Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS) is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, unrelated to any structural defects. It is characterized by the presence of some or all of the following symptoms: abdominal pain or distention, erratic frequency of bowel movements, constipation/diarrhea, abnormally large secretions of mucous from the colon, bloating, flatulence, nausea, anorexia, headaches and depression.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic condition that is estimated to affect 15% of the population with females affected two times more frequently than males. Possible factors that may contribute to irritable bowel syndrome include food allergies, lactose intolerance, excessive wheat bran consumption, parasitic infection or candidiasis, drugs especially antibiotics, metabolic disorders such as hypothyroidism and psychological factors such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Increasing the intake of dietary fiber may result in a reduction of the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, especially when constipation is involved. However it may be better to increase fiber intake from fruit and vegetables rather than cereal bran as this often aggravates the condition by provoking an allergic response.
Psyllium husk is an excellent source of fiber that has been shown to act as both a laxative and anti-diarrhoeal. Psyllium husk also has a soothing effect on the gastrointestinal tract due to its high mucilage content. One heaped teaspoon may be taken up to three times daily mixed into a cup of water.
Slippery Elm powder also provides a very soothing effect on the lining of the digestive tract and can help relieve constipation in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. One tablespoon of powder can be taken daily mixed with yogurt and honey or a mashed banana.
Food Allergies and IBS
Food allergy has been documented to be present in at least two thirds of patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The most commone allergens are dairy products and gluten-containing grains and it is recommended that these foods be avoided, at least initially, until the diagnosis is further refined.
Blood tests to identify allergens are highly beneficial as a variety of foods have the potential to provoke and allergic response.
Digestive Support for IBS
It is often helpful to supplement with hydrochloric acid and/or pancreatic enzymes to promote complete protein digestion. Research has shown that incompletely digested protein particles can enter the bloodstream and trigger allergic responses to foods.
These nutritional supplements also provide general digestive support which may alleviate other symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome such as bloating and flatulence.
Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates and IBS
The consumption of sugar is detrimental to individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome as it reduces intestinal motility and contributes to small intestine bacterial overgrowth and candidiasis.
When there is a sudden rise in blood sugar levels the normal rhythmic contractions of the gastrointestinal tract are dramatically impaired.
It is best to limit consumption of all simple and refined carbohydrates including sugar, honey, maple syrup, dried fruit, fruit juice, white flour and white rice.
Probiotics and IBS
Nutritional supplementation with acidophilus and bifidus is indicated as these organisms reduce toxins in the bowel, inhibit growth of harmful microorganisms, reduce food sensitivities, alleviate flatulence and enhance general digestive function.
Lemon for IBS
Lemon juice is a good general remedy to improve digestive function. It acts as a liver and pancreas tonic, improves the appetite and can help to relieve nausea.
It is best taken on rising – the juice of half a lemon in a glass of warm water.
Peppermint for IBS
Peppermint increases the secretion of digestive juices and bile and relaxes the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract. It reduces nausea, colic pain, flatulence and soothes the lining of the colon.
Enteric coated peppermint oil may be of even greater benefit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients and has been shown to be approximately 95% effective in providing symptomatic relief for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
This form of peppermint is also effective against Candida infections.
Counselling and Lifestyle for IBS
Almost all patients with for Irritable Bowel Syndrome have some degree of involvement of psychological factors such as anxiety, depression and sleep disturbance.
These factors are though to become evident after for Irritable Bowel Syndrome develops and may be linked to digestive disturbances especially malabsorption of nutrients, food allergies or candidiasis.
Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome also report a reduction in their symptoms when they undergo stress management training, counseling, hypnosis, relaxation therapy and biofeedback. Any activity that reduces stress may be beneficial including yoga, tai chi or meditation.
A daily leisurely twenty minute walk has been found to reduce for Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms and this is probably related to the ability of exercise to reduce stress levels.
It is important that the diet be as healthy as possible and that adequate pure water is consumed. A healthy diet provides a foundation for the attainment of general well being and psychological balance and enhances the body’s healing ability.
Prognosis for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome has been demonstrated by research to be associated with a good prognosis. The quality of the relationship between the practitioner and patient has been correlated with a better outcome.
When greater attention is placed on the patient’s psychosocial history, precipitating factors and an open discussion of diagnosis and treatment, the patient is more likely to obtain long term symptom relief.