Strategies For Managing IBS

Sunday, November 02, 2008 by: Richard Stossel
Tags: IBS, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that sometimes causes significant discomfort even though it is not a serious health threat. It is a disturbance of the bowels with symptoms of abdominal pain or discomfort featuring a change in bowel habit - chronic diarrhea or constipation or alteration between the two. Nearly everyone suffers from occasional bowel problems; however, to be diagnosed with IBS, the symptoms will be more severe or occur chronically.

IBS Symptoms

Typical IBS symptoms include abdominal bloating and soreness, gas, and alternating diarrhea and constipation. IBS patients are more likely than others to have backaches, fatigue, and several other seemingly unrelated problems. The cause of IBS remains unknown.

There is no blood or medical tests for IBS. The criteria for diagnosis are based on the set of symptoms. Western medicine uses the "Rome III Diagnostic Criteria" to determine if the symptoms fit and thereby used to determine if you have IBS or not.

IBS Statistics

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can affect both men and women; however there is predominance in women. 10-20% of the world's population has symptoms associated with IBS. Mild symptoms affect about 70% of people diagnosed with IBS. Moderate symptoms affect about 25% of people diagnosed. 5% of the people diagnosed report severe symptoms.

It stems from a number of causes, the main ones being diet and stress. Although some say that IBS is caused by abnormal function of the nerves and muscles in the bowel and that stress is not a factor. Stress is known to affect the nervous system so this makes little sense when compared to the number of people who report stress as either a trigger of their IBS or who report an increase in symptoms coinciding with an increase in stress.

It's often the stress which pushes the digestive system over the edge thus causing incomplete digestion and irritation of the bowels when certain foods are consumed, thus leading to the external manifestation of IBS symptoms.

In Chinese medicine, stress is known to be a major factor in nearly all digestive disorders of one kind or another. That's because the spleen and stomach are a strongly linked organ pair in traditional Chinese medical theory. The spleen feeds the energy that it extracts from food, the bio-energy that is, directly to the brain.

Since the brain gets a lot of its energy for thinking from the food via the spleen, the reverse is also true. So too much thought or worry, which often aggravates or causes stress, will in turn weaken the spleen and stomach chi and thus decrease the strength and functioning of these organs.

If your immune defenses are not solid and strong, all it takes is one serious bout of illness or stress of a physical or emotional nature to push the bodies energy limits to low enough levels to cause a serious imbalance and deficiency of chi. This can lead to long term symptoms which can be very difficult to recover from. This is why keeping the body strong and the mind calm are so strongly emphasized in Chinese medicine which has a strong focus on preventative care.

If you are currently suffering from IBS, here are a number of techniques and strategies that are known to greatly alleviate both long and short term symptoms;

Herbs: Chamomile, Comfrey, Evening Primrose Oil (for premenstrual IBS), St. John's Wort, Lemon Balm, Marshmallow, Fennel, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Turmeric, All spice, Slippery Elm, Digestive Food Enzymes,

Chamomile acts as a carminative as well as soothing and toning agent for the digestive tract. Chamomile's essential oils have also helped to ease intestinal cramping and irritation in animals.
Chamomile is typically taken three times per day, between meals, in a tea form by dissolving 23 grams of powdered chamomile or by adding 35 ml of herbal extract tincture to hot water.

Comfrey has a long, consistent history of use as a topical agent for improving healing of wounds, skin ulcers, thrombophlebitis, strains, and sprains.42 43 It was also used for persons with gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach ulcers and inflammatory bowel syndrome, and for lung problems.
Some people with IBS may benefit from bulk-forming laxatives. Psyllium seeds (3.25 g taken three times per day) have helped regulate normal bowel activity in some people with IBS. Psyllium has improved some symptoms of IBS in double blind trials.

A combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, and two other carminative (gas relieving) herbs, fennel seeds and wormwood, was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints, including IBS, according to another double blind study.

Acacia: has high fiber content and is often reported to ease bowel irritability.

Fruits: such as papaya, bananas, mango, pineapple, strawberries and blueberries.

Vegetables: which include sweet potatoes, pumpkin and carrots.

Vitamins:such as a good whole food multivitamin, stress B complex, vitamins C, D (Sunlight or fish oils, not dairy) and vitamin E. Whole food vitamins with green food complexes in them may irritate people with certain type of IBS.

Beware of some prescription medications for IBS as a few have been recalled due to toxic ingredients. Ingredients in some over the counter cold medicines have also been shown to aggravate IBS sufferers. Zinc drops are said to be a great alternative during a cold since they don't irritate the stomach and have immune boosting effects.

Foods to Avoid: Dairy, eggs (particularly yolk-due to high fat content), bagels, broccoli, corn, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, apples (due to high fructose content), beans, chocolate (because of the caffeine), coffee, caffeinated teas.

Goats milk over cows milk also offer relief for many with IBS. Vegan desserts (no milk or eggs) are said to be better tolerated by some IBS patients. Olive oil and organic coconut oil often have soothing and calming effects on the digestive tract.

During a flare up the following foods may help;
    Plain Chicken/vegetable broth with a few cloves of all spice-you can add (non egg) noodles or chicken.
    Carrot Juice
    White rice
    Plain mashed potatoes

Once a week fasting to give the stomach, digestive and elimination systems a rest is also shown to be effective. This is a healthy activity that IBS and non IBS suffers should do on a weekly basis.

Other alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture and acupressure (acupuncture with your fingers) breathing exercises and massage are all said to help tremendously by various sufferers of IBS. This also includes regular moderate exercise which helps one to de-stress and strengthens the nervous and digestive systems.

Chi-gung, meditation and breathing exercises and herbs including as much raw foods as you can tolerate are the best overall methods to boost immune activity. This not only relieves the symptoms but the root cause of disease which is nearly always a lack of true bio-energy or blocked energy flow. Stress and poor quality foods are known to be major factors in decreasing and blocking bio-energy flow.

For your individual case you'll likely have to keep a food diary and keep track of those foods that are your personal triggers and which foods help alleviate symptoms. After that it's a matter of reading labels and avoiding those foods while also taking other measures to boost the immune system and chi stores to help regain the organ/energy balance of all the organs. Once this re-balancing occurs, symptoms simply disappear. While this may not make sense to a western mindset, it's been observed to be true for thousands of years in eastern medical traditions.

About the author

Richard is a network engineer and longtime practitioner of Chinese martial arts, medicine and chi-gung for over twenty six years. Having learned many Chinese health and healing arts from old world gung-fu and healing masters and practitioners, he has helped many people to overcome their health issues and achieve their fitness goals. Through diligent study and experience he has taken this knowledge even further over the years including reading scores of books on Chinese medicine, health, chi theory, science, physics, nutrition, supplements, meditation, martial arts, and many other subjects. Utilizing the web, health and fitness videos, newsletters, articles, teachings and lectures, Rich is passionate about spreading the true knowledge of health, healing, fitness and spiritual truths. I'm proud to be writing articles for NaturalNews.com You can read many articles, hear audio interviews, and learn more about the highly praised Chinese Health and Fitness video by visiting Chinese Health and Fitness.com

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