Are convenience foods fuelling your IBS symptoms?


IBS symptoms and convenience foods - bloated, trouble digesting

Are you bloated and have trouble digesting? If the food you are eating at home and at work includes lots of  convenience foods, this could be directly fuelling your IBS symptoms.

For part of my career I was a food marketer. I helped international brands establish themselves on the French market. To do this I had to learn how foods were made, the processes, the ingredients used and understand and communicate the nutritional values of them. This was my dream. To bring all those wonderfully tasty convenience foods to a market that had few. I gradually realised there was a problem somewhere because I had trouble digesting the foods I was promoting. I put this down to my IBS. But I have since realised that this was only part of the equation.

It’s the food industry’s fault – or is it?

The food industry is giving us what we are asking for: low-priced convenience foods. We need to understand that we have been co-creating this situation.  The problem with this is that to keep prices low they are using processes that strip the nutritional value from food. They are making products smaller (you have probably noticed the size of a Mars bar or a packet of crisps seems to get smaller and smaller…) And to stay competitive in that race of cheaper goods, multiplying the special offers we are all hooked on, they are also substituting traditional ingredients with as much bulk and thickening agents as possible. One of these, Carrageeenan, is thought to interfere with IBS.

This is where quality, nourishing food exits – and junk food enters. By junk food I don’t mean just McDonalds. I am referring to a great deal of what we consume in general. And doing this on a regular basis is messing with our digestive tract, creating states of dysbiosis such as Candida and SIBO. And worsening IBS symptoms like bloating and trouble digesting – as well as a widening number of chronic diseases.

IBS symptoms and food additives

Enter the widespread use of additives, colourings and preservatives (because we also want food to last, as do the supermarkets). Some food additives make digestion difficult. Studies have shown that others can actually create inflammation in the digestive tract.  If you already have IBS symptoms to deal with, these will just make them worse.

There is one natural food additive you need to be particularly aware of and avoid if you have IBS or IBSD. I will talk about in detail next week.

Bloated when eating out?

good food and improved digestion

As we have been creating demand for low-priced convenience goods, it is becoming increasingly difficult and time-consuming to find “real” food.

Even when you go to your local restaurant chain, chances are they are serving up industrially-made frozen foods that I saw as a food marketer at trade fairs.

They taste good, but they are often packed too with their dose of additives and made to be cheap and easy for restaurants to use.

And this is possibly the case in the canteen at lunchtime too…

So what can you do?

If you suspect that convenience foods are making your IBS symptoms worse:

  1. Really become aware of the choices you are making for your diet. If you are buying bargain convenience foods, at least be aware of what you are eating. Try to vary the foods you eat so that you are not just consuming low-quality low-nutrition foods. You can’t support body health with these.
  2. Realise too that by buying cheap convenience foods, you are actively supporting the market for bad quality food products. You are creating the demand. And as long as everyone wants this, food producers and marketers will rival for ways of making it cheaper and tastier junk.
  3. Invest money in your food and your health. For example, buy less meat but of a better quality from a local butcher. Or eat more nutrition-packed farm eggs that cost far less than meat. Buy more fresh fruit and veg from producers or markets.  If you buy in season you will be able to find something affordable.
  4. Invest time in sourcing good food and improving your diet. This is the most difficult one, as we often don’t have the time, or energy, for looking for good food and going shopping every few days.You won’t change everything overnight. But any step in the right direction will reap benefits.
  5. Keep a look out for restaurants that actually prepare good quality fresh food. Try them out and see if you feel as bloated afterwards, or if you feel your IBS symptoms improve.
  6. Gradually start looking for good quality, fresh, local food and start cooking from scratch. It really is the only way you can control the quality of what you are consuming. And you will see your digestion  – unless you already have SIBO or Candida.
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