IBS is essentially a diagnosis of exclusion. Meaning, that when you have a myriad of symptoms, it could be a number of different gastrointestinal conditions. After diagnostic labs and imaging have been done, and nothing pathological is found, your collection of symptoms are stamped Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. Within the conventional medical system, there is little to offer in terms of treatments, so many people are left feeling frustrated and unsure of what to do with their new diagnosis of IBS. People may go on to suffer with IBS for years with no relief.
Symptoms of IBS
The symptoms of IBS are varied, and the list can be quite lengthy. Some people have only a few symptoms at any one time, and others suffer with multiple symptoms, occurring all at once. Symptoms often wax and wane, and it can be difficult to determine what the cause(s) were for each and every exacerbation. Symptoms can include:
- Stuffed Sinuses
or difficult periods
Natural treatments for IBS
I have treated IBS in my practice countless times. Naturopathic medicine offers so many treatment options for IBS, which have a very high rate of success. With little to offer from conventional medicine system, naturopathic medicine offers a tremendous amount of treatment options for those willing to make the necessary changes for their health.
With most conditions, inflammation is both a contributor and cause. Treating chronic inflammation can be addressed to a great degree with food, or the elimination of certain foods. When it comes to IBS, diet is absolutely essential. The foods you eat can either be your greatest asset, or the greatest detriment to your health. With IBS, there are no particular foods that cause a problem for everyone. However, there are common allergenic, inflammatory foods, most notably wheat and dairy, that are most likely contributing. There are often many other, less common food allergens, which could also be contributing to the inflammation in the intestinal tract. In order to discover which foods are an issue, an elimination diet can be done, whereby all major allergenic foods are eliminated, and then slowly one by one, are brought back into the diet, and you monitor to see if you experience any return of symptoms. This can be difficult, as it requires a close examination of what your body's normal is. Generally, people suffering from IBS have had the symptoms for so long, that they haven't experienced what a 'normal' healthy body feels like in years. The other option is food sensitivity testing, which most people prefer, as it is black and white in terms of what foods are causing an issue for them. Then, just those specific foods can be eliminated, as opposed to a more generic overall elimination diet.
Beyond diet modification, certain aspects of the body need to be supported to return the body to its intended normalcy. Enterocytes are the cells that line the majority of the intestinal system. These cells are injured during the insult of IBS. Helping them heal can include L-glutamine, probiotics, demulcent herbs, digestive enzymes, and fish oil.
Liver support is also important, as IBS creates a leaky gut picture. Our intestinal tract is meant to have tight cell junctions, allowing only essential nutrients to be absorbed via carrier transport proteins. With a leaky gut, various larger particles are absorbed into the blood, creating inflammation, the liver must filter these foreign molecules. The liver sends these to the digestive tract to be eliminated via stool. Thus a perpetual feedback loop exists where the liver is filtering the same toxins repeatedly. Herbs are a great way to help the liver detoxify. Some herbs to consider include; burdock, dandelion, artichoke, and milk thistle.
Stress is a major contributor to IBS flare ups. Ways to combat stress include; a proper sleep schedule (bed by 10:30pm), regular eating habits, balancing blood sugar throughout the day, social activities, exercise, and meditation. You can also support your adrenals with vitamins (ie vitamin C), minerals (ie magnesium), and/or herbs (ie rhodiola, ashwagandha, avena sativa, ginseng, etc).
Who Can Help?
IBS can be a complex multifaceted condition, and treatments differ for everyone. Consistency wins the race. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor how IBS is best treated for you.
When you know better, you do better!