IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is an intestinal disorder. It is characterized by pain in the belly, bloating or cramping, and constipation or diarrhea. It is a long-term condition- however, there are some things that you can do to naturally reduce the symptoms you experience.
You should know that they symptoms of IBS do vary from day to day. You can have a great day, with hardly any symptoms, or you can have a really bad day, where you’re afraid to leave the house. One good thing about it, it’s not going to get worse over time and it does not lead to more serious diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.
Causes of IBS
The causes of IBS can vary from person to person- there really isn’t a clearly defined cause. It could be that it is caused due to problems with the way the signals travel between the brain and digestive tract, difficulties digesting certain foods, and even anxiety and/or stress. Often, individuals with IBS have sensitive intestines and even problems with the way the muscles in the intestines move.
In some cases, certain foods, hormonal changes, stress, and even antibiotics can trigger the pain and other symptoms related to IBS.
Symptoms of IBS
The main symptoms of IBS are pain in the belly in conjunction with diarrhea or constipation. Some other common symptoms include: mucus in stools, feeling like you can’t completely empty your bowels, and feeling bloated.
Diagnosis of IBS
You may not realize it, but IBS is a very common condition. However, in most cases, the symptoms are so mild that the individual never seeks treatment. Since there are no structural problems in the intestines of individuals who have IBS, it is said that the disorder is “all in their head.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. For those suffering, the bloating, discomfort, and pain are very real.
Typically, a physician can diagnose IBS just by analyzing the symptoms you’re experiencing. He/she will ask you about the symptoms you have, as well as your past health history. He/she will also likely perform a physical examination. However, in some cases, your physician could also order blood tests or a stool analysis. This will help him/her to rule out other issues that could be causing your symptoms.
Typically, treatment for IBS includes making some changes in your diet and lifestyle. This includes such things as avoiding foods that you know can trigger your symptoms, regularly exercising, and taking steps to manage your stress.
Natural Treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
You should know that there are several other, natural remedies that you can use to combat your symptoms of IBS. Following are a few of them:
Enteric Coated Peppermint Oil
This is a remedy that is used in many cases to treat IBS. It helps to reduce the levels of pain and bloating associated with IBS. It does this by preventing calcium from moving into the muscle cells located in the intestines and easing muscle contractions there as well. Peppermint is known as a carminative herb. This means that it used to eliminate any excessive gas in the intestines.
Eight of twelve studies on this remedy have proven that it is much more effective than a placebo. You should know that though you can find peppermint oil in various forms, you should only use it in enteric coated capsules, as it can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and therefore cause heartburn.
Keep in mind that ingesting too much peppermint oil can cause you to experience nausea, appetite loss, heart problems, disorders in the nervous system, and in extreme cases, could lead to kidney failure and death.
There are some that should not use peppermint oil, such as children or women who are pregnant or nursing. Also, unless under strict medical supervision, it should not be used by individuals who are using cyclosporine- which is a drug used to prevent rejection of organ transplants and those with RA and psoriasis.
Something we are hearing more and more about are probiotics. These are live microbial organisms that are present in our bodies in the vagina and digestive tract. Probiotics are referred to as “friendly” bacteria and it is thought that they promote health by keeping the harmful bacteria from growing, encouraging healthy function of the immune system, amplifying the digestive tract’s protective barrier and helping with production of Vitamin K.
You may not realize that there are more than 400 species of microorganism in the digestive tract of humans, and maintaining the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria is very important. One theory is that IBS is the result of an imbalance of intestinal bacteria- an over abundance of gas-producing bacteria.
Some studies have revealed that probiotics can actually be very helpful for those who have IBS. However, there are many different strains of probiotics and some could be more helpful than others in treating IBS.
PHGG (Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum)
PHGG, or partially hydrolyzed guar gum, is a non-gelling, water soluble fiber that could help to reduce the symptoms of constipation, and possibly the symptoms of abdominal pain and diarrhea in those who have IBS. It also seems that PHGG actually increases the amount of beneficial bacteria in your system. One study compared PHGG, wheat bran, and a placebo in 199 individuals with IBS. After three months, both the wheat bran and the PHGG showed an improvement in symptoms of abdominal pain and other bowel habits. The PHGG was actually tolerated much better, and even preferred.
Some researchers have said that food intolerances could be a key factor in the symptoms of IBS. This is because food intolerances could trigger an immune response in your gut, which can cause some inflammation and an imbalance of the bacteria in the intestines. Most commonly, people report that their IBS is triggered by grains and dairy products. A trained nutritionist can help you to create and follow an elimination and challenge diet. Many foods will be removed from your diet for a set period of time and then slow re-introduced in order to find out whether or not you are intolerant to it. Since grains are one of the most common offenders, it is very important to remember that digestion of carbohydrates actually begins in your mouth. Make sure you chew grains thoroughly in order to allow the digestive enzyme in your saliva to start the digestion process.
Other Proven IBS Remedies
It has been said that stress could play a role in IBS- work to reduce your stress if at all possible. Take a vacation. Learn to say no. There are lots of ways to reduce stress. In recent years, acupuncture has been explored for relieving the symptoms of IBS. Another alternative therapy that is being used more and more is hypnosis. If some of these simple treatments are not helpful for your IBS, you should consult with your physician. He/she can prescribe medications for your symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, and pain.