Natural Treatment Options for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most common ailments in the world. It is estimated that up to 20% of Americans have some form of IBS. Usually women are more susceptible, but many men have IBS, too. Symptoms usually present in the early adulthood years, but IBS occurs in almost every age group, from children to the elderly.
Causes of IBS
IBS is not fully understood by the scientific community. It is apparent that IBS is caused by a miscommunication between the gut and the nervous system (brain). The colon becomes hypersensitive and the intestinal muscles begin to contract abnormally. IBS is not caused by a physical defect. It is a functional disease, meaning the function of the intestines is impaired. As such, it is not possible to confirm a diagnosis of IBS with blood tests, x-rays, or colonoscopies, although a doctor may order these procedures to rule out other possible conditions.
There are not many treatments available. Some doctors may prescribe drugs and anti-depressants, but these often come with side effects similar to the symptoms of IBS, as well as other harmful side effects! Natural treatments are often just as effective, less costly, and have fewer side effects. The most common way to naturally manage IBS is to alter one's diet and exercise plan. Changes to the diet usually include:
- Avoidance of trigger foods
- Certain foods, like fatty or spicy foods, may cause an episode of IBS. Other common trigger foods include dairy products, wheat, pork, chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine.
- Addition of foods high in soluble fiber, such as:
- Kiwi fruit, other fresh fruits and vegetables, oat bran, and potatoes.
Some people experience improvement in their symptoms by trying the following treatments:
- Probiotics: The gut is full of millions of bacteria. Some are good and some are bad. If there is a disturbance in the balance of good versus bad bacteria, IBS symptoms can appear or become exacerbated. Probiotics can be taken in pill form or can be more naturally consumed by eating yogurt with active cultures.
- Acupuncture: this ancient Asian treatment could help to realign the signals between the nervous system, brain, and gut.
- Exercise: Low-intensity exercise like yoga and tai chi can help people cope with stress, which can help with IBS symptoms. Regular exercise also helps to regulate bowel movements.
- Hypnotherapy may be useful for people whose IBS symptoms are aggravated when they are in stressful situations like flying or public speaking.
- Peppermint Oil has been used with some success by people with IBS, although it has the potential to cause heartburn and gastrointestinal upset. Mint tea has similar positive effects.
- Ginger is well known as an anti-nausea remedy, but some sufferers find it helps with indigestion and can alleviate their IBS symptoms.
- Natural Supplements have been found to be effective and save with helping IBS victims.