What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you are not alone. Once a relatively rare disorder, IBS now affects an estimated 20 to 30 percent of the U.S. population. Although women are two times more likely than men to seek treatment for IBS, it is thought that men and women are affected in equal numbers. It is the most common reason for a referral to a gastroenterologist. IBS is characterized by a malfunction in the digestive tract. Usually, waste material is delivered through the tract to the rectum by rhythmic contractions of the intestines. In IBS, those contractions become erratic and irregular. Bowel movements are unpredictable and painful, with attending constipation, diarrhea, or an alternation of both. The abdomen may be cramped or bloated, certain foods can no longer be tolerated, and other all too familiar signs of gastric distress develop. In some cases, waste matter is pushed through the tract with such force that stool incontinence results.
What Are The Common IBS Symptoms and Signs?
IBS is a disorder with a combination of symptoms. Most often, abdominal pain and bloating are present. Some individuals experience constipation, some have diarrhea, and some have alternating bouts with both. While the symptoms of IBS are troublesome, the good news is that the condition does not cause long-term damage to the digestive system. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an uncomfortable and often painful condition that affects the gastrointestinal system. Normally, food travels through your digestive system propelled by wavelike contractions of the intestinal muscles. But if you have irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, the contractions are irregular may be fast and spastic, causing diarrhea, or slow and weak, causing constipation. Other symptoms include abdominal pain and gas. Causes are unknown, but doctors have discovered that elevated stress, along with certain foods, aggravate IBS. Women are twice as likely as men to get the syndrome.
Root Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (or spastic colon) is a very common disorder with recurrent abdominal pain, intermittent diarrhea alternating with constipation. There are really 5 main fundamental causes of IBS. The modern day, fast food diet is definitely one of them. Refined foods that are hard to digest contribute to many symptoms of poor digestion. Second, poor stress-coping mechanisms trigger nervous system reactions that contribute to IBS. Unresolved emotional traumas can have this negative effect as well. Third, chronic infections of the digestive tract with candida, parasites, and bacteria can be causative factors. Fourth, poorly functioning digestive organs contribute to IBS symptoms. These include dysbiosis, where there is a deficiency of the good bacteria that are involved with digestion and detoxification. The fifth cause, and the least common, is a structural abnormality of some type. Spinal misalignments, for example, impair nerve flow to the digestive tract, which contributes to digestive problems.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Pain Herbal Remedies
- Soothe Digestive Tract: Combine fennel seeds, cinnamon chips and aniseed in a clean jar. Take all herbs in equal quantity that is 1 teaspoon. Add 1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaves and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds in it. Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add the spice mixture. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy before and after meals. Fennel is in the parsley family, along with anise, caraway, and licorice. All have value for the digestive tract. Fennel is a carminative herb, meaning it helps expel gas from the stomach and intestines. It’s also traditionally used to relieve nausea and vomiting, inflammation, and intestinal spasms. Cardamom also relieves intestinal spasms, gas, bloating, and flatulence. Peppermint relieves pain, cramping, and gas. Encapsulated peppermint oil significantly reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia.
- Manage Stress with Meditation and Relaxation: Since stress is one of the factors known to trigger an IBS flare up, learn to short circuit it with meditation, yoga, or a simple breathing exercise like this one. Sit comfortably, or lie down. Turn your attention to the air going in and out of your body. When upsetting or anxiety-producing thoughts intrude, focus completely on your breathing. Practice this daily. Then, whenever you feel yourself becoming tense and anxious, use it to calm yourself.
- Peppermint – An Effective Herb: Peppermint tea has a relaxing effect on gastrointestinal tissues and can relieve pain. Steep a heaping teaspoon of dried peppermint leaf in a cup of boiling water, strain, and sip. Small doses of peppermint oil may help relieve indigestion, as well as the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Alternatively, you can take enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules. The coating ensures that the oil reaches the intestine instead of breaking down in the stomach. Take one or two capsules three times a day, between meals.
- A Digestive Leaf: Take 2 artichoke. Slice off the artichoke top, trim the thorny tips and stem, and place in a steamer basket. In a pot, place about 2 inches (5 cm) of water, pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice and bring to a boil. Steam the artichoke in the pot, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the bottom of the artichoke can be pierced. In a clean bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic. Remove the artichoke from the pot and allow it to cool. Pull off each artichoke petal and dip it into the olive oil mixture. Enjoy pulling the flesh off the base of the petal with your teeth. When all the petals are pulled away, scoop out and discard the fuzzy center. The fleshy artichoke heart remains. Slice it and enjoy on a salad or just plain. Many think it’s the best part. Artichoke, a botanical relative of milk thistle, is the main ingredient in the Italian bitter aperitif Cynar. Milk thistle seeds are a bitter digestive tonic and also protect the liver and stimulate it to make bile. The seeds are one ingredient in a botanical formula shown to reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia. Leaf extracts also significantly reduce dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Indian Ayurvedic Formula: According to Ayurveda, irritable bowel syndrome is due to vata pushing pitta into the colon. To help correct the situation, combine the herbs – shatavari 1 part, kama dudha 1/8 part, shanka bhasma 1/8 part and arrowroot 2 parts. Take 1/2 teaspoon of this mixture a couple of times a day with a little warm water, just after eating.
- Easy Home Remedy: Drink ginger tea. Ginger soothes all manner of digestive problems, including IBS. For the freshest tea, grate a 1/2 teaspoon of ginger into a cup, then pour in hot water, let it steep for 10 minutes, strain out the ginger, and drink the tea. Ginger tea bags are also available. Drink four to six cups a day.
- Get Enough Fiber: If you can’t seem to get enough soluble fiber in your diet, take a daily supplement of psyllium, the main ingredient in dietary fiber supplements like Metamucil. Unlike chemical laxatives, psyllium is safe to take long term. Follow the label for dosage directions. OR You can also take 1 teaspoon of sat isabgol (psyllium husks) with 1/2 cup of fresh yogurt 1 hour after dinner.
- Find Out IBS Triggers: Keep a diary of your IBS symptoms, noting what types of problems you have and how severe they are. In this journal, also jot down any stressful events you face in your day. Occasionally look back at your diary. If you see more IBS symptoms just before airplane flights or meetings with your boss, for instance, there may be a connection. Once you’ve detected situations that seem to trigger IBS symptoms, look for ways like using the breathing technique above, to cope with them better.
- To create another simple remedy, boil 1 teaspoon of flaxseed in a cupful of water to make a tea, and drink it at bedtime.
- Enema for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: In certain chronic cases of irritable bowel syndrome, Ayurveda recommends introducing 1/2 to 1 cup of warm sesame oil into the rectum. If you use this enema treatment, try to retain the oil for 5 minutes. Once the colon is well lubricated with sesame oil, irritable bowel syndrome will be controlled. You can do this oil enema once or twice a week, as needed.
- Watch Your Diet: Eat smaller meals more frequently rather than a couple of large meals each day. Taking in too much food at once can overstimulate your digestive system. If you usually bolt down your meals, go more slowly and pay more attention to chewing your food. Fast eaters often swallow too much air, which turns into bothersome intestinal gas.
Lifestyle Tips To Avoid Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Don’t chew gum or candy that contains artificial sweeteners. Among the common sweeteners in these products are sorbitol and mannitol, which can have a laxative effect. They’re very difficult to digest. When bacteria in your colon eventually break down these “non absorbed sugars,” you get gas and diarrhea.
- Irritable bowel syndrome can deplete your intestines of friendly bacteria. Eat a cultured product such as live yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut every day.
- Cut down on caffeine. It can worsen IBS by irritating your intestines.
- Sufficient intake of fiber rich diet may help prevent irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber may not alleviate all symptoms, but according the National Institutes of Health, it may help prevent muscle spasms of the colon. It can also help to ease the constipation associated with IBS.
- Stay away from spicy foods. The capsaicin in hot peppers, for example, makes your large intestine go into spasms, which can cause diarrhea.
- Some foods high in fiber include black beans, kidney beans, green peas, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, raspberries, and pears. Intake of fiber should be gradually increased by only two to three grams per day.
- Minimize fried foods, meats, oils, margarine, dairy foods, and other fatty foods. They cause your colon to contract violently, which can lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain.
- Drink at least six to eight glasses of water each day to keep fiber moving smoothly through your system.
- Whenever possible, get at least 30 minutes of noncompetitive exercise such as walking. Exercise helps relieve stress, releases natural painkilling endorphins, and keeps your body working smoothly.
Caution: Call your doctor if you notice blood in your stool, you start losing weight when you’re not trying to, or your IBS symptoms are so severe that you can’t even leave your home. If you’re over 50 and start to have IBS symptoms, you should get a doctor involved. And if you’ve had IBS for many years but note a change in a previous pattern, make the call. Among other things, the doctor should ask you about prescription or OTC medications to find out whether a change in bowel habits is related to drug side effects.