If you’ve been diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), you’re not alone. Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, form part of a group of digestive diseases under the umbrella term IBD, and are common and chronic conditions of the small and/or large intestine. Whilst some people can be genetically predisposed to IBD, it can also be linked to a traumatic experience, inflammation and poor immunity.
The goal of inflammatory bowel disease treatment is to help to lower the inflammation that can trigger your signs and symptoms. By lowering inflammation this can lead to relief from symptoms and also help you to get into long-term remission and reduce flare ups.
Let’s talk about some of the main things you can do to keep on top of your IBD and reduce flare-ups. First of all, it’s vital to look after your gut health and stay hydrated, as your gut is central to your overall health and energy levels.
When it comes to eating, one of the easiest places to start to show your gut some love is by reducing foods that can contribute to inflammation. These foods can be anything from processed foods and additives to heavily refined foods like bread and pasta. Also when having a flare up, be mindful of raw seeds, excessive fibre, nuts, vegetable and fruit skins, artificial ingredients and coffee and alcohol.
One way to look at it, is to feed yourself with nutrient-dense meals with an adequate amount of protein in each meal. It’s commonly known that people with IBD have particularly bad reactions to common food allergens, so note what you’re reacting to and consider taking on an allergenic diet, guided by a natural health practitioner, to figure out the exact culprits. For some people it may be additives, gluten, dairy, wheat, sugar or yeast.
When it comes to inflammation, try to ensure you’re including Omega-3 Fatty Acids in your daily diet. This can include small pieces of oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, if you like walnuts, try blending them in smoothies- easier for the gut to digest. For some easy mouth-watering recipes, why not try my Chia and Flaxseed Loaf, a handy staple that you can have in the freezer when you are craving sardines on toast!
Magnesium is another star ingredient to include in your diet as it can help support the nervous system and reduce the pain associated with inflammation. Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate and whole grains.
Yes, I know that once you’ve seen the word ‘chocolate’ you’re probably already half way out the door, ready to unwrap your favourite treat. Just be sure to choose a chocolate that’s low in refined sugar as this can irritate your gut and cause inflammation! Natural cacao is also a good prebiotic for the gut which means it can help feed your beneficial bacteria. Look for dark chocolate 80% cacao or more.
Equally important is to include prebiotic-rich food to help reduce flare-ups of IBD. Prebiotics promote the growth of friendly gut bacteria which improves metabolic health, alleviates digestive issues and boosts the immune system. Do yourself (and your gut) a favour and try eating lots of these delicious prebiotics foods! Try out chicory root, one of the best alternatives to coffee out there, plus enjoy it because it’s a fabulous source of prebiotics.
Jerusalem artichokes are another amazing prebiotic that are loaded with B-vitamins, so you can ‘B’ positive that they’re making a difference to your gut health. Note that some people can react to artichokes so see how you go with them- they don’t call them Fartichokes for nothing ;).
The humble pea is a fibre rich food to help improve your gastrointestinal function and can boost deficiency-related issues, such as folate-deficiency. Peas pair beautifully with tuna, so if you’re looking for a good lunch or dinner option then why not try my Ginger-Seared Tuna with Avocado, Pea and Mint Smash, just scroll to the recipe below.
Leeks are a prebiotic with natural inulin fibre to promote healthy gut bacteria and break down fat. Leeks are also high in Vitamin K and flavonoids, which are great for blood, bones and heart health. They contain flavonoids which keep our blood vessels relaxed and protected. I love leeks in a home-made vegetable stock like this one here.
Honey, can you pass the gut health? Honey is known to fight bacteria and heal skin ulcers. It can also stop that dang H. pylori from causing infection. I recommend using a tablespoon of raw Manuka honey in the morning on top of your breakfast or include it in your meals like I’ve done in my Brussels Sprouts here. A match made in heaven in the mornings is a drink with warm water, a squeeze of lemon, honey and my Love Your Gut powder which helps to both cleanse and soothe the digestive tract.
Cabbage is a star ingredient when it comes to healing IBD. Cabbage contains an amino acid known as glutamine which is amazing for repairing tissues, reducing inflammation and boosting immunity. The glutamine within cabbage helps inhibit ulcer growth and improve blood flow to the stomach. If you’re super adventurous, you can try out raw cabbage juice, but I recommend saving yourself the trouble and trying out sauerkraut instead.
Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking loads of fluids and herbal teas. One of my favourite ways to include fluid is to slurp up a broth. My Gut-Healing Turmeric Chicken Broth is great for soothing the gut and reducing inflammation. It’s also delicious and contains turmeric so you know it’s good for you.
We all know that Vitamin C is what we turn to when we feel the sniffles coming on, but it’s also helpful for people with IBD. The mighty vitamin C aids tissue repair within the small and large intestine and regulates inflammation. Try upping your Vitamin C with cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale. These guys also contain a compound that helps destroy H. pylori. Try out my Chicken and Vegetable Anti-Inflammatory Soup and Roasted Cauliflower, Fennel and Ginger Soup. A noteworthy point is that these veggies are high in fibre which is also paramount to fighting against internal ulcers, but just make sure to not have too much as this can irritate the gut. So go easy at first and see how you go.
Of course, I have to include probiotics in this post because they’re one of our main ports of call in preventing gut problems! They can help prevent gut dysbiosis which is when the pH of our gut goes out of whack and we’re not able to digest and absorb nutrients properly. Probiotics such as full-fat organic Greek yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi can help heal ulcers faster. Try my Fermented Vegetable Recipe here.
Aloe Vera contains inflammatory properties that help relax the intestinal tract and heal any damage. It contains enzymes that help break down food, promoting regular bowel movements, and acts as a prebiotic to help feed the good bacteria in your gut. You can buy aloe vera in liquid form, and add it to desserts and smoothies, like my Hello Vera Smoothie.
Another key tool to reducing your flare-ups is reducing your stress. Stress can be a major driver when it comes to IBD so try reducing possible stressors in your life as much as possible – your gut and nervous system will thank you. Find out how I reduce my stress here.
But now I’d love to share with you my latest delicious recipe from my new cookbook Supercharge Your Gut.
Introducing a delicious Ginger-Seared Tuna with Avocado, Pea and Mint Smash!
Tuna is the perfect fish for loading up on selenium, with just one serve providing more than double the average adult daily requirement. Selenium is one of the minerals that is often low in people with gastrointestinal illnesses such as ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s or coeliac disease. Selenium helps modify the inflammatory response in the gut, while also providing antioxidant protection to the gut lining.
Here all the goodness of tuna is paired with a gorgeously green and super addictive — not to mention super easy! — avocado, pea and mint mash.
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2.5 cm (1 inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tuna steaks
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
45 g (11 oz/3 cup) cooked shelled edamame beans
1 large handful of mint or coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted, to serve (optional)
Avocado, Pea and Mint Smash
75 g ( 2 1/2 oz/ 1/2 cup) fresh peas, or thawed frozen peas
1 handful of mint leaves
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the ginger and garlic for a few minutes until golden, then remove to a small bowl.
Brush the tuna steaks with the olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add them to the pan and fry for 2–3 minutes on each side, until cooked to your liking.
Meanwhile, to make the avocado, pea and mint smash, cook the peas until just tender, then place in a bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and roughly mash or crush with a fork. Season to taste.
Serve the tuna steaks on a bed of the avocado and pea smash, drizzled with a little olive oil, garnished with the sautéed ginger and garlic, and topped with the edamame beans, herbs and sesame seeds.