irritable bowel syndrome

What Can You Do Naturally to Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Natural Remedies for IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, more commonly referred to as IBS, is a condition related to the digestive

system that prevents the body from processing food at a regular rate. There are three types of IBS;

constipation-predominant, diarrhea-predominant and alternating between the two. It’s unpleasant

at the best of times and can be wildly painful at the worst, but there are natural remedies and

things to avoid that can ease the pains and keep the symptoms at bay.

The symptoms pertaining to IBS are very widespread and not at all exclusive to the condition; they

can often be indicative of other medical issues or intolerances. The major symptom is abdominal

pain or cramping, often with a noticeable relief after passing wind or going to the bathroom to

‘complete the digestive cycle’. Abdominal bloating, nausea and the feeling that the bowels aren’t

properly emptied after going to the bathroom are all signs of IBS, as well as any noticeable mucus

present in the stools. These symptoms will usually first show at the stage of young adulthood;

beyond the age of 40, it’s likely that the onset of these sensations is symptomatic of something

else.

So what causes IBS? For such a varying condition, the exact underlying cause remains unknown,

but there are a variety of factors that tend to affect different individuals, often in combination;

Infection; up to 25% of IBS cases may be due to the cause of infection. Even after the virus or

bacteria is gone, about of a condition such as gastroenteritis can infect the bowels and disrupt

the balance of bacteria in the bowels or alter nerve functionality.

Intolerance; Intolerance to certain foods can trigger IBS, particularly foods high in lactose or

fructose, which occurs when the body fails to properly absorb these sugars. Lactose is highly

prevalent in dairy products, and fructose is commonly found in types of syrup. Sorbitol is another

sugar-alcohol that metabolizes slowly within the body and can cause intolerance.

Medication; certain types of medication can have a large impact on metabolism and the body’s

digestive process. Antibiotics and painkillers can quite often lead to constipation or diarrhea,

thereby triggering an IBS response.

Stress; stress, anxiety and other strong emotional-physical responses can sometimes lead to

malfunctions of the nerves in the bowels.

Diet; the general diet of the person in question can also be a major factor in IBS, although it is

quite often possible to narrow down the dietary issue to a more specific intolerance. Some tend

to find that high-fibre diets cause issues with constipation while changing to a low-fibre diet

eases the pain. Others find that particularly sugary or spicy foods loosen the bowels a little too

much. This is ultimately dependant on the individual.

Regardless of the potential causes or factors contributing to IBS, there are several natural ways to

remedy the symptoms and discomfort. Try these simple steps to ease the pains of IBS;

Diet Mapping

Since the symptoms and types of IBS are so varied from individual to individual, the best way to

identify the problem areas in your diet is to keep track of the foods you eat each day and the onset

of IBS symptoms that you experience. This might help you to notice a correlation between the

types of food you are eating, and potentially even suggest a particular intolerance as opposed to

generic IBS. After mapping your regular diet for a couple of weeks, try cutting out foods like apples,

onions, beans, milk, and mushrooms; these are examples of FODMAP foods (Fermentable

Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols); a group of carbohydrates that

produce gas and are often thought to contribute to IBS.

Tea

Certain types of herbal tea will relax the intestines and give you a noticeable decrease in the

abdominal pain brought on by IBS. The two best types to go for are peppermint tea and ginger tea.

If you’re opting for peppermint, be careful to ensure that you are getting the tea that contains real

peppermint, as opposed to simply flavoured black tea. Peppermint is known to reduce gas pain

and abdominal spasms. Ginger also works wonders on your digestive health and soothes IBS-

related pains. For top quality, grate some fresh ginger into your tea, or even into just a cup of

boiling water and leave it to infuse before straining. Alternatively, lemongrass and ginger tea is a

commonly available option in teabag form. Whichever one you choose to drink, aim for 4-6 cups

spread out throughout the day for optimum results.

Exercise

At least 30 minutes a day of exercise is important for your general health and wellbeing, but it also

encourages a healthy digestive system and can help with IBS. The tricky thing is if your

experiencing painful IBS symptoms, the last thing you want to do is get out there and hit the gym,

and often you’re feeling too weak to do so. Even just a 30 minute walk will make a difference, and

it’s much more manageable when experiencing symptoms. If symptoms temporarily subside, turn

that walk into a jog. You have to go at your own pace, but getting out and doing some non-

competitive exercise helps to relieve stress and releases endorphins with naturally painkilling

qualities.

Probiotics

Especially if you’re experiencing diarrhea-predominant IBS, probiotics should be a regular staple in

your diet. Diarrhea drains your body of fluids and the good bacteria in your gut that help balance

out the bad bacteria. Eating yogurt regularly is a great way to replace those good bacteria that

your body is missing, to help combat the bad and keep you feeling healthy. Natural yogurt

containing active bacteria such as acidophilus is the best way to go. There are also a lot of drinks on the market these days, kevita and also Kombucha that are full of probiotics and are a great drink to take daily.

Small Meals

Instead of the classic ‘three big meals a day’ spiel, try eating smaller meals more frequently

throughout the day. Ingesting too much food at once can overstimulate your digestive system,

making it difficult for the body to process all the food properly. Instead of scoffing down the entire

plate in 5 minutes, also pay attention to the way that you eat; not only does it allow you to actually

experience and enjoy your food, but eating slowly and chewing more prevents you from swallowing

so much air, which turns into intestinal gas and abdominal pain.

There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble, both of which are important depending on

which type of IBS you suffer from. Soluble fibre is great for diarrhoea-predominant IBS, as it helps

to soak up the liquids in the intestines. Oatmeal and fruits such as strawberries and grapefruit are

great sources of soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre helps with constipation-predominant IBS, as it helps

the stools to pass through the intestines at a faster rate. Leafy greens, wheat, bran and wholegrain

are the best sources of insoluble fibre. It’s important not to add too much fibre to your diet too

quickly, because if your body isn’t used to it then it can actually worsen the symptoms of gas and

bloating. Instead try to increase your intake gradually, so your body has time to get accustomed to

it. Drinking the standard 6-8 glasses of water a day is also vital, as it will help move the fibre

smoothly through your system.

 

There are other suggested (albeit unproven) methods for easing the symptoms of IBS, such as

acupuncture, aromatherapy of frankincense, oil supplements and digestive enzymes, but what it

really comes down to is diet and exercise. IBS affects everyone differently, and rather than further

complicating your system with chemical painkillers or an array of daily supplements, having an

effective understanding of your own body and experimenting with the ways in which changes in

diet and exercise can improve your own condition is the best way to manage IBS.

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