IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is an unpleasant dysfunction of the bowel with symptoms that vary from mild to chronic or even disabling. The diagnosis of IBS is often made in the absence of conclusive evidence for other more serious diseases of the bowel, such as Crohn’s or colitis. Other conditions, including parasites, candida, infectious diarrhea, and lactose intolerance, should be ruled out before a diagnosis of IBS is made.
The physical symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person and may include the following:
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- abdominal pain or spasm
- mucus in stool
- bowel urgency or incontinence
- sensation of bowel not emptying
Most IBS sufferers report that certain foods seem to trigger their symptoms, often within 15 minutes, and usually within 3 hours of eating a meal. Trigger foods can vary widely between individuals. Common culprits are wheat/gluten, foods with high-fat content, food additives, and milk (not just lactose). An “elimination” diet is used to discover a sufferer’s specific food triggers. In this diet, suspected foods are eliminated from meals one at a time, for a period of time, to see if symptoms decrease. Other common triggers for IBS are stress, anxiety, medications, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The cause of IBS is not fully understood, but it is known that IBS damages the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract if irritation is chronic. The mucosal lining is vital for digestive health, immunity, and even managing inflammation throughout the body. Cells in this mucosal lining are replaced by the body about two times weekly. Nutrients in the form of a supplement containing L-Glutamine and N-acetyl-Glucosamine (“NAG”) can aid in this rebuilding process.
The addition of digestive enzymes can help to ensure that food is properly digested, providing relief of some common IBS symptoms. Supplements of probiotics can address the imbalance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut which is frequently associated with IBS. For acute IBS attacks, certain types of herbs can work to relax the bowel, kill bad bacteria, reduce irritation or expel gas.
Lack of dietary fiber can contribute to IBS. Insoluble fiber works like a scrub brush in the intestine, removing old hardened material and toxins. Soluble fiber works like a sponge, soaking up excess water and toxins. Those whose main symptom is diarrhea do better when they supplement with soluble fiber. IBS sufferers with constipation, or a mixture of diarrhea and constipation, benefit from a combination of both fibers.
Although IBS is a serious problem, it is not life-threatening and can be managed by diet and lifestyle changes along with natural supplementation. Take the following steps to manage IBS:
- Rule out underlying causes and treat them if they exist (e.g., candida, parasites)
- Determine your trigger foods and avoid them. Add digestive enzymes for support if needed
- Eat 5-6 smaller meals a day instead of 2-3 large meals
- Drink plenty of water
- Use natural supplements where needed: L-Glutamine & NAG, probiotics, herbs, fiber
And don’t forget to consult your colon hydrotherapy for details and advice on the treatment of IBS symptoms.