Tag Archives: IBS

Q&A: Auto-immune Diets

Q:  I have an auto immune disease, and the pH balance diet and fermented food diet were both suggested as helpful for me.  Do you recommend them?

A: The pH balance diet has been recommended for many conditions, from weight loss to cancer. The idea is that by consuming too many acidic foods, you create an acidic environment in your body, causing a variety of health problems, and that consuming alkaline foods restores the balance.

Under normal conditions, however, our body maintains appropriate pH balances regardless of diet. In my research, I didn’t find anything conclusive about a pH balance diet helping with any particular condition. However, the foods it recommends are not bad for you – lots of fruits, vegetables, water, olive oil, canola oil. So it couldn’t hurt.

As for the fermented food diet, as the name suggests, it promotes eating foods that have fermented. Common fermented foods are pickles, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt. Through the fermentation process, these foods become good sources of probiotics. As the digestive system is one of the largest parts of the immune system, consuming these probiotics is thought to boost the whole immune system and help with auto immune diseases.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the verdict is still out on the exact benefits of probiotics. The idea makes sense, but we don’t have enough conclusive data yet. If you find these foods help with your symptoms, I think it would be fine as long as it is ok with your doctor.

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Since I mentioned that my jicama slaw is high in a prebiotic, I thought I should talk a bit about prebiotics, and how they are different from (and similar to) probiotics.

A prebiotic is a nutrient that helps feed the “good” bacteria in our digestive systems. Prebiotics are “nondigestible” carbohydrates, which means they pass through our digestive system intact without breaking down or providing us any specific nutrition. Fiber is a general term for nondigestible carbohydrate, and while not all fibers are also prebiotics, some specific types are.

Studies have shown that consuming prebiotics can change the composition of the bacteria in your digestive system, increasing the number of good bacteria compared to bad bacteria. This has shown promising effects similar to those of consuming probiotics for people with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, although research is not conclusive yet.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), galactooligosaccharides (GOS), and inulin are the most widely known prebiotics. These can be found in acacia gum (gum arabic), beans, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, jicama, raw oats, and unrefined wheat or barley.

If you are trying to increase your prebiotic intake, but don’t want to consume large amounts of the above foods (which is understandable), look for high fiber commercial products with inulin or chicory root extract in the list of ingredients. Some examples include Fiber One, Kashi GOLEAN, some Special K Protein Bars, LUNA Fiber, and Fiber Plus products.

If you decide to start introducing these products into your diet, make sure to do so gradually and to drink plenty of water. Changing your fiber intake too much and too quickly can actually make your stomach problems worse, not better.

Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Q&A: Probiotics

Q: What is your opinion on probiotics? I’ve been having digestion problems for the last few years, and I was wondering if probiotics could help me.

A: Probiotics are live bacteria that are the same or very similar to “good” bacteria naturally found in our bodies. Probiotics can be found in pills, yogurts, and drinks. While there are some live bacteria in all yogurt (that is how yogurt is made), yogurt is usually only considered a “probiotic” for medicinal effects if bacteria has been added to it.

Probiotics are thought to help the body by “resetting” the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. Based on currently available research, however, the benefits of probiotics are unclear. People have studied many different strands of bacteria, so it is hard to get a good picture of which ones are beneficial for which problems. There is some evidence that suggests probiotics are helpful in cases of acute diarrhea or diarrhea after taking an antibiotic. For other issues, like irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, further research is still needed.

Probiotics don’t seem to have many side effects, although long-term safety has not been adequately studied. Still, pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people with underlying health issues should definitely talk with a health care provider before using any probiotics.

My opinion: I think probiotics are worth a try for digestive problems, as long as your doctor is ok with it. Anecdotally, I have seen them work for people, including myself. Whether you try a pill, yogurt, or drink is a matter of personal preference. It does need to be taken regularly, so choose whichever you can deal with daily. Also, don’t expect to see changes overnight. Activia, for example, reports benefits after 2 weeks of regular consumption. If you are looking at a pill form, I have seen much better prices for these products at big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.

Thanks for the question!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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