Irritable bowel is a very common complaint that my clients come for advice on, many have been clinically diagnosed with the condition but many also have the symptoms that represent an irritable bowel. IBS is a very common disorder affecting one-in-five Australians and is more common in women than men. The condition can develop at any age, but most people first experience symptoms between the ages of 15 to 40.
The cause of IBS is very unclear and there are no blood tests or diagnostic tests for IBS, and because of this - the diagnosis of IBS is made on a symptom base criteria and after exclusion and absence of other GIT pathology. From a naturopathic view point the list below offers some possible contributing factors and what I call triggers
Inflammation in the gut lining, often due to poor diet, infection and dysbiosis
Lack of certain key nutrients, again due to poor diet, but also poor absorption of you nutrients due to impaired digestion and GIT inflammation.
Food sensitivities and intolerances, definitely have a key role in IBS
Food allergies such as dairy and gluten are common
Lack of healthy gut flora or dysbiosis is a major contributing factor.
The overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria as well as a history of acute gut infections.
Episodes of acute stress, and also long term low grade stress have also been associated with IBS.
As I mentioned earlier the cause of IBS is largely unknown and according to research there is no relation to any disease process, and IBS itself does not lead to other diseases. IBS is however an often uncomfortable condition and annoying in its mild presentation, but for many people it is very debilitating and greatly affect their sense of wellbeing. Recognising your symptoms and identifying your triggers is essential for managing and even preventing the symptoms.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF IBS?
Your symptoms are generally related to your large intestine either contracting too fast or too slow and this irregular pattern will cause a number of symptoms which will be different for everyone.
The following is a list of the most common symptoms
Cramping pain in your lower abdomen
Bloating and gas/flatulence
Changes in your bowel habits
Diarrhoea or constipation, or both alternately
Immediate need to move your bowels when you wake up or during or after meals
Relief of pain after bowel movements
Feeling of incomplete emptying after bowel movements
Mucus in your stool
WHAT ARE THE NATURAL TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR IBS?
If you have received a medical diagnosis of irritable bowel by your medical Doctor, you will have had several tests and x-rays and maybe even a colonoscopy in an attempt to diagnosis other pathology, all usually coming back normal. If on the other hand, you suspect you may have IBS based on your symptoms and seek advice from your Doctor. You may be told by your Doctor in both situations you are generally told that there is very little that can be done. They may suggest you see a dietitian and commence on the FODMAPs diet which may or may not help and that it is something that you will have to live with.
This is a very frustrating and often devastating thing to be told. Natural therapies have a lot to offer people who present with symptoms of IBS because our approach is not just symptomatic but we identify your contributing triggers and then treat the cause. I have had a lot of success in treating IBS, and every client is different, for some it may be poor diet, or identifying food intolerances, for others it is a recent bowel infection that they may have contracted by travelling and now have developed dysbiosis and inflammation. It may be high stress levels that have impacted on the nerve tissues of the bowel lining causing it to be irritable or it is often a combination of many factors.
It's interesting to note that in regards to foods being a major contributing factor to IBS, and in my experience there is definitely a strong link with food and the FODMAPS diet has helped many people. However not everyone is cured of their IBS by simply changing their diet, so if you have tried this diet and you still have symptoms then you will most definitely have other issues that that your doctor has not identified and this is where natural therapies such as naturopathy can make a big difference.
WHAT CAN I DO FOR MY IBS
There a few tips that you can follow which may help with your symptoms as well as reduce your possible chance of developing IBS.
Eating regular meals
Drinking enough water
Avoiding processed foods
Increasing dietary fibre, especially if constipation is a problem.
Avoiding gas-producing foods such as beans.
Eating less foods with lactose if lactose intolerant.
Reducing your total wheat intake as wheat is very inflammatory to the gut.
Avoiding artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and aspartame.
A good quality probiotic can make a big difference.
Regular exercise to help regulate bowel movement , and also reduce your stress.
Managing stress levels if this is a factor for you
Symptom-relieving herbal medicines can be effective but I would advise professional advice to ensure that it is suitable for you.
It is advisable to talk to your health care professional before changing any routines, diets or supplements to treat irritable bowel syndrome. If you have any questions regarding the various treatments of IBS, or if you are seeking assistance in managing your symptoms of IBS, please contact the team at Naturally Dynamic Health on (02) 6021 0557. Be sure to also check out our digestive health specials for the month on May.