An estimated 10-20% of the general population suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and, with current drug management relatively ineffective, up to 50% of IBS sufferers turn to natural therapies.

When managing IBS, potential causes need to be ruled out and patients should be screened for parasitic infection, gluten sensitivity, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), fructose and lactose intolerance to name a few.

Parasitic Infection and IBS

Parasites can be a causative factor in irritable bowel syndromeSymptoms such as bloating, wind, sweating and itchy skin can be signs of parasites living in your body. Anti-microbial herbs such as black walnut, wormwood and stemona are very effective for getting rid of parasites in the gut. Mediherb’s Wormwood Complex is a potent formulation for the control of intestinal parasites. Additionally this formula provides a soothing calming effect on the gut and has a beneficial effect on the production of digestive enzymes.

Diet and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Since food intolerances are common with IBS, the first step in treatment should be dietary modification.  Keep a symptom diary to assist you in pinpointing foods or lifestyle practices that are triggers for your IBS symptoms. Remember that IBS is a changeable disease, and watch for a regular response over several occasions before excluding a particular food from your diet. Firstly, try a low FODMAP diet.  It is easy to identify your FODMAP food triggers within my clinic. You will know in just one session what foods to avoid during treatment of IBS.

Try to also avoid fatty foods, alcohol, coffee (including decaffeinated), spicy foods, sugar, high fructose foods, artificial sweeteners and gas-producing foods such as legumes and cabbage that are amongst the most common triggers of IBS symptoms. Triggering foods often extend beyond the widely known aggravators of IBS and positive responses to elimination diets occur in up to 71% of patients.  It is important that such elimination diets are well monitored by your naturopath so that adequate nutrition is ensured.

Ensure you drink 6-8 glasses of water each day. Water replaces the extra fluid lost if you are experiencing diarrhoea, and is essential for the lubrication of the stool if you are experiencing constipation.

Also, talk with your naturopath about whether a fibre supplement is suitable for you. Remember that it is common for symptoms such as bloating to temporarily worsen as your body gets used to the increased fibre.

Probiotics for IBS

The human gut is a crowded neighbourhood – if you’re a micro-organism, that is. There are 500 species of bacteria resident in the adult gastrointestinal tract, mostly in the large bowel with an average net weight of 3kg per adult!

In the case of irritable bowel syndrome, the normal mix of such microbes is usually disrupted. When this happens, it upsets the normal function of our bowels and we may get symptoms like diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and bloating.

What if we could minimise these effects by swallowing preparations containing large doses of the micro-organisms normally found in our gut? That’s the thinking behind probiotics, the name given to preparations containing live micro-organisms that, when administered in large enough amounts, confer a beneficial health effect. The most commonly used probiotics are yeast, particularly Saccharomyces, and bacteria, particularly Lactobacillus (lactic acid bacteria) and Bifidobacterium. These micro-organisms are found in large numbers in the normal healthy intestine. Since there are several different types and strains it is best to talk to your naturopath who will prescribe the most appropriate one for your symptoms. Probiotics are best taken twice daily with food.

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is possible with eating a healthy, balanced diet containing fermented foods such as kefir, saurerkrat and yoghurt.

Stress and IBS

Stress can cause havoc with our gut and is a trigger for many suffering from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Too much stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which in too high amounts can significantly alter your gut bacteria and provoke inflammation.

Prevent or reduce IBS attacks by adding regular relaxation sessions such as meditation, massage or yoga to your lifestyle.

Consider taking supplements (eg.magnesium & B complex), herbal medicine (eg. passionflower, kava and valerian), homoeopathic and flower essences to help reduce the impact of stress on your gut*.

Eating too quickly, or whilst under stress, decreases the amount of time and energy your body has to devote to digestion.  So remember to chew your food slowly and thoroughly before swallowing it. Your saliva contains enzymes that start the digestion of your food before it even reaches your stomach. Additionally, the chewing action sends a message to your stomach that food is on the way, allowing it time to start producing the necessary digestive acids.

Want to find the cause of your Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Book yourself in for a naturopathic consultation and start your journey to wellness today!