Halloween Can Bring Tricks and Treats for Your Digestive System

by Alyssa Simpson, RD, CDE, CLT

October marks the beginning of the holiday season, when many find it more challenging to eat healthfully and avoid temptation.

It is especially important for those of us with digestive issues to enjoy holiday treats in moderation and to be knowledgeable and vigilant about our dietary needs. With a little planning and attention, you can maintain healthy eating habits and still enjoy the festivities and seasonal treats.

The main challenge with Halloween is the abundance of candy and other sweets that linger around for weeks before and after Trick-Or-Treating. To prevent your family from going overboard on sugar and help keep the calories down, consider these tips:

Find Healthy Versions of Treats
Substitute treats for healthy snacks. Replace the candy bowl with a bowl of fresh fruit and keep a shelf in your refrigerator stocked with healthy, easy-to grab snacks like low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and fresh veggies.

Portion Control
Avoid over-snacking by eating regular meals, drinking plenty of water and exercising. After Trick-Or-Treating, allow your kids to choose a small number of bite-sized candies per day, but limit them to this number and remember to take the leftover candy you didn’t hand out to work, donate it or throw it out.

Limit Temptation
Wait until the 31st to purchase candies and discourage yourself from eating them by only buying treats you don’t like. For example, if you like chocolate make sure to only bring home fruity candies.

Go even further and eliminate sweet treats altogether. Snacks like pretzels, crackers, popcorn, fruit leathers, pumpkin seeds, natural energy bars like Kind, Odwalla, Cliff and Lara, trail mix, baby carrots, or fruits dipped in chocolate or caramel are great substitutes for the traditional candy bar.

Get Moving
Do a scavenger hunt or throw a party instead of Trick-Or-Treating. If you decide to go out, limit the time spent collecting candy. Perhaps plan a route around your neighborhood with more walking and fewer stops.

Be Mindful of Your Dietary Needs & the Needs of Others
For most, and especially for those with symptoms of IBS, it may help to avoid candies made with high fructose corn syrup. Organic dark chocolates and other organic candies made with cane sugar like Endangered Species Chocolate Bars, Glee Gum, Alter Eco Candies, Yum Earth Organic Lollipops, are great alternatives. As are Cadbury varieties, Dove, Hershey’s, Hershey’s Special Dark, Heath and Skor Bars, Symphony Bars, Lindt Lindor Truffles.

Check NaturalCandyStore.com for a variety of candies including chocolates, gummy bears, jelly beans, lollipops and more. They also have an assortment of gluten-free Halloween candies.

A Gluten-Free Halloween
Persons with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity must follow a strict gluten-free diet. For these individuals it is critical that the candy they consume be gluten free. Keep in mind that in some products, the ingredients themselves are gluten-free, but the candies are processed in a facility that also processes wheat. If this is the case, it will be indicated on the label. Ingredients and formulas can change at any time, so please read the label.

Gluten-Free Candies:

  • Baby Ruth
  • Butterfinger Bar (original only)
  • Raisinettes (including Cranberry, Dark Chocolate)
  • Laffy Taffy & Laffy Taffy Rope
  • M&M’s (EXCEPT pretzel & some flavors with cross-contamination risk)
  • 3 Musketeers Bars
  • Dove Chocolate products (EXCEPT for milk chocolate cinnamon graham or cookies & cream)
  • Snickers Bars (all)
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Dots
  • Tropical Dots
  • Junior Mints
  • Tootsie Pops
  • Sugar Babies
  • Almond Joy (all)
  • Mounds (all)
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar (1.55 oz. size only)
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds Bar (1.45 oz. size only)
  • Heath, Skor Bars
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (EXCEPT for seasonal shapes)
  • York Peppermint Pattie

Banana Ghost Pops

  • 1 cup dried shredded coconut
  • 6 raisins
  • 12 chocolate chips (mini)
  • 3 bananas
  • 1.5 cups of orange juice (You can drink it after you dunk the bananas.)
  • 6 Popsicle sticks

Preparation
Peel the bananas and cut them in half width wise. Insert a Popsicle stick into the flat end. Freeze for a few hours, then dip in orange juice, followed by dipping them in a plastic bag filled with dried (not moist) shredded coconut. Zip the bag closed and gently shake until the banana is covered with coconut. Place two chocolate chips for eyes and a plump raisin for the mouth. Eat right away or save for later.

Using Food to Find Relief from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

by Alyssa Simpson, RD, CDE, CLT

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), is a functional disorder; meaning for those suffering from IBS there is a distinct and often severe difference in gut function without any evidence of disease to explain the symptoms.

IBS patients predominantly experience either constipation or diarrhea, although nearly a third of patients cycle between the two. Cramping, bloating, gas and abnormal stool frequency and/or form are also associated with IBS. The chronic and persistent symptoms suffered by the IBS patient can range from moderate to severe.

In many cases these symptoms disrupt important aspects of patient’s lives. These disruptions can affect productivity at work, the ability to attend social functions and even family life and relationships. Many IBS sufferers find it embarrassing to explain their situation to family members, friends and co-workers and can feel very alone in dealing with their condition.

Although the causes of IBS remain unclear, there are three primary triggers for symptoms:

  1. Food sensitivities
  2. Food intolerance
  3. Exaggerated response to stress/anxiety

Due to the complexity of IBS, its treatment requires a more comprehensive approach to maximize symptom relief. This may include diet therapy to identify and eliminate food intolerances and medications to relieve symptoms and reduce stress and anxiety.

Proper nutrition management is the missing component for many patients with IBS. Many elimination diets recommend patients remove the most common food triggers (gluten, dairy, soy, nuts) from their diet in hopes of reducing symptoms.

For most, eliminating one or more of these food items is not enough to substantially reduce symptoms. This is because food sensitivities are very individualized and most people with sensitivities are susceptible to multiple foods. To further complicate matters, it is difficult without proper blood testing to identify which foods one is sensitive to because symptoms can be delayed up to 72 hours after ingestion and can be dose dependent.

Food sensitivities are not detected by a standard food allergy test and some of the older food sensitivity tests have limited clinical value. An accurate, comprehensive blood test is necessary to know exactly which foods to eliminate from the diet for maximum symptom reduction in the shortest possible time. To detect these sensitivities, I recommend the Mediator Release Test (MRT) in conjunction with nutrition therapy, often called the LEAP program.

The FODMAPS approach is an effective way of treating the second dietary mechanism by which IBS symptoms appear, food intolerance. FODMAPS helps to reduce symptoms by eliminating specific sugar and carbohydrate molecules that may be poorly digested in the small intestine. Because of its effectiveness in treating IBS symptoms, many physicians are now recommending the FODMAPS diet to their IBS patients.

It is important for the diet to be implemented correctly to see optimal results. It has been shown that help from a dietitian experienced in this approach can make all the difference in its effectiveness. According to a study by Jacqueline S. Barrett and Peter R Gibson, “All patients complaining of IBS-like symptoms who have had all other gastrointestinal disorders excluded must see a dietitian for appropriate FODMAPS education. Educating the patient via a diet sheet alone, while attractive, has not been validated.”

At Arizona Digestive Health, our nutritional approach starts with an initial nutrition consultation. At this visit I will assess your health history, symptoms, and food and lifestyle preferences to determine the best course of action to take to resolve symptoms and improve the state of your health.

The next step is to begin an “inclusion diet” which not just eliminates all known trigger foods but only includes your non-reactive foods. With this approach most patients with IBS experience a significant reduction or elimination of symptoms within the first 10 days. Over the next 6-8 weeks, more foods are added to achieve the most nutritionally complete diet possible.

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