IBS - The Naturopathic Treatment
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is basically the label given to cover a variety of gastrointestinal disorders once the more serious conditions such as Ulcerative Colitis, Crohns, and Diverticulosis have all been ruled out. In IBS the normal functioning of the digestive system is impaired, this impairment can either be on a continuous basis or can flare up at intervals. IBS is largely associated with causative factors such as stress, food intolerances and poor nutrition. The symptoms of IBS range from diarrhoea and constipation to cramping, bloating, indigestion, sluggish feeling, flatulence, headaches and nausea. For reasons unknown women seem to be more prone than men to IBS.
One of the effects of IBS is that the intestinal wall can become more permeable allowing large particles (such as food particles) to gain access to the rest of the body, this can lead to mal-absorption of food, food intolerances and a range of other issues. Given that there is no known pharmaceutical cure for IBS, someone with this condition needs to be able to manage it through lifestyle and nutritional changes, plus they can also benefit from many alternative therapies if needed. Below is a list of some suggestions to try out.
Firstly focus on nutrition. There is a lot of reading material that seems to suggest that the predominantly western diet of over processed, low fibre foods seems to be the underlying cause of IBS, which is then exacerbated by our lifestyles choices.
Good foods such as below are beneficial:
Fresh, lightly cooked vegetables
Non-gluten cereals such as Quinoa, millet, buckwheat and oats*.
Nuts and seeds Almond milk
*Make sure Oats are labelled gluten free as they can be exposed to gluten during processing.
Try to avoid high acid forming foods such as red meat, alcohol, processed foods, dairy and caffeine. Keep a food diary and identify those foods which may trigger a flare up then remove the offending foods from your diet for a few months and then you can try to reintroduce slowly if you wish to. Beware of those gas-forming vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, beans etc. If they are causing issues maybe reduce the amount of them you eat.
Probiotics – I cannot stress this one enough, these friendly bacteria can rebalance your system and make an enormous difference to your overall wellbeing, they are definitely worth a try!
Digestive enzymes – these can help with mal-absorption issues by providing added assistance to the body to break down the valuable nutrients. Take with meals preferably
Essential Fatty Acids – vital for a healthy body
Glutamine – healing to digestive tract
Vitamin C – antioxidating
Vitamin B complex – required for metabolism
Good brand Multivitamin - to replenish any lost nutrients
Essential oils – Lavender, Bergamot, Chamomile, Marjoram – a couple of drops in a carrier oil and massage gently in the abdominal area to soothe and aid digestion.
Exercise plays a huge part in managing IBS. It helps increase our metabolism, it also helps us unwind and de-stress and it alleviates the sluggish feeling that often accompanies IBS.
Bitters – These have a gentle cleansing action, which stimulates liver function, and improve digestion; Dandelion root and Milkthistle.
Nervines – These herbs relax our nervous system and, where stress is a factor, they can really improve the quality of our digestive cycle; Hops, Chamomile, Melissa, Peppermint, Cramp bark.
Bulking Laxatives – Psyllium husks is probably the best known and is a very gentle and effective laxative with no irritable side effects.
Demulcents – Slippery Elm, and Aloe Vera are anti-inflammatory and can help heal any areas of sensitivity. Fenugreek soothes the entire digestive system due to its high mucilage content and helps relieve digestion. Ramson (Wild garlic) leaves are documented as being a great tonic for the digestive system and for rebalancing the gut flora, making them very useful for any kind of bowel disorder.
**Caution – If you are pregnant or on any medication please consult with your practitioner before taking any herbs or supplements.
• Try to relax when eating your food, don’t work and eat at the same time.
• Chew your food well and eat slowly don’t rush.
• Ensure you do some deep breathing each day, which has a positive impact on your digestive function.
• Any relaxing exercise such as Yoga, Pilates and Meditation can help
• Also supporting therapies such as Acupuncture, Reflexology and Reiki can all help alleviate the bodily stress and help you heal yourself!
Happy Healing! ☺
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