One question we have gotten quite a few times (for very good reason) is whether or not the Pure 21 Wellness Challenge is a good fit for someone who may be diagnosed with or suffers from a form of IBS or abdominal pain. The answer is… yes!* Let’s look at what irritable bowel syndrome is and how this program can help.

What is IBS?

IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation. The toughest part of this equation is that there is no specific known cause for IBS. While several factors may contribute, the cause and treatment are still somewhat of a mystery. Certain foods may trigger symptoms and high stress may also exacerbate them. Whereas positive diet changes, stress management, and a healthy, active lifestyle may actually help manage IBS. That’s where we come in.

Symptoms are more than just ‘one off.’ People with IBS do have a delicate or sensitive intestinal tract and things other than food can alter how you’re feeling. Stress and mood weigh heavily in this equation. Our colon contains nerves that connect to the brain and for people with IBS, stress can cause little hiccups or spasms in our intestine, worsening  discomfort and pain.

The same can be said for our mood! Does the phrase “you are what you think all day long” sound familiar? Ralph Waldo Emerson was actually right. In terms of digestion and tolerance of certain foods, when we are happy, relaxed, and in a good place our bowels can respond accordingly. When we are stressed, upset, and anxious, we may tense up and lock down, which can be troublesome for the motility in our insides. For more on this, check out 5 Reasons to Take Digestive Enzymes.

How does Pure 21 help?

Eating whole, unprocessed, unrefined, good-for-you foods contribute to bowel regularity and promote growth of the helpful bacteria in our gut. By taking out some ‘gut stressors,’ we leave digestive bacteria to do its job! This may not be an immediate switch, but give it a few days and you may certainly feel and see the difference! All of the foods approved for the program are fair game.

The benefits of supplements

The other part of the challenge that could help IBS symptoms are the supplements. If you’re worried about adding in supplements to your diet, don’t worry. Some of our challengers tell us they ramp up dosages of the enzymes or the pure start if they are inherently prone to looser stools.

When we talk about the bacteria in our stomach, we are referring to probiotics. These are different from prebiotics, which you also may see on more and more products. Prebiotics act as fertilizers that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut while probiotics are those live microorganisms that keep you healthy. We can consume both of these items in the foods we eat. In those cases, we are benefiting from their synbiotic relationship. Don’t be fooled! There are a lot of processed foods (heavily processed crackers or bars) boast probiotics and prebiotics, but we should aim to get our nutrients from all of the foods allowed in this challenge.

Here are some of our favorite Pure 21 probiotics: tempeh, fermented veggies (pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi), and miso. Once you’re in the later weeks, yogurt, cottage cheese, kombucha and kefir are great probiotics. Prebiotics can be found in a very wide-range of our food supply like apples, asparagus, bananas, berries, flaxseed, garlic, any of our green veggies, oats, onions, and tomatoes. The list certainly goes on and now we’re getting hungry.

Many Pure 21 Alumni who suffered from IBS have told us the benefits they saw after completing the challenge. Try it for yourself and tell us your results!

Helpful terms:

Prebiotics: Specialized plant fibers that act like fertilizers that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics are found in many fruits and vegetables, especially those that contain complex carbohydrates, such as fiber and resistant starch

Probiotics: Live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits when consumed or applied to the body. They can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products.

IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term.

*This as general information and not specific recommendations or medical advice! If you have a certain condition or are taking specific medications, we encourage you to speak with your doctor prior to starting the challenge. Be aware that there is a medical difference between IBS and IBD. IBD is inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis) and has a very different pathology and set of symptoms than listed here. If you have or suspect you have IBD, please talk with your doctor or healthcare provider.

Kayla Hansmann

Kayla Hansmann

B.S., M.S., Dietetic Internship
Kayla Hansmann is a Cincinnati-area dietitian and fitness instructor working with individuals one-on-one, in corporate work-site wellness, as well as various community settings. With experience from Cincinnati Children's Hospital to adult chronic disease management, she is focused on providing comprehensive and personalized nutrition to all individuals in various stages of life to achieve their personal goals and best state of health.