ended up losing 5Ibs in the process.
However, the commitment required to give up specific foods is not easy and Sonja realises how much willpower she needs to have when eating at restaurants. “The last time we dined out just before Christmas, I ended up with just plain fish and vegetables, with sorbet for dessert.” She also admits it was initially a battle to avoid foods containing yeast as there were so many to watch out for and it was in a lot of her favourite things. Supermarket shopping was laborious as it took a long time to read all the labels. “However, now I have got used to it and it’s no problem. My family and friends have been very supportive and understanding and my husband now even prefers some of my alternatives!”
Occasionally, Sonja has slipped up and eaten something with yeast in it, but the pain she feels afterwards has made her realise it is not worth the risk. “I accidentally had some soup which I later discovered had yeast extract in it and had pain, bloating and trapped wind for three days.”
No longer ruled by her symptoms, Sonja is enjoying her retirement. “It’s great to be able to travel, exercise and take control of my IBS.”
YorkTest advise that you consult with your GP first if you are experiencing the types of symptoms mentioned in this testimonial.