Irritable bowel syndrome can be alleviated using dietary changes and natural medicines. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic (ongoing) condition that affects the large intestine.People that suffer from IBS are plagued by cramping, bloating, urgent/frequent bowel movements and an inability to live life normally.
IBS isn’t something that can be diagnosed with a specific test; it shows up in a variety of ways in different people - hence it’s termed a ‘syndrome’.
Because of this, IBS is considered to be a ‘functional’ disorder, meaning that the GI tract (specifically the large intestine aka colon) doesn’t function normally.While most people with IBS (it affects men and women of all ages, equally) experience frequent (multiple times daily) bowel movements, others go through phases of constipation alternating with diarrhea.
Symptoms of IBS IBS symptoms can be extreme and prevent people from going about their day-to-day activities.Some of the most common symptoms include:
Frequent bowel movements (more than 2 a day)
Urgency to have a bowel movement
Incomplete bowel movements
Undigested food in the stool
Constipation alternating with loose stools
Bloating, belching and gas
Stomach/lower abdominal pain
Sudden inability to tolerate commonly eaten foods
Causes of IBS
The exact causes of IBS aren’t the same in each person.Since it’s a syndrome, it has a variety of ways that it shows up.There are several working theories as to what causes IBS:
Nervous system irregularities. The gut has its own intricate network of nerves that control its motion.The intestines are never really at rest; either digesting food, moving it down the tract, or storing stool - this is accomplished by continual nervous stimulation of the muscles that make up the GI tract. In IBS, it’s thought that an irregularity in the signaling of muscle contractions in the gut leads to the cramping, rapid transit of BM's, urgency and frequency symptoms of IBS.
Infection.In some cases a severe viral or bacterial infection of the gut (gastroenteritis) can lead to IBS.That, and an overgrowth of the wrong type of gut bacteria can also contribute to IBS.Some research shows that the bacteria (microbiome) in the guts of people with IBS differ from those that don’t. There is much to learn about the interplay of gut bacteria, the immune system and GI function!
Stress, past and present.It’s known that people who’ve experienced stressful events as children are more likely to develop IBS as an adult, and that ongoing stress can cause IBS symptoms as well.Because the brain and gut share the same neurotransmitters, it’s not uncommon for mental emotional issues to show up as diarrhea, cramping and other IBS symptoms.Natural remedies for stress can help too.
Food. Food sensitivities can be a major cause of IBS.Common food allergens like wheat, dairy, legumes and citrus fruits can irritate the gut causing IBS symptoms.In some cases, a person with IBS may eat a certain food and have symptoms while at other times they may not develop symptoms after eating the same food.Understanding how food sensitivities affect IBS takes a bit of investigation. A good place to start is with a food sensitivity test to understand which foods are irritating to the body.
How to Relieve IBS
There are two main steps to take in relieving IBS; identifying triggers and then assisting normal function in the GI tract.
1. Afood sensitivity test is great at identifying food triggers that aren’t always obvious.A sensitivity can manifest hours, if not days later in the gut.It’s not always a rapid reaction right after eating a food. A food sensitivity test can be done at home, with just a small amount of blood collected from a finger stick.
2. Stress management is important for IBS since it’s such a common trigger. Taking the steps to recognize stress and how it affects digestion is important in changing the way one reacts to the stress.Mental health is just as important as physical health.
3. Natural remedies for IBS:
Here are a few of the things we’ve found to be helpful in people with IBS:
HLC High Potency Probiotic Probiotics are healthy bacteria that our GI system needs to function properly.Supplementing with a probiotic helps maintain a healthy bacterial balance; many people with IBS have inadequate levels or the wrong type of bacteria.
Digestive Formula Digestive enzymes are chemicals that the body makes naturally to assist in the digestion of food.Poorly/inadequately broken down foods can go on to irritate the colon, leading to IBS symptoms.
5-HTP 5-HTP is a precursor to the key gut neurotransmitter, serotonin.Studies associate low serotonin levels with IBS. Supplementing with 5-HTP may improve serotonin levels.
Soluble fiber Soluble fiber attracts water and can firm up stools, leading to less urgency and frequency in IBS.
GI Encap Supports the lining of the GI tract by limiting inflammation, soothing irritated mucous membranes and providing soluble fiber which is also important fuel for the gut microbiome.
Rhizinate Rhizinate is form of the herb licorice, known as DGL or deglycyrrhizinated licorice.This form of licorice has a compound known as glycyrrhizin removed, because it can raise blood pressure after time.DGL is great for soothing an irritated GI tract as well.
Glutamine Glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid that’s a preferred fuel source for the cells lining the GI tract (enterocytes).Glutamine is especially helpful in situations where leaky gut occurs along with IBS.Dosing is high, up to 25-30 grams daily in divided doses!
The majority of IBS cases can be improved by removing food sensitivities, following a stress management program and using natural remedies like a digestive enzyme, probiotics and soluble fiber, for starters.Additional natural medicines listed above can be used in addition as needed.