Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that is characterised by abdominal pain, cramping, and changes in your bowel function, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. To be diagnosed with IBS, you need to have had symptoms for at least twelve weeks over the preceding year. However, if you have IBS, there is no need to live with it as there are natural therapies that can help.
Peppermint oil is commonly used in the management of IBS. It can help to reduce abdominal pain and bloating. The best way to use peppermint oil is through enteric-coated capsules, so that the capsule dissolves in the stomach, thereby reducing the risk of heartburn. It should not be used by children, or pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Other antispasmodic herbs that can be of help include chamomile and fennel. Fenugreek is also soothing for the intestinal tract.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that naturally live in the digestive tract. People with IBS may have an imbalance of bacteria in the digestive tract, with the good bacteria being overwhelmed by bad bacteria. Taking a probiotic can help to address this imbalance and they work by suppressing the growth of bad bacteria, improving immune function, improving the protective barrier in the digestive tract, and helping the body to produce vitamin K.
Some people are unable to tolerate certain foods, and this intolerance can cause inflammation of the digestive tract as well as causing the natural bacteria in the gut to become unbalanced. People with IBS are most commonly intolerant to either dairy products or grains. If you suspect that you are intolerant to a certain food, it is possible to go on an elimination diet. These diets remove certain foods from the daily diet before re-introducing them to see what the offender is. Once the offending food has been identified, it is simply a matter of avoiding all types of this food in the diet.
There are many substances that irritate the bowel and people that suffer from IBS need to avoid these. Gas producing foods such as beans, cauliflower, onions, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage should be avoided as people with IBS are particularly sensitive to these. Fatty foods can possibly stimulate muscle contractions in the bowel so these should be avoided. Caffeine and nicotine can stimulate the bowels. Some artificial sweeteners can cause digestive problems so you should look out for these.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be useful in the management of IBS. In TCM, the spleen is the primary organ for the regulation of digestive functions. If you have a deficiency in your spleen qi (energy), you may suffer from fatigue and diarrhea, which worsens during periods of overexertion. Abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and haemmorhoids are other signs of spleen qi deficiency. To treat this deficiency, specific acupuncture points are chosen in order to nourish the spleen qi. An individualised herbal remedy may also be prescribed.
The liver qi is also important in the management of IBS. People that have stagnant liver qi may find that they suffer from pellet shaped stools, nausea, belching, or acid reflux, which can be brought on or worsened by stress. To free the liver qi and get it flowing freely again, acupuncture, tai chi, or qi gong may be used. Herbal medicines are also used. If the liver and the spleen are not in harmony, irritability, pain, and alternating constipation and diarrhea may occur. Negative emotions such as stress, anger and frustration will worsen the condition. Herbal remedies and acupuncture are used to correct the disharmony.
Because there are many different ways in which IBS may affect an individual, the sufferer should consult with a trained practitioner who will then adjust the treatment plan to best suit an individual.
Ayurvedic medicine may be used to help relieve the symptoms of IBS. The most common treatment is an internal cleanser called “triphala”, which is made from the Indian fruits amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki. Triphala is a mild laxative that does not have side effects and it helps to restore the tone of the large intestine.
People that suffer from IBS may find that they have difficulty in expressing their emotions. Using flower or essence therapy can help to relieve any blocks that are causing people to be unable to express what they are feeling and promote a more positive sense of thought. Some essences that you can use include cerato (for self-doubt), gorse (for hopelessness), and vervain (for anger).
Many people with IBS suffer from anxiety as a result of their condition and relaxation therapies such as meditation can help to reduce anxiety, thus helping with the symptoms of IBS. Just fifteen minutes of relaxation a day can work wonders in reducing your stress levels and anxiety, and as you become more adept at practicing meditation, you can call upon it in times of stress.
Stress can be a major factor in flare ups of IBS. Yoga can be an excellent tool for managing this stress. The breathing exercises that are used in yoga can be done at any time that you are feeling stressed, while meditation will allow you to clear your mind and relax. The yoga poses, or asanas, can be used to strengthen the body as well as provide a physical means of achieving a relaxed state.