Irritable Bowl Syndrome, also known as IBS, is a very common disorder, but conventional physical treatments often do not work very well and patients can feel that their symptoms are being ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood.
The cause of IBS is currently unknown, but the correlation between IBS and mental health, cannot be ignored. Patients with IBS are more likely to suffer from depression and have abnormal behavior patterns including anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, and stress.
This has led to the idea that IBS has a psychological as well as a biological basis. IBS is a common digestive disorder characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, and changes in normal bowel function, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.
As many as one in five adults in the United States have IBS. IBS can affect a person’s quality of life. The severity of symptoms can range from mild and inconvenient to severe and debilitating. IBS may affect a person’s physical functioning and ability to participate in daily activities.
Most patients with IBS are able to control their symptoms through a combination of diet, stress management, and medication. The person with IBS has a colon that is more sensitive and reactive than usual, so it responds strongly to stimuli that would not affect others. The colon muscle of a person with IBS begins to spasm after only mild stimulation or ordinary events such as the following:
• Distention from gas or other material in the colon
• Certain medications
• Certain foods
Triggers for IBS include diet and emotional stress; therefore, people who have IBS get a great deal of relief from stress management techniques and a proper diet. Diet tips that can help with IBS include the following:
• Cut back on sugar.
• Reduce foods with yeast, especially yeast breads.
• Reduce or stop using dairy products, especially milk.
• Go easy on spicy foods.
• Avoid grains, corn, and rice.
• Avoid raw vegetables and fruit unless eaten with an acidic dressing. • Eat small frequent meals.
• Drink lots of fluid.
• Eat a high fiber diet.
• Limit caffeine, alcohol, and sorbitol (a type of sweetener) as these may exacerbate symptoms.
• Keep a daily diary of what you eat and whether you experience symptoms after eating.
• Some patients find peppermint helpful. Peppermint is a natural anti-spasmodic that relaxes smooth muscles in the intestines.
• Eat slowly and have meals in a quiet, relaxing environment.
Natural remedies for IBS can include but are not limited to the following:
• Consider probiotics: A 2005 study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology annual conference found that probiotic supplements normalized bowel movements and decreased pain, bloating and gas in many women.
• Slippery elm is an herb used to assist with diarrhea. It normalizes the stools, and soothes, coats, and heals the entire digestive tract. Slippery elm should be taken with lots of water.
• Alfalfa or chlorophyll are colon scrubbing herbs, which can help immensely with constipation problems. These also neutralize gas in the stomach and colon.
• Cascara sagrada is one of the strongest herbal laxatives. It promotes activity in the bowel muscles, so this could cause a bit of cramping, but it’s not an irritant or a purgative.
• Peppermint is an herb that works wonderfully for gas, bloating, and stomach pain caused by indigestion. This herb will cause the gas to pass out of your body. Although peppermint oil is available in many forms, it should only be used in enteric-coated capsules otherwise the oil can relax the lower esophageal sphincter and cause heartburn.
• Garlic will also help expel gas from your system, and it has the added benefit of being able to help your colon rid itself of mucus and parasites, which could be causing some of the IBS symptoms. Additionally, garlic is an infection-fighting herb, so if there are harmful bacteria in your colon causing the IBS, the garlic can help rid your body of them.
• Chewing crystallized ginger after meals is helpful.
• Many people claim that eating runny, plain, oatmeal is one of the best ways to deal with IBS.
• Using dried, shredded, coconut in cooking is a great way to get extra fiber and goes a long way to slowing down the bowel.
• Drinking herbal teas such as alfalfa, chamomile, cinnamon, earl grey, fennel, ginger, green tea (contains caffeine), hibiscus, hops (for nighttime), hyssop, and lemon balm can be helpful.
• Any herb that is used for relaxation is also good for IBS.
In Tucson there are a variety of places to get the herbs such as the Food Coop and Whole Foods.