Each of us responds to diets, exercises, supplements, and medications differently, and I believe if the healthcare system took this simple fact seriously, many more people would be getting the treatment they need to overcome illness and disease. And a new study by Yale researchers published in BMJ Open Gastroenterology might just confirm this theory.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States and an estimated 10-15% of the worldwide population. Symptoms include abdominal pain and cramping, bloating and swelling of the stomach, flatulence, constipation and/or diarrhea, lethargy, and bladder problems. In a survey by IFFGD, 2,000 patients with IBS reported that diagnosis of their IBS was typically made 6.6 years after the symptoms began.
This study is among the first to provide scientific evidence that patients with irritable bowel syndrome who follow individualized diets based on food sensitivity testing experience fewer symptoms.
Yale researchers conducted a double-blind randomized clinical trial of 58 patients with IBS, collecting blood samples from each individual and measuring immune cell activation in response to individual foods. This was inspired by the fact that many people with IBS often try diets based on blood tests that claim to identify foods that trigger their symptoms but the majority of these food intolerance tests have not been validated by rigorous study.
The participants were then prescribed individual diets that either “restricted foods consistent with test results or restricted foods inconsistent with test results” and after several weeks on the individualized diets, participants were assessed for IBS symptoms and quality of life.
“We didn’t expect results like this,” said Ather Ali, first author and an assistant professor of both pediatrics and medicine at Yale School of Medicine. Researchers found that while both sets of participants experienced improvement, individuals on diets consistent with test results fared much better overall and in terms of symptom severity. “The people who consumed the diet consistent with the test did significantly better than people on the sham diet.”
Overall, participates claimed that there was no notable difference in terms of quality of life, but at four and eight weeks after starting the diets, the group with a restricted diet saw reduced symptoms of abdominal pain and distention (swelling), among others. “If these intriguing results can be replicated in larger and more diverse samples they can provide insight into another way to treat a condition that can often be very frustrating. It can be debilitating and patients are often looking for dietary approaches to it,” said Ali.
Food can certainly help to heal us from the inside out, but it’s important to listen to your body and recognize how it responds to different foods. Keeping a food journal is one easy way to keep track of these responses, as it will not only show you what you’re actually eating each day, and how much — sometimes we think we’re eating more healthfully than we are — but also promote greater self awareness and body intuition, which may help you discover even minor sensitivities you didn’t know you had.
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