Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Beat by Healthnotes Inc. with Maureen Williams, N.D.

Are food allergies and IBS connected?

People with irritable bowel syndrome are more likely to have positive antibody tests that suggest food sensitivities than people without IBS, according to the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

IBS is a common digestive ailment characterized by abdominal pain and bloating, gas and loose bowel movements alternating with constipation. Fiber supplements are typically used to treat IBS, and several studies have found supplements with psyllium seed and husk to be effective.

Many IBS sufferers believe that specific foods aggravate their symptoms, but the evidence linking diet and IBS is inconsistent. Some people with IBS have lactose intolerance, which can mimic the symptoms of IBS. Difficulties digesting other sugars such as fructose and sorbitol have also been noted.

In the current study, 108 people with IBS and 43 healthy people with no digestive problems answered three questionnaires about their symptoms, including frequency and severity of abdominal pain, frequency and quality of stools and effects of IBS on mood and quality of life. Blood tests were done to look for antibodies to 16 common foods: wheat, milk, egg white, egg yolk, cheese, yeast, potato, tomato, soybean, peanut, beef, chicken, pork, codfish, lamb and rice.

Compared with the other group, people with IBS had significantly higher levels of antibodies to wheat, soybean, beef, pork and lamb. They also had higher levels of antibodies to eggs, but this difference did not reach statistical significance. In general, people with IBS had elevated antibody levels to more foods than people without IBS (8 versus 5). The severity of symptoms was not related to the degree of elevation of food antibodies.

The results of this study show that people with IBS are more likely than healthy people to have elevated levels of antibodies to foods, suggesting that food sensitivity is a cause of IBS. Previous studies have found that eliminating wheat, beef and dairy can alleviate symptoms in some people.

Whether a person with IBS is likely to benefit from avoidance of specific foods based on the results of an antibody test requires more research.

Honey improves wound healing

Honey is safe and effective to use on hard-to-heal wounds, according to two recent reports in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and the Journal of Family Practice.

Honey has been used for centuries to aid in the healing of persistent wounds and burns. It is rich in sugar, which allows it to draw infection and fluid from wounds by osmosis; both its acidic pH and the small amounts of hydrogen peroxide formed by one of its enzymes help prevent bacterial infections; and it can promote healing by maintaining a protective barrier and by holding in moisture. Furthermore, antibacterial and wound-healing components from the plants used by the bees in the production of honey might contribute to its effectiveness. To date, more than 500 reports, including several controlled trials, of successful wound healing with honey have been published.

Thirty-two children with 43 abscesses participated in a recent trial performed in Nigeria. After having their abscesses surgically opened and drained, the children received oral antibiotics and had their wounds dressed twice daily with either gauze soaked in raw honey or a commonly used solution of chlorinated lime and boric acid known as EUSOL. Within a week, significantly more of the honey-treated wounds than EUSOL-treated wounds were clean, dry and showed evidence of healing; by day 21, healing was complete in 87 percent of the honey-treated wounds, while only 55 percent of the EUSOL-treated wounds were healed. Hospital stays were shorter among the children who were treated with honey (16 days versus 19 days).

Another recent report describes the case of a 79-year-old man with type 2 diabetes. The man in this report had multiple diabetes-related ulcers on his foot for which he had been hospitalized five times and had had four surgeries, including the removal of two toes. After refusing further surgery to remove his lower leg, he was sent home and instructed to treat his wounds with thick applications of ordinary honey on gauze dressings daily. Evidence of healing was apparent within two weeks and all of the ulcers were completely healed within 12 months.

These two reports add to the evidence that honey can prevent infection and promote healing in the most persistent of wounds.

Maureen Williams, N.D., has a private practice in Quechee, Vt.

Copyright © 2005 Healthnotes Inc.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 11/p. 40

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