Extremely recent developments in the field of nutrition have given us a much deeper understanding of the mechanisms of digestion that go wrong in IBS, food intolerances and other allergic conditions.

The main problems we need to tackle to treat these conditions effectively are histamines in our foods irritating the body, a lack of enzyme production from the digestive organs so food is not digested properly, and an excess of certain foods being eaten – mainly complex carbohydrates and sugars.

By combining 2 diets – the low FODMAP diet and the low histamine diet, whilst using herbs to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, reduce inflammation and support the healing process for ‘leaky gut syndrome’ we are getting better results with natural healing methods than ever before.

A brief overview of the low FODMAP diet

This is a diet that is based on very new research but has had many accounts of improvement to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Colitis and Crohn’s Disease sufferers symptoms. The diet can help address the following symptoms that sufferers suffer from:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Wind and flatulence
  • Changes in bowel habit e.g. diarrhoea to constipation or vice versa

Research shows that some carbohydrates can cause irritation to the bowels and contribute to these symptoms. The carbohydrates are called Fermentable Oligo-saccharides Di-saccharides Mono-saccharides and Polyols – otherwise known as FODMAP.

Please refer to IBSdiets.org for more detail about this diet.

A brief overview of the low histamine diet

Histamine is a chemical which occurs naturally in certain foods. This is also one of the chemicals that is released in the body as part of an allergic reaction, causing the typical itching, sneezing, wheezing and swelling allergy symptoms.

We all have an enzyme (diamine oxidase) which breaks down any histamine that we absorb from a histamine-containing food. When we eat a food which contains histamine it does not affect us. However, some people have a low level of this enzyme. When they eat too many histamine-rich foods they may suffer ‘allergy-like’ symptoms such as headaches, rashes, itching, diarrhoea, and vomiting or abdominal pain. This is called histamine intolerance.

Please refer to allergyuk.org for more details about this diet.

4 Herbs to support digestion and healing

If you are trying to treat yourself at home these 4 herbs could really help.  Avoid tinctures as the alcohol can irritate the liver and digestive system tissues, try teas and decoctions if possible and capsules can work well too if you are too busy to drink tea all day!

1. Marigold – Calendula officinalis

Known for its anti-inflammatory and healing action on the tissues of the body.  It is also a mild liver stimulant.  You can use as a tea, drink 3- 6 cups a day.

2. German Chamomile – Matricaria recutita

This is a strong healer, the tea bags in packs do not do it justice!  Buy a really good quality organic loose tea and you will notice how much stronger it is.  Very calming to the nervous system, and its ant-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic action on the gut is almost instantaneous.  If you eat the wrong thing and feel cramps starting – drink 3 cups of this tea quickly and you will feel so much better. 3-6 cups a day is a good medicinal dose.

3. Dandelion root – Taraxacum officinalis radix

A powerful liver herb, stimulates the release of digestive enzymes and supports the pancreas.  I find it especially useful if you get sugar cravings which are very bad for an IBS sufferer as the sugar feeds the bad bacteria and candida that live in the gut.  This herb needs to be made into a decoction.  Boil 1 desert spoon in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes and drink over the course of the day.  I drink 1/3rd at breakfast, lunch and dinner to support digestive function.

4. Milk thistle – Silybum marianum

Another powerful liver herb and restorative.  It is known to protect liver cells from toxins and help the liver regrow healthy cells where there has been damage.  A great herb to take before a night out when you know you are going to break the rules of your perfect diet.  As it is a hard seed it needs to be decocted too.  Use the same method as for the Dandelion root.  I add it to the brew so they are mixed together from the start in equal parts and drink it over the day.

Where to buy these herbs…I have always got these 4 herbs in stock – so please just get in touch if you want a good organic supplier. These herbs are fairly easy to find so you can try your local health food store, but please buy organic – you need to give the liver as much support as possible and avoid possible sources of toxins.

It is a complex system and I have spent years learning this stuff!  So if are still confused and think you need a bit more support to get started get in touch.

I also aim to write a book of low FODMAP and low histamine recipes for the new year – mainly because my clients need one!  Some of these recipes will become blogs too, so if you have any requests for ideas just let me know and I will get my thinking cap. I hope this helps you find natural approaches to IBS and allergy.

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