IBS is a chronic disorder that affects the large intestine and causes recurring symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea.
According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, about 2 in 3 irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers are female, and about 30% of all visits to the G.I. doctor are due to IBS symptoms.
If this sounds like you, you might be wondering if there are ways to stop the cycle of abdominal pain and distress.
The good news is there are, indeed, natural and effective methods to control and greatly reduce IBS symptoms…
1. Medication and IBS
Certain foods and medications are known to trigger IBS. Medications such as prescribed or over-the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may trigger abdominal discomfort and distress in IBS sufferers, and should be used minimally. If you suffer from pain and inflammation, here are natural ways to relieve without the GI irritation. You can also refer to my book, Natural Solutions for Pain and Inflammation, for even more you can do.
2. Diet and IBS
There are foods to avoid if you suffer from cramps, excessive gas, bloating or abdominal discomfort. These include beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, raw fruits, and carbonated drinks like soda and sparkling water. Fatty, greasy foods, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, sugar, chocolate, artificial sweeteners and dairy are known to cause constipation.
Gluten is also indicated in IBS. Gluten irritates the intestines and causes diarrhea. Avoid products made with wheat, rye and barley (such as bread, crackers, pastries, etc.).
A diet rich in dark-green leafy vegetables and fiber rich fruits like blackberries and raspberries promotes normal, regular bowel movements. While fiber helps reduce constipation by helping form stools, too much can cause cramps and gas. You can reduce fiber intake if you see a link between it and symptoms. You can get more fiber from supplements such as Metamucil or Citrucel. Remember to drink plenty of water with added fiber.
It is also important to eat at regular meal times and not skip meals. Eating smaller, more frequent meals is helpful if diarrhea is an issue. Keeping a food journal is helpful to see what foods may trigger IBS symptoms. Record foods eaten, any symptoms, and when symptoms occur.
3. Supplementation and IBS
Supplements helpful for IBS include probiotics, peppermint oil and Iberogast.
Probiotics are gut friendly bacteria essential for healthy digestion. They are naturally found in fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, yogurt, kefir and kombucha. You can also take a probiotic supplement. Be sure to ask someone at a health food store or supplement shop for advice before selecting one.
Peppermint oil has positive effects on IBS because of its anti-spasmodic properties. Taking 1-2 capsules three-times per day for 6 weeks shows effective for IUBS relief in those without serious complications of diarrhea and constipation.
Iberogast (also known as STW-5), is a proprietary formula of nine plant extracts that is proving helpful for the pain symptoms associated with IBS.
4. Stress Management and IBS
Stress can easily build up and worsen IBS symptoms if left unchecked. There are several stress management techniques and practices I recommend to reduce the effects of stress on the body.
- Set priorities: Don’t attempt to do more than you can and don’t feel bad saying no or delaying work, activities or other commitments.
- Reframe: Adopt a reframing skill from programs like NLP or the Sedona Method to help reduce stress. This means confronting doubts, fears, anxieties and other psychological issues.
- Exercise: Sign up for bi- or tri-weekly yoga classes, Pilates, qigong or tai chi to help align mind, body and spirit. Get moving!
- Relax: Engage in meditation or other deep-relaxation practices every evening. The body metabolizes stress hormones during rest and sleep, so relaxing the mind and body prior to sleep can offer an even stronger “sleep repair” and stress release.
- Get out of your rut: Take a vacation or staycation and chill out. Even if you think there’s no time, your body and mind will benefit greatly from the break.
IBS is a painful and often life-altering syndrome. With some planning and implementation of the above solutions, you should be able to reduce its frequency, duration and level of discomfort.