Ayurveda says you are what you eat. It really matters what food you put on your plate; eating the right food for your body can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and boost digestive health.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome / Irritable Bowel Disorder is another lifestyle disorder which affects most of the young – middle age population, quite evident with frequent advertisements of “Kayam churna” (Ayurvedic supplement to relief constipation) in Life magazine (Sunday Lifestyle supplement of Times of India).

We reached out to Ariella Blank, Nutritionist with Organic India and Co-Founder of Atmosphere Health Studio with their amazing line of Kombucha for our series Chat on the Mat to understand this gut inflammation disorder and how food can be used to heal it.

hmy : What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome and how different it is from Irritable Bowel Disorder? Can it be a lifestyle disorder? 

Ariella Blank : Irritable Bowel Syndrome is more of a functional disorder in which the digestive system, although it may seem normal on the outside, is not functioning at it should. IBS occurs specifically in the large intestine. Symptoms experienced range from gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, to cramping and mucus in stools. 

Irritable Bowel Disorder encompasses a group of inflammatory diseases and is a much more serious and rarer condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks part of the digestive system and can even be life threatening. IBD describes a group of digestive disorders caused by inflammation of the bowels such as ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis and Crohn’s disease, as well as autoimmune reactions occurring in the gut, where the structure of the intestines may even change. IBD can occur in the small intestine, large intestine, or both, but can literally be anywhere in the digestive tract. Symptoms here would include black stools, blood in the stools, chronic diarrhea, fever, lack of appetite, abdominal cramping, and severe nutrient deficiencies caused by the fact that nutrients are chronically not being absorbed.  

(IBS is certainly a lifestyle disorder…more on that below 🙂

hmy :   I always believe that all big problems are actually summation of series of bad activities done in past, do you think that IBS or IBD  is due to bad eating habits like not chewing well, stressed while having meals, etc.?

Ariella Blank :  Absolutely, it can be. Stress plays a major role in down-regulating many of the body’s essential processes, including shutting down the immune system, and a primary way in which this occurs is through increased intestinal permeability. Stress certainly aggravates the symptoms of IBS, and stress/anxiety is present in 40-60% of people with IBS. In fact, IBS is a disorder of the gut-brain connection, so the nerves that connect the intestines with the brain may be overreacting and causing the symptoms experienced. And if it comes to chewing well, then absolutely, if you have a stressed gut and your intestinal lining is impaired as a result, then not chewing well is going to lead to large pieces of undigested food being able to float directly into the bloodstream, causing further inflammation…

hmy : A lot of studies say that there cannot be one reason which can be identified as the cause for IBD or IBS. How would you like to comment on it?

Ariella Blank : I strongly believe that bacterial infection and inflammation are the causes of irritable bowel problems…IBD can certainly be hereditary, but both are caused by environmental triggers, inflammation due to the foods we are eating and not tolerating well, eating a lot of processed, refined foods and sugars which aggravate harmful bacterial growth and further inflame the intestinal lining, leading to inflammation and food sensitivities. 

hmy : Can it be aggravated due to minerals & vitamins deficiency and cured with its control supply?

Ariella Blank : Nutritional deficiencies actually occur because of IBS/IBD, as the lining is impaired/inflamed so nutrients aren’t being properly absorbed, or gut doesn’t have enough of the right bacteria to help it convert the food that reaches it into useful vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin K and B12. 

hmy :   Do you think these type of gut inflammations could be rectified through food? 

Ariella Blank : Yes, absolutely. Eliminating the common allergens, gluten, conventional dairy, sugar and refined flours, and caffeine while supplementing with gut healing nutrients and beneficial probiotics certainly will decrease this inflammation. Some people inherit more severe intolerances, so for some people removing all grains is beneficial.

hmy : Even if eliminating inflammatory food from the diet is not helping to ease gut inflammation, then what could be going wrong?

Ariella Blank : Eliminating inflammatory food gets you a long way towards recovery. You also need to balance the good-bad bacteria ratio in the gut, as well as add in beneficial enzymes and nutrients that will heal the gut lining, soothe, and calm inflammation. 

hmy : How do you think an ecosystem of good gut bacteria can help in healing?

Ariella Blank : Adding in probiotics is hands down the best step you can take to combating IBS/IBD. Beneficial gut bacteria crowd out the bad bacteria (which cause infection and inflammation) and keep them away, while also helping with nutritional deficiencies caused by IBS/IBD.

It’s simple: first you eliminate the damaging irritants that are causing inflammation to your gut, then you re-balance the gut bacteria, while healing the gut lining.

hmy : Will you suggest some food supplements one should introduce to rectify these disorders?

Ariella Blank :

  • Pre- and pro-biotics: sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kvass apple cider vinegar, and any fermented vegetable (ginger-fermented carrots)
  • Digestive enzymes such as papain from papaya, bromelain from pineapple, amylase from mango, amylase, proteases and sucrase from raw honey
  • L-glutamine, an amino acid that repairs the gut lining, 
  • Aloe vera, which soothes the intestines, 
  • Omega-3’s, which calm inflammation. Either a supplement from fish oil or flaxseed oil, or eating the whole chia, flax, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
  • Adaptogenic herbs to reduce stress (we agreed that stress causes and/or aggravates symptoms!): licorice root, ashwagandha, tulsi, brahmi, waterlily

hmy : These days we see lot of people adapting gluten free, lactose free and vegan lifestyles. How do you view eliminating an entire category of food from your meal and surviving without it?

Ariella Blank : Such elimination is perfectly doable and does not pose any threats… for many people, eliminating common allergens such as gluten can allow the gut to heal and allow permeability triggered by irritation to decrease. There is a difference between a true allergy and a food sensitivity. Sensitivity to lactose is very common, up to 70% in some parts of India, and this is genetic, meaning certain people did not inherit the enzyme lactase necessary to properly digest lactose, the sugar found in milk…

thus, repeatedly having something that is very hard for the system to digest would further stress the system, and for these individuals, eliminating this entire category in order to heal would be very beneficial.

hmy :  Any message to readers who are hooked up to this chat because somewhere they are trying to find reason why they are suffering from gut inflammation.

Ariella Blank : Gluten containing foods that are most commonly consumed today (breads, cereals, cookies) provide little to no nutritional benefit and thus cutting this food group out entirely would not only help to balance blood sugar levels and sugar cravings, but aid in weight loss and better energy. You may have heard of the keto diet…the body doesn’t strictly need carbs for energy. It can just as easily (and much more efficiently) run on healthy sources of fat (think Omega 3’s and stored fat in the body) for fuel instead. I do not suggest going the vegan route however. If we look at primal societies and indigenous diets, there have never been strictly vegan ones, and I do not think going vegan when your ancestors weren’t will help you out. There is such benefit to be had from things such as organic ghee, cultured milk (kefir), farmed eggs with the natural omega 3’s in the yolks, and to cut these sources out completely leave us at a great risk for crucial deficiencies.

Of course, looking at the sourcing and quality of your animal products is of utmost importance though, so I salute vegans in their cause, but here in India we have such a long lineage of consuming organic cow ghee, I would never go against our heritage–it wouldn’t be good for you!

Ariella Blank, NTP 
Nutritionist & Co-Founder
Atmosphere Health Studio
You can write her at :


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