Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms, Causes And Natural Treatments
By Dr. Len Saputo, MD (Functional Medicine), Dr. Michael Chung (Naturopathic Medicine) - February 07, 2019
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS?
IBS is a chronic condition and a frequent disorder which affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. A small number of individuals with IBS have severe signs and symptoms.
Some people can manage their condition by modifying their lifestyle, diet and stress management. IBS does not cause changes in bowel tissue or raise your risk of colorectal cancer.
The human cell is analogous to a complex industrial plant in that it cannot operate properly without adequate raw materials, with malfunctioning metabolic machinery, or in the presence of too many toxic interfering compounds. Indeed, it is critical that our cells receive perfect nutrition, but this benefit cannot be realized if the nutrition consumed is not delivered to the cellular level.
The gastrointestinal tract has three primary physiological functions: digestion of food, absorption of nutrients into the body, and keeping toxins out of the body. Failure of any of these functions will lead to defective energy production, increased energy needs, and wasting of the body’s reserves that serve as a buffer against the development of the disease.
That nutrition is important in maintaining good health has been known for thousands of years. However, the role of the gastrointestinal tract as the site of origin and/or exacerbation of many diseases is a relatively new concept. Elie Metchnikoff, about 100 years ago, conceived the notion that the development of many illnesses originated from a “toxic bowel.” In his eagerness to cure, he went a little overboard and began to recommend a colectomy as a treatment for many of his patients. Needless to say, this had very limited success, and his cure, as well as his concept, rapidly fell into disrepute. Nonetheless, Metchnikoff’s concept stands as a major contribution in medical history.
Over the past 30 years, there has been a renewed interest in the metabolic consequences that can result from disordered intestinal ecology (dysbiosis) and from increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome). These two concepts have revolutionized the way that we can look at the normal function and malfunction of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as the interconnectedness of these concepts to many disease states.
IBD vs IBS - Are they the same?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as UC and CD (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), differs from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The precise cause of IBD is unknown, however, IBD is the end result of a defective immune system. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term for two conditions (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) that are characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.1Prolonged inflammation leads to damage to the GI tract. Contrary to IBD, IBS does not cause inflammation, ulcers or other harm to the bowel. Some common symptoms are persistent nausea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding/bloody stools, weight loss, and tiredness
Symptoms of IBS may include crampy pain, gas, bloating, mucus in the stool, diarrhea and constipation.
What are symptoms of IBS?
The signs and symptoms of IBS vary. The most common include:
• Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating that is usually relieved or partly alleviated by passing a bowel motion
• Excess gas
• Diarrhea or constipation -- occasionally alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
• Mucus in the stool
There are times when many people with IBS feel the signs and symptoms are worse and other times when they feel the signs improve or even disappear completely.
IBS though affect people of all ages and both the sexes; it is more common in young people; usually in late adolescence or early adulthood. The condition is almost two to three times common in females as compared to males.
Almost everything about IBS is totally dependent on the individual patient. For some, IBS may arise during times of stress or crisis, and then subside once the stressful event has passed. For others, IBS strikes seemingly randomly and without warning and never completely goes away. The duration of IBS is different for everybody. The symptoms may wax and wane, being particularly severe at some times and absent at others. To sum up, this is a chronic relapsing condition.
What causes IBS?
The exact cause of IBS is not known. Factors which seem to play a role include:
• Muscle contractions in the gut. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle which contract because they move food through your digestive tract. Contractions which are more powerful and last longer than ordinary can lead to bloating, gas and diarrhea. Irregular intestinal contractions can impede food passing and contribute to hard, dry stools.
• Nervous system. Abnormalities from the nerves on your digestive tract might permit you to experience larger than ordinary discomfort as soon as your abdomen stretches out of feces or gas. Poorly coordinated signals between the mind and the intestines may cause the human body to overreact to changes that normally occur in the digestive process, leading to pain, constipation or diarrhea.
• Inflammation from the intestines. Many people with IBS have an elevated variety of immune-system cells within their intestines. This immune-system reaction is related to pain and nausea.
• Acute infection. IBS can grow following a serious bout of diarrhea (gastroenteritis) caused by bacteria or a virus. IBS may also be correlated with an excess of bacteria in the intestines (bacterial vaginosis ).
• Changes in bacteria in the intestine (microflora). Microflora would be the"good" bacteria which live in the intestines and play an integral role in wellness. Research suggests that microflora in people with IBS may differ from microflora in healthy men and women.
What are the triggers for IBS?
Symptoms of IBS could be triggered by:
• Food. The part of food allergy or intolerance in IBS is not fully known. A true food allergy infrequently causes IBS. But many individuals have worse IBS symptoms when they drink or eat certain foods or drinks, such as wheat, milk products, citrus fruits, legumes, cabbage, milk and carbonated beverages.
• Stress. Many with IBS experience worse or more common symptoms and signs during periods of increased anxiety. But while stress can worsen symptoms, it does not cause them.
• Hormones. Girls are twice as likely to have IBS, that may indicate that hormonal changes play a part. Many women discover that symptoms get worse through or about their menstrual periods.
What are the risk factors of IBS?
Many individuals have occasional symptoms and signs of IBS. But you are more likely to have the syndrome for those who:
• Are young. IBS occurs more often in people under age 50.
• Are female. In US, IBS is more common among girls. Estrogen treatment before or after menopause is an additional risk factor for IBS.
• Have a family history of IBS. Genes or other shared environmental parameters may play a role, or a combination of genes and environment.
• Have a mental health issue. Stress, depression and other mental health problems are related to IBS. A history of sexual, physical or psychological abuse also could be a risk element.
Chronic diarrhea or constipation can cause hemorrhoids.
Additionally, IBS is associated with:
• Poor quality of life. Lots of people with moderate to severe IBS report poor quality of life. Research indicates that individuals with IBS miss three times as many days from work as do people without bowel symptoms.
• Mood disorders. Experiencing the signs and symptoms of IBS can cause depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety can also make IBS worse.
How can you prevent IBS?
Stress can have profound effects on the psycho neuro endocrine-immune systems of the gastrointestinal tract that can lead to lowered host defenses. In addition, the completeness of the digestive process is related to the time it takes food to pass through the intestinal tract (transit time), and this can be substantially altered by the neuroendocrine effects of stress. These factors enable opportunistic microorganisms to shift the ecological balance of the intestinal tract.
Finding ways to manage stress can help prevent or alleviate symptoms of IBS. Consider trying:
• Counseling. A counselor can help you learn how to modify or alter your responses to pressure. Studies have shown that psychotherapy can offer significant and long-term reduction of symptoms.
• Biofeedback. Electrical detectors help you get information (feedback) in your body's functions. The feedback makes it possible to concentrate on making subtle adjustments, like relaxing certain muscles, to alleviate symptoms.
• Progressive relaxation exercises. These exercises help you relax muscles in our bodies, one by one. Begin by tightening the muscles in your toes, then focus on gradually letting all the tension go. Then tighten and relax your calves. Proceed until the muscles in your body, such as those in your eyes and scalp, are relaxed.
• Mindfulness training. This stress-reduction technique makes it possible to concentrate on being in the moment and letting go of worries and distractions.
Natural Treatments & Therapies for IBS
Treatment of IBS focuses on alleviating symptoms so you can live as normally as possible.
Mild signs and symptoms can frequently be controlled by managing stress and by making changes in your diet and lifestyle.
1) Diet Therapy
• Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms
• Eat high-fiber foods
• Drink plenty of fluids
Your doctor might suggest that you remove from your diet
- IBS Trigger Foods to Avoid:
- Conventional dairy -- Pasteurized dairy can be tough to digest and can create digestive symptoms worse.
- Gluten -- A gluten-free diet can help improve the symptoms of bowel disease. If you suspect gluten results in your symptoms, avoid all foods made with or containing wheat, barley and rye grains.
- Grains (if you cannot tolerate them) -- Any sort of grain will contain phytic acid and starch that may irritate the intestinal lining resulting in bowel difficulties.
- Sugar and refined flour -- Bacteria like to consume sugar and glucose reduces immune system functioning.
- Any Possible allergen -- Diarrhea can result from food allergies; common offenders include gluten, nuts, shellfish and dairy.
-- Spicy foods -- Hot and spicy foods can cause heartburn/acid reflux and IBS symptoms to become worse.
- Foods that cause gas -- Carbonated and alcoholic drinks, caffeine, raw berry, fruit and certain vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower may make gas worse.
- High-gas foods. If you experience bloating or gas, you could avoid items like alcoholic and carbonated beverages, caffeine, raw fruit, and certain vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
• FODMAPs. Some individuals are sensitive to particular carbohydrates like fructose, fructans, lactose and many others, called FODMAPs -- fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are found in certain vegetables, grains, fruits and dairy products. Your IBS symptoms may ease if you stick to a rigorous low-FODMAP diet and then reintroduce foods one at a time.
A dietitian can help you with these diet changes.
2. Exercise Therapy: Exercise regularly, and get enough sleep
3. Stress Management: Try yoga, meditation, and other relaxation methods
4. Ayurveda Treatment for IBS is usually tough to cure and it takes time. According to Ayurveda scholars and professionals, it's curable in kids, difficult to treat in middle age patients and incurable in elderly patients. The chronic kinds of IBS are extremely tricky to cure or even incurable.
Chikitsa (Remedy ) for Vata type involves reducing stress. All stress-reducing steps are useful: meditation, pranayama,, doing asanas, aromatherapy, gem therapy, color therapy and massage. Regular routines in everyday life are essential, like regular eating and sleeping, and avoiding stressful situations.
Besides stress management and diet, herbs are a part of therapy also. Digestive tonics such as chitrakadi vati and shankha vati are helpful for the removal of enterotoxins. That could be followed with the management of medicinal ghee prep like dashmuladi ghrita. Triphala is valuable as a long term formulation in the kind of shita kshaya. Nutmeg is beneficial for malabsorption, cramping and vata-type diarrhea. Carminatives, such as asofoetida and ginger are great in the event of distention and gas. Ashwaganda is beneficial as a nerving tonic and generally composed vata. Sesame oil may be used with meals or as massage oil or enema The stomach should be massaged 5 minutes. before soaking in warm water. Ginger, fennel, clove, cardamom will stimulate digestion, absorption and apparent ama in the digestive system.
5. Acupuncture for IBS: Investigators find acupuncture effective for the treatment of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). In a controlled study, Yiwu Central Hospital researchers conclude that acupuncture has a 90.7% total effective rate for IBS-D patients. Perhaps more importantly, acupuncture produces a 34.9% complete recovery rate. The complete recovery rate accounts for many patients showing significant improvements and the complete recovery rate is a quantitative measure of patients treated of IBS-D by acupuncture therapy.
If your problems are moderate or severe, your physician might suggest counseling --particularly if you have depression or if anxiety tends to worsen your symptoms.
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