This week I received some very good questions from readers suffering from IBS and flaky or itchy scalp. Both can be helped by looking after the gut. Keep your questions coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Laura, I really hope you can help me. I have been suffering from digestive problems for several years but lately things have got really bad. My doctor tells me that I have IBS and has put me on colperman and buscapan. While sometimes these can help I am still experiencing a lot of discomfort. My stomach is bloating and I look like I am nine months pregnant. I can be constipated and then have bouts of diarrhoea. I am a little stressed but feel that this is because I am having less sleep than usual which is due to the IBS. Any help would be much appreciated. Breege from Longford.
Dear Breege, thank you for your letter. I get so many people suffering from similar symptoms as your self in my clinic. IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is very common and can be distressing. It is however easy to fix if you follow the right plan.
It needs to be tackled in a few ways. Firstly, it is very often caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut. This bad bacteria can flourish after antibiotics or poor diet, such as sugary foods and alcohol.
Our guts house multiple strains of bacteria, some which are beneficial and some which aren’t. It is important to nourish the friendly bacteria, which I like to call the housekeepers of the gut.
These housekeepers help us to digest our food and keep things moving through the GI tract.
When you have too much of the bad bacteria, instead of helping to break down the food it reacts with it, causing excessive fermentation, leading to gas and bloating.
These bad bacteria can also cause food cravings, particularly for sugary foods, on which they depend for their survival.
As you can imagine, our small intestine can get pretty mucky, particularly if you are not eating enough fibre in your diet.
Your small intestine is only an inch in diameter but can be as long as 23 feet, depending on how tall you are. If we dissected it, you would see that it looks very much like a shag pile carpet on the inside.
These little piles are called villi; they are crucial for good absorption of nutrients and play a major role in immunity.
Not having the right amount of fibre can cause congestion and make you feel bloated and sluggish. So having plenty of fibre is important.
You need to introduce the good bacteria to your gut; there are lots of good probiotics out there my favourite is Merlak, which I supply in my clinic. Other good ones are Bio Kult or Bio Care.
However, to get these good bacteria to multiply, you have to make sure that the PH level of the gut is not too acidic or too alkaline. I use a tablespoon of Apple cider vinegar in some tepid water each morning before breakfast. Not suitable for people who have an inflamed stomach or oesophagitis.
Once we have introduced the good bacteria you have to maintain it. So eating a diet that has lots of diversity, plenty of vegetables and wholegrains, is essential.
Cut down on all sugary foods, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
Remember that when we make changes to our diets it can take a while for the gut to get used to them and we can experience some gas and wind in the beginning. This will improve as time goes on.
I would also suggest that you take some magnesium citrate; it is available in capsule or powder form. This is great for helping you to relax and has very mild laxative affect on the body.
Lastly, try to relax as much as you can and remember that your gut is your second brain and they are constantly talking to each other. So when you are stressed, this affects your digestion.
Try to eat your meals in a relaxed way - no dashboard dinning! Chew your food properly and don’t over eat.
I hope this will help you and you feel better soon.
Dear Laura, my husband suffers very badly from a flaky, itchy scalp. He has tried various medicated shampoos and lotions but nothing appears to be working. I have noticed that he is losing some of his hair from his constant scratching and he is worried that it wont grow back again. He is on a long waiting list to see a dermatologist; is there anything he could do in the meantime? Granard reader
Dear Reader, thanks for your query. Scalp conditions are something that I see regularly.
Again, when we are dealing with the skin, we must always look to the gut which is the engine and filter of the body.
I would suggest that your husband takes a good probiotic and cleans up his diet, ie: avoid sugary snacks and drinks. Increase his intake of vegetables & wholegrains as I have suggested above.
Be careful with shampoos and shower gels as they can be very harsh on the skin, particularly the so called medicated ones.
Use a natural shampoo that contains no Sodium Lauryl Sulphate; your local health food shop will have some good ones.
When he is washing his hair, I would recommend using a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a litre jug of water for the final rinse. This is amazing for helping the itch and will help with the flaking.
Finally, cut out yeast and sugar, which are often the cause of Dandruff. Also, include some Essential Fatty Acids in your diet such as flax oil or Udo’s Choice. I would also recommend a good Vitamin D supplement.
Finally. don’t worry - the hair will grow back.