Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a disorder of the bowel characterised by abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits (eg diarrhoea or constipation or a combination of both).
Other symptoms include bloating, flatulence, mucus present in the stools, nausea and a feeling of incomplete evacuation.
None of these symptoms are exclusive to IBS so diagnosis is important. If you suspect you have irritable bowel syndrome, check in with your doctor to confirm the diagnosis.
Causes of IBS
Stress is a common trigger of IBS. Certain foods can also trigger an attack, namely wheat, dairy, sugar and citrus specifically. Caffeine or alcohol can aggravate the condition and hormones can exacerbate symptoms (eg menstruation can aggravate symptoms).
Believe it not women are affected twice as much as men.
How We Can Help
There are 3 main areas we can address:
Stress exacerbates IBS so identifying and managing stress is the first step. Stressful situations can’t often be avoided so employing stress management techniques is vital (daily meditation, exercise, yoga, regular massage, gardening etc)
Using herbs and nutrients to relax the bowel is also a great idea:
- Magnesium relaxes muscles so if you have pain (abdominal cramping) magnesium helps relieve the spasm.
- Cramp Bark is a wonderful herb for IBS because it is a muscle relaxant and anti-spasmodic – so it is fantastic for any intestinal and bowel tension
- Scullcap and Valerian are great nervine tonics to use if stress is triggering your IBS
Identifying the foods that trigger your symptoms is very important because there is strong correlation between some foods and IBS symptoms.
Don’t forget the most common food triggers are wheat, dairy, sugar and citrus but other foods may be exacerbating your symptoms.
Keeping a diet diary where you record everything you eat and also record your corresponding symptoms is a great way to identify patterns and trigger foods. You can also record your stress levels (scale 1-10) to see the impact of both stress and food on your IBS symptoms.
It is important to minimise or avoid fried foods, dairy, chocolate, coffee, carbonated drinks and artificial sweeteners.
Include soluble fibre in your diet – lots of fruit and vegetables, psyllium and my favourite, linseed meal. These are great fibres to eat to help ease abdominal pain, cramping and gas.
Soothe, Nourish and Repair your Gut Lining
a) Aloe Vera Juice is great for any gastrointestinal inflammation and is used to health the gastrointestinal tract. Aloe also helps relieve pain and spasm. Aloe combined with Glutamine helps restore gut integrity and reduce inflammation.
b) Probiotics are beneficial as they promote the growth of good intestinal bacteria. Clinical studies show the particular strain Lactobacillus plantarum assists in the management of medically diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so ensure your probiotic includes this specific strain.
c) Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) is a probiotic strain specifically beneficial for the relief of diarrhoea
d) The presence of mucous indicates some gastrointestinal irritation so use Golden seal or Meadowsweet
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