Ask a Nutritionist: Tummy Troubles Affecting Everyday Life

The Gut Stuff reader:

Hi. I have had tummy troubles my whole life. The way I feel impacts my everyday quality of life and mood. Symptoms are feeling nauseas after morning bowel movement, chronic burping, feeling overly full, out of breath, then in the evenings feeling bloated and wind again. Stools are loose. I have recently found that probiotics improved many of these symptoms.  But they killed my head – dizziness, fogginess, feeling lightheaded, sensitive to sound and light, everything too much for me and too fast, and a headache. I tried different ones but everytime I’d stop the head would clear, and whenever restarted bad head again.

My last resort has been to try digestive enzymes. I took my first one last night and now have a bad head today just like I did with the probiotics. It seems anything that fixes my body leads to bad head and I can’t even appreciate the body fix as this new symptom is so debilitating. The doctor said I have dyspepsia (indigestion/upset stomach) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Miguel answers:

Dear Gut Stuff Reader, Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. The symptoms you’ve been experiencing can be debilitating, and even though food supplements can help some people, this is a clear example that they aren’t always the answer for everyone. It does seem that the microbes (bacteria and other bugs) in your gut may be suffering from some kind of imbalance that is perpetuating the way you feel. I would stay clear of all supplements as they could potentially be making things worse. Instead try food-based probiotics like kefir (whether dairy or made with an alternative nut milk) or kombucha.

Try to focus on increasing diversity in your diet. Often taking down a diet journal can help identify what foods may be contributing to how you feel, but most commonly I find that most people don’t include enough diversity of foods as part of their daily diet, or that they get stuck with the same 10 to 15 fresh food ingredients everyday. Could this be the case for you too? I recommend making a list of every food you eat, whether it’s meat, fish, eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables, oils or spices, for 7 days. Try not to repeat the same foods twice during this period, and if you do, take them down only once. This will help you identify the total number of foods you have in a week. If any particular food keeps popping up, ask yourself how you feel after eating it. Could it be contributing to your symptoms? Give yourself a week to analyse your diet and see how you get on with increasing diversity. In my experience, as you increase the diversity of foods in your diet, the diversity of your gut microbes increases with it. This has a beneficial effect not only for the gut itself, but also for your mood. When problems have been there for a while, for us much as you’d like them gone immediately, they don’t tend to resolve straight away. Persevere with this food-based approach for a few weeks and see how you feel after that.

Hopefully you’ll be writing to say you’re feeling much better. I’d also recommend telling your doctor you’re engaging with these changes so that they’re informed. I wish you all the very best with it.

No advice in this column is designed to override any by your medical doctor and should not be relied on as a substitute for specialist dietary advice. If you have any concerns about your health, visit your general practitioner, or medical consultant. 

Do you want to ask a nutritionist a question about your gut issues? You can do that HERE!