Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be a painful and perplexing condition as there
is no known anatomical cause.
It is differentiated from Irritable Bowel Disease which is a general term for a group of
diseases involving the gut-wall inflammation, which involve actual physical
changes associated with the gut-wall that can be noted on diagnostic laboratory tests.
These are generally divided into two major groups: Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
Crohn’s disease can be diagnosed accurately with a barium swallow and Ulcerative Colitis with a barium enema. Both of which would allow the observation of the characteristic inflammatory changes of the bowel wall.
IBD in general can cause a wide range of bowel symptoms as well as fatigue and arthritic symptoms. It can affect one’s lifestyle and mental state and be generally debilitating.
The condition tends to be worse when in situations that cause stress of any kind.
Generally IBS would be diagnosed if there have been the following symptoms for
at least three months or so on a continual basis.
1. Abdominal pain or discomfort relieved by
defecation and/or associated with a change in stool frequency or consistency as
– Altered bowel frequency (more than 3x daily or less than 3x daily)
– Altered stool consistency (lumpy/hard or loose/watery)
– Altered stool passage (straining/urgency/incomplete evacuation).
2. Passage of mucus.
3. Bloating or feeling of abdominal distension.
Although it is said that there is no known cause it has been noted that often there are
associated symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and often upper gastrointestinal
symptoms such as nausea.
Bronchial problems can also be present with excess mucus and/or excitability of the bronchi.
Treatment wise, look to the diet first.
It is always best to avoid foods that contain seeds, husks or other harsh roughage than can cause bowel irritation. This doesn’t mean avoid roughage altogether as there are many foods that contain smooth roughage. Slippery elm is one of these, also avocado and the flesh of an apple etc.
However be careful with fibrous foods as often sensitivity to the gluten in some can cause further problems.
Excess fats also can cause excessive provocation of symptoms in many people as can refined carbohydrates (white bread, biscuits, sweets, soft drinks etc).
Excess sugars in the diet not only increase bacterial fermentation
(gas/bloating) but also increase stool transit time (urgency).
In short avoid all excesses (sugars, fats, alcohol and refined products) and
eat fresh whole foods. Chew your food well and if you suspect sensitivity to
gluten then keep mainly to rice and corn based carbohydrates.
Probiotics will help address many of the symptoms by acting antagonistically towards the pathogenic bacteria that can cause intestinal inflammation.
Suitable probiotics to use would include various species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. More specifically L.Plantarum 299V has been shown to remarkably improve the IBS symptoms.
See page on Probiotics.
Products containing high quality Colostrum (often ‘Practitioner only’) will also greatly
improve the immune status of the bowel (and in turn the immune status of the
entire body) and this in turn will greatly reduce the number of food intolerances that often occur.
However improper digestive function is often the root cause that needs to be rectified.
Digestion starts in the mouth with the need for adequate chewing, then passes to the stomach that needs to be properly acidified, then on to the duodenum where more digestive enzymes and bile are added.
If any part of this process is incomplete or acid or enzyme levels low then
incomplete digestion will take place which then puts a huge stress onto the
(Note that the use of any anti-acid or similar drug will lower the acid level of the stomach.). The likely hood of food sensitivities will then rise, nutritional absorption will fall and the integrity of the gut bacteria will be compromised and toxic load will increase.
See page on ‘Heartburn/reflux’.
The use of food enzymes combined with the use of more raw foods and a lotmore chewing can greatly help the situation. This needs to be done at each meal.
See page on ‘Enzymes -facts’.
Also be sure to take Colloidal minerals daily. This is because mineral
absorption will be poor and for any healing to take place it needs to be
maintained constantly. Colloidal minerals are particularly well tolerated and
absorbed by most people.
See page on ‘Minerals – why we need to supplement’.
Small amounts of Spirulina in smoothies is also an excellent idea and adds proteins to the diet.
The constant lack of energy can often be aided by supplementing with
vitamin B12 and folic acid. These are often at low levels in people with
Irritable Bowel Syndrome because of poor absorption, poor bowel flora and in
some cases the use of drugs that deplete Folic acid levels.
If taking B12 orally be sure to take it on an empty stomach to get maximum absorption.
See page on ‘Vitamin B12’.
Next would is the use of herbal remedies.
Slippery elm powder is particularly important as it
soothes the colon and can help regulate the bowel motions. Marshmallow is
also very useful in this context. These should be used daily to help ensure
that the intestinal wall is as soothed and as protected as possible.
Licorice can have a wonderful anti-inflammatory effect on the intestinal wall, but if you use Licorice make sure you are using a deglycrrhizinated licorice as this has the steroid-like active removed making it safe for people with possible high blood pressure to use. This type of extract has been demonstrated to be very effective in reducing gastrointestinalinflammation.
Turmeric has also been found to be effective in helping the gastric mucosa to
regenerate. The active constituent is curcumin.
Small amounts of Aloe Vera juice can also help heal any
ulceration and all these herbs help keep the bowel moving freely.
Herbs such as Echinacea and Astragalus are very good anti-bacterials and are needed to promote a more normal immune system, but by far the best in this category would be Golden Seal which inhibits the growth of many disease causing organisms but should only be used for short periods of time.
Calming herbs are also often put to good use. Chamomile, especially, as it has a
great affinity for the bowel, often best combined with Marshmallow.
At times Kavakava can also help, especially where there is great anxiety, and with
some people Valerian is also very effective.
I have found that the bioflavonoid Quercetin is also a very good anti-inflammatory agent to use in cases of in cases of
Irritable Bowel Syndrome as it not only reduces inflammation but also greatly
reduces the effect of allergic reactions.
Extra essential fatty acids are also important,either as fish oils to supply extra Omega 3 and/or as Evening Primrose oil, which also aids anti-inflammatory action.
Go to On-line shop for any of the products mentioned above.
Researchers have found that people who take fish oil supplements are less likely to suffer relapses than those that do not.