Case Study: Gut Health

Gut health is a complex topic with ever-evolving research linking our gut health to many other health issues and outcomes. Many people that we see for an initial 1:1 appointment live with some kind of gut symptoms. These might range from slight bloating in the evenings to full pain and diarrhoea throughout the day. However, just because we live in a world where many adults live with these issues- does not mean that we have to live with them or that they are normal!

Often food is the first thing to blame when it comes to the gut- and in some circumstances this is appropriate. But before we change anything to do with the diet, there are many other important factors to think about first; sleep, stress, supplements, exercise, and many more.

I want to tell you about a case to which you may relate. For the purpose of our case study- let's call her Rachel. Rachel is a 35-year-old lady who has battled for years with all of the classic symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). She suffers from bloating, gas, pain and constipation and knows that whenever she wears jeans to work she will completely regret it by 2 pm at which point they are tight beyond comfort. Rachel had sought advice on her gut issues before and had started on some gut supplements which claimed to reduce gas and also eliminated gluten and dairy from her diet. After no improvement she had trialled a low fodmap diet on and off for the past few months and was at a point where she was confused, feeling deprived, and still living with her gut symptoms every day.

The first thing to think about when it comes to IBS is to consider if it is actually IBS. This is something that can be discussed with your GP to ensure that you aren’t misdiagnosed with other health conditions going unnoticed. We also need to explore the basics of gut health before we go altering our diet at all.

Here were some first-line measures that we explored with Rachel:

  • Stress management

  • It may come to many of you as no surprise but managing stress is vital! When we stress or worry this influences our digestion and can cause IBS-like symptoms to occur. Diaphragmatic breathing and changing to a low-intensity exercise were explored with Rachel in order to reduce her stress levels. Interestingly, Rachel noticed that her gut symptoms were always worse on weekdays versus weekends. This isn’t uncommon- as during the week we may be more likely to be exposed to stressful work or home situations which can cause our gut problems to flare up.

  • Water intake

  • One of the most important factors when it comes to managing constipation and gut motility is water intake. Even if we are consuming enough fibre- without enough water, we can’t really expect to see any change in our bowel motions.

  • Fibre intake

  • By cutting gluten from the diet Rachel had eliminated a huge amount of grain foods which had reduced her fibre intake quite significantly. Despite consuming fibre through fruits and vegetables, her overall intake of our great insoluble fibre was slightly low which may have been contributing to her constipation and pain.

In follow-up sessions, we looked at some basic swaps to reduce sugar intake, get her the recommended 7+ hours of sleep/ night, and reintroduce dairy to ensure adequate calcium intake.

After a few sessions with Rachel and some great work put in by her to alter her diet accordingly, we saw a huge improvement in gut symptoms back to a regular, comfortable capacity. She didn’t require the gut health supplements she had purchased prior to seeing us and could resume a normal diet inclusive of dairy and gluten. Her main focus was on consistent low-intensity exercise for stress reduction and gut motility, sleep, water intake, and fibre. She knew that too much alcohol or sugary foods would cause issues with her gut- but aside from this, there was nothing else that she needed to exclude in the long term.

In this situation, we were able to manage her gut issues with a few basic steps. Of course, every person is different and in some scenarios, we may need to explore the elimination and reintroduction of foods in greater detail. However, it pays to remember when struggling with gut issues that it isn’t always diet, and if you really suspect that it is- then make sure to check the basics before trying anything extreme. A low fodmap diet is not intended to be followed long-term- and should be done with the support of a registered dietitian.

If you are struggling with knowing what to eat or where to go next with your nutrition, then please get in touch. We work with people 1:1 in an ongoing, supportive format to provide you with all of the tools and advice that you need to feel your best. We are currently taking new clients so please book your free call and let's talk more about how we can help you.

NB: All case studies are written with full permission from our clients and to protect privacy, different first names are used. These articles are not intended to replace 1:1 personalised consultations but may provide you with some insight and guidance on areas that you can explore to improve your own health.