Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Although irritable bowel syndrome is now the standard term, there are many other names for this group of symptoms, including:
• Spastic colon
• Mucous colitis
• Gastric colitis
• Nervous indigestion
• Intestinal neurosis
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 rec- tum by rhythmic contractions of the intestines. In IBS, those contractions become erratic and irregular. Bowel movements are unpredictable and painful, with attend- ing 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. Studies have also found that people with IBS have increased sensitivity to pain in the digestive tract.
There are really ﬁve 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 con-
Common Illnesses That Mimic IBS
• Cancer of the colon or the rectum
• Duodenal ulcer
• Diverticular disease
• Biliary tract disease
• Parasitic diseases, such as amebiasis, giardiasis, campylobacter
• Lactose intolerance
• Laxative abuse
• Ulcerative colitis
• Imbalanced intestinal ﬂora
• Malabsorption conditions, such as celiac disease or pancreatic insufﬁciency
tribute 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 dysbio- sis, 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.
It is important that you consult with a doctor to ﬁnd out whether you have IBS or some other condition that causes similar symptoms. However, in our opinion, natural thera- pies are the only sensible approach for the long-term con- trol and the resolution of this condition, as they treat the underlying cause(s).
• Alternating constipation and
• Mucus in stools
• Abdominal pain and cramping,
usually either relieved by going to
the bathroom or brought on by it
• Flatulence and abdominal rumblings
• Intolerance to certain foods
• Gurgling and rumbling of the abdomen
• Occasional vomiting
• Unpleasant taste in the mouth
• Feeling full easily
• Mental “fog”
• Frequent urination
• Painful sexual intercourse
• Painful periods
• Irritation of the rectum
• A diet that’s high in reﬁned, man- made foods and sugars and low in ﬁber
• Food allergies or sensitivities
• Candida overgrowth, parasite infection, and dysbiosis
• Poor stress-coping mechanisms
The following tests help assess possible reasons for irritable bowel syndrome: Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, estrogen, proges-
terone)—saliva, blood, or urine
Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis
Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal
The most reliable way to calm an irritable bowel is to adhere to a good diet. You may
ﬁnd that the following suggestions advocate a drastic change from your present way of eating, but the difference in the way you feel will be worth it.
Even when eating the most healthful of foods, however, you must be careful not to eat just before going to bed.
For IBS sufferers, a high-ﬁber diet is an absolute must. Although ﬁber may not sound appealing to you if you have diarrhea, it will actually regulate your bowels and soothe your digestive tract. Your diet should be based on high-ﬁber foods, especially whole grains, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, and legumes. You should slowly increase the amount of ﬁber-rich foods in your diet so that your body can adjust.
Drink a glass of clean water every two hours to ease the transit of waste matter and to keep your whole body functioning smoothly.
Irritable bowel syndrome can deplete your intestines of friendly bacteria. Eat a cul- tured product such as live yogurt, keﬁr, or sauerkraut every day.
Food to Avoid
The ﬁrst step in treating IBS is to determine whether your problem is actually an allergy to food. See Food Allergies, and follow the elimination diet there. If you can
trace your symptoms to a particular food or foods, make it a priority to avoid those allergens. Keep a close eye on how dairy products affect you; lactose is often a trig- ger for IBS-like symptoms.
Wheat and sugar products are common offenders as well.
Saturated, hydrogenated, and partially hydrogenated fats disturb the intestines and are hard to digest. Stay away from red meat, butter, margarine, and fried foods.
Avoid mucus-forming foods that encourage toxins to accumulate. Foods that pro- mote mucus include all dairy products, fried and processed foods, reﬁned ﬂours, and chocolate.
Caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and tobacco all irritate the stomach lining, so elim- inate them from your diet. Many of these items also contribute to stress.
Although a high intake of ﬁber is a necessity, steer clear of wheat bran. It often trig- gers allergies in IBS sufferers, and because the ﬁber is insoluble, it can propel waste mat- ter through the intestines faster than is comfortable. Ground ﬂaxseeds are a better choice.
Avoid ice-cold drinks, which inhibit digestion and may cause cramping.
Recent research shows that many people with IBS are sensitive to the sweetener fructose. It should be avoided or limited in the diet.
A vegetable juice fast lasting three days is a good way to eliminate toxins that have built up as a result of improper bowel functioning; do this fast once a month for three consecutive months.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Super Prescription #1 Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita)
Take 1 to 2 enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules twice daily between meals. This herb reduces gas and cramping, and studies show that it is effective for IBS.
Super Prescription #2 Gentian root (Gentiana lutea)
This improves overall digestive function. Take 300 mg or 10 to 20 drops ﬁve to ﬁf- teen minutes before meals. It works well as part of a “bitters” herbal formula.
Super Prescription #3 Digestive enzymes
Take 1 to 2 capsules of a full-spectrum enzyme product with each meal. Enzymes help you to digest food more efﬁciently.
Super Prescription #4 Probiotic
Take a product containing at least 4 billion active organisms daily. Friendly bac- teria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and biﬁdus are involved with digestion and prevent the overgrowth of candida and other harmful microbes.
Super Prescription #5 Ginger root (Zingiber ofﬁcinale)
Drink 1 cup of fresh tea or take 500 mg of the capsule form with each meal. Ginger reduces gas, bloating, and diarrhea and improves the functioning of the stomach.
Super Prescription #6 Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriﬂora)
Take 250 mg or 2 ml with each meal. It relaxes the nervous system and promotes digestion.
Super Prescription #7 Aloe vera juice
Drink 1⁄4 cup twice daily or as directed on the container. Aloe is very soothing and healing to the digestive tract, and it ﬁghts intestinal infection.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a hallowed remedy for digestive troubles. Take pep- permint tea after meals, instead of having dessert. Use it with caution if you have acid reﬂux.
A toxic liver can aggravate IBS, and IBS can put additional stress on the liver. Sup- port yours with detoxifying milk thistle (Silybum marianum). For the best effect, you’ll need to take this herb on a continuing basis. Take 250 mg daily of a product standard- ized for 80 to 85 percent silymarin content. Take it with each meal.
Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) and pau d’arco (Tabebuia avellanedae) are both traditional soothers of an irritated bowel. Take 800 to 1,000 mg of slippery elm three or four times daily, or use 5 cc of a tincture three times daily. The dosage for pau d’arco is 100 mg of the powdered bark or 0.5 to 1.0 cc of a tincture three times a day.
Betaine hydrochloride supports stomach acid levels for better digestion. Take 1 to
2 capsules with each meal.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C,
12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Con- sultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Argentum Nitricum is for bloating, gas, and diarrhea accompanied by anxiety and nervousness. Digestive upset comes on after eating sweets.
Arsenicum Album is for burning pains and diarrhea accompanied by great restless- ness and anxiety. The person tends to be chilly and prefers sipping warm drinks. Symptoms are often worse from midnight to 2 A.M.
Colocynthis is a good remedy when one has constriction and cutting pains in the abdomen. Symptoms often come on after eating fruit or during diarrhea. Bending over, heat, and pressure make the symptoms better. Symptoms may come on after sup- pressed anger.
Lycopodium (Lycopodium clavatum) is the remedy when there are bloating, dis- tension, and gurgling noises with abdominal pain. Symptoms are typically worse between 4 and 8 P.M. The person has a strong craving for sweets and feels better from warm drinks. The person has low self-conﬁdence and is irritable.
Magnesia Phosphorica is for abdominal cramping and spasms that are better from warm drinks and warm applications to the abdomen.
Natrum Carbonicum is for people with multiple food allergies, who experience indigestion and heartburn. They crave milk, potatoes, and sweets but experience irri- table bowels when ingesting them. They desire to be left alone.
Nux Vomica is helpful for people with abdominal pains and bowel problems caused by stress and a poor diet. Constipation is common, and they feel as if they never com- plete a bowel movement. Spasms may occur in their digestive tracts. Symptoms are worse from anger or excitement. They have a strong craving for spicy foods, alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and other stimulants, which worsen the digestive symptoms.
Sulphur is a good choice for people who experience diarrhea that wakes them up early in the morning to rush to the bathroom. Diarrhea may occur frequently through- out the day, although constipation can be present as well. Often, the gas has a foul smell like rotten eggs. The rectum is often irritated, itchy, and burning. There is a crav- ing for sweets, spicy foods, and alcohol.
See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.
• The point of choice for relieving abdominal pain is Conception Vessel 12; this point can also prevent indigestion when used before a meal.
• Conception Vessel 6 soothes abdominal pain, constipation, and gas.
• Pericardium 6 has a calming effect and soothes an upset stomach.
• Large Intestine 11 relaxes the colon if you are constipated.
• Stomach 36 is an overall toner and strengthens the digestive system in
Some self-massage techniques are helpful for stimulating digestion and relaxing cramps.
Use your ﬁnger to massage your tongue and gums in the morning. This technique prepares the upper part of your digestive tract for the work of the day.
At night, or whenever you feel IBS pain or cramps, massage your abdomen. Lie down in bed, with your knees bent, and gently examine the area for regions of ten- sion. When you ﬁnd those regions, massage them with the ﬂat of your hand, using ﬁrm but gentle pressure.
See pages 686–687 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
For diarrhea, work the areas that correspond to the liver, the ascending colon, the transverse colon, and the adrenal glands.
If you are constipated, massage the areas corresponding to the liver, the gall blad- der, the colon, and the adrenal glands.
For ﬂatulence, work the areas corresponding to the intestines, the liver, and the sig- moid colon.
Work the solar plexus to reduce tension.
Neroli, chamomile, and lavender will relax abdominal cramping and reduce pain. You can use them separately or together in a warm bath or a hot compress. You might also like to add one or more to a carrier oil to use in an abdominal self-massage.
Black pepper can relieve constipation and improve a sluggish digestion. Use it on a hot compress applied directly to the abdomen.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Any antistress technique can help, but positive mental imagery and deep breathing are particularly beneﬁcial. It is helpful to work with a counselor who teaches stress- reduction techniques.
People with severe anxiety should consider EEG biofeedback, which will teach them how to control their brainwaves and relax their nervous system.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the appropriate remedy, and place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Rescue Remedy is a reliable way to ease the effects of a crisis, whether physical or emotional. You can use it when you feel a strong attack of IBS coming on or dur- ing a period of emotional stress that you fear may result in an IBS episode.
Irritable bowel syndrome has been linked to perfectionist personalities who need to have a great deal of control. If this description suits you, try Beech to help balance these qualities.
If you are highly sensitive and inhibited, and if you suffer from a great degree of stress, Agrimony will help.
• When your intestines feel tight and cramped, lie down with a heating pad or a warm compress against your abdomen.
• Constitutional hydrotherapy is effective for reducing abdominal pain and
bloating. You can do a treatment for acute symptoms, and regular treatments
are effective for improving overall digestive function.