Is IBS Ruling Your Life?

30 Jan, 2012

Is IBS Ruling Your Lifeby Mary Melling, Naturopath and Acupuncturist.

If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms, you may be one of the four million Australians who feel trapped by medically diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is described as a gastrointestinal disorder characterised by symptoms such as abdominal pain, altered bowel function, flatulence, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.

Basically, these symptoms do not offer a clear diagnosis, but medically, the symptoms are labelled IBS after specific testing is performed and all other problems such as Cohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, allergies or celiac disease have been ruled out.

Where does this leave the individual who experiences these symptoms? How do they cope with the disastrous effect IBS can have on their lives?

Quite often we will see these people at our clinic when they are desperate for help, as they feel their digestive system is letting them down all the time and they are suffering.

Taking a full case history can often reveal major clues about what had happened to the client’s health over the years. Some people discover that they had no digestive problems until they had one or more doses of antibiotics that stripped their bowels of healthy bacteria which was never replaced with good cultures. Others say it started after they developed a gut infection while travelling in Asia. Some know that a major stress incident was a trigger.

There are two main aspects of a person’s health to address when they have signs of IBS.  The first is to look at the person’s diet and general digestive health. For example, there may be foods they are innocently eating that are causing alot of irritation to their gut. If there is a constant irritant through the diet it will cause reddening, inflammation and an immune response. Common foods that can lead to IBS are dairy, wheat and sugar which are such a big part of the Australian diet. However some IBS sufferers have already eliminated these foods and still have the digestive problems. This then means a Naturopath can look in more detail at their diet and what may be irritating them. Following the blood type diet may be suggested, or doing the in house food detective test can clearly show food intolerances that may play a major role in IBS.

There are also very effective herbs and supplements that can support the digestion and the aim is to repair the gut problems and restore healthy bowel function so that IBS can be a problem in the past. Click here for more information on gut herbals used to treat digestive disorders.

Stress is another major factor that can cause IBS. Often when treating clients they talk about their awareness that their symptoms become a lot worse when they have a work deadline, or are in the middle of exams, or are having relationship problems.

Taking this into consideration, it is not just a matter of fixing a client’s diet and aiding the whole digestive function, but addressing the stress aspect as well. Often clients will notice that when they are enjoying themselves on holiday they can be a bit more relaxed with their diet. This is because they are relaxed in themselves. Treating the stress aspect of IBS is important and can be done through herbs known as nervines that will help support the nervous system. Acupuncture is also a wonderful balancing treatment and a course of acupuncture can do wonders to reduce stress in the body. Massage too can be a very relaxing treatment that soothes away the worries of the day.

Diet and lifestyle tips to relieve IBS symptoms

Symptoms of IBS may be controlled by making some dietary and lifestyle changes. Some ideas that may help you monitor and control your symptoms include:

  • Keeping a food and fluid diary so you can see the effects certain foods and/or drinks have on your IBS symptoms.
  • Taking note how other factors, such as stress, affect your IBS symptoms and reducing your exposure to these factors.
  • Consuming an increased variety of dietary fibre from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as it’s important to remember that the fibre from fruits and vegetables are different to the fibre found in wholegrain cereals.
  • Drinking a minimum of 2 litres of fluid daily, preferably water.
  • Minimising fat intake in the diet and avoiding excessive intake of fizzy drinks and caffeine as these can worsen IBS symptoms.
  • Regular light exercise such as yoga or walking which may help to reduce the symptoms of IBS.

For more information and a personalized treatment plan, make an appointment with us today.

by Mary Melling, Naturopath and Acupuncturist.