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Irritable Bowel Sysndrome

By
Lynne Brown
BSc Hons, HDE, Dip Clin Nutr

This syndrome, also known as spastic colon or nervous colon syndrome, is the most common digestive disorder seen by health practitioners. There is no clinical test that can confirm the disease, however classic symptoms of IBS are abdominal cramping and pain, bloating, excessive gas, constipation alternating with diarrhoea, mucous in stools, nausea, anxiety and depression. If you have any or all of these symptoms continually for more than three months, you could be a victim of IBS.

Causes

The exact cause is unknown and is probably due to several factors acting together, but in all sufferers the end result is a functional disorder in the muscles of the intestinal tract. The following are some of the suggested causes: a poor diet with too little fibre, poor digestion, various food intolerances, allergies or sensitivities, stress and anxiety, parasites, certain drugs and bad lifestyle.

Treatment

IBS is a problem that can be very embarrassing and debilitating but don’t suffer in silence. Natural medicine offers many possible solutions. Fortunately IBS is a condition which responds well to nutritional therapy and in many cases may be treated successfully at home. Try the following principles for at least a month and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Fibre and water

By gradually increasing dietary fibre you can overcome many of the symptoms of IBS. You need 30 to 40 grams of fibre every day. Should your present diet be lacking in fibre it is important that you increase your daily intake gradually to allow your intestines to adjust. Otherwise bloating and excessive gas may occur. (Sipping a drink of one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water while eating may help to alleviate these temporary but unpleasant side effects).   Raw fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of fibre, as are whole grains and beans.

As you increase fibre intake you need to drink plenty of fresh, clean (preferably home-distilled) water every day. You need 30 ml of water for every kilogram of your weight – so someone weighing 60 kg requires 1.8 litres water daily.

Foods to avoid

For this month at least avoid suspected food allergens such as dairy products and wheat. Some IBS sufferers are intolerant to lactose, the sugar found in milk and others to gluten found in wheat.

Limit, for a while, your intake of sulphur-rich foods such as eggs, dried fruit and onions as they may cause gas and bloating.

Avoid sugar altogether in every form except fresh fruit. Fructose, the sweetener which is extracted from fruit and used in most soft drinks can be a problem for some sufferers of IBS. It is very concentrated in pure fruit juices so rather eat whole fruit. Use only xylitol or stevia as sweeteners. 

Limit or avoid tea, coffee, alcohol and cigarettes.
Citrus fruits, tomatoes and spicy foods are intestinal irritants and may need to be avoided during this trial period.

Avoid animal fats especially in cases of diarrhoea.
Avoid all refined and processed foods, especially those containing artificial colourants, preservatives or flavourings.

In other words – go natural! Eat simple meals and chew your food thoroughly and do not eat with people who make you feel emotionally disturbed.

Supplements

For most people it is difficult to eat enough dietary fibre in a day and supplementing with a good natural fibre supplement containing psyllium and soothing herbs, such as AIM’s Herbal Fibre Blend, is usually necessary. This will have both a cleansing and healing effect. But please avoid digestive bran as it is controversial in the treatment of IBS and may cause or aggravate inflammation. Also avoid laxatives as they are not only habit-forming but also destructive to the membrane of the colon and, ironically, may even be the cause of many cases of spastic colon.

Second choice would be a course of probiotics to restore bacterial balance and improve the general health of your digestive tract.

Pharmaceutical grade Omega-3 fish oil capsules will deal with the inflammation of the digestive tract which is likely to occur if you are an IBS sufferer.

Digestive enzymes will aid digestion, help you deal better with foods such as dairy products to which you may be intolerant and prevent ‘leaky gut syndrome’.
Rule out the possibility of a parasite infestation by doing a parasite cleanse with a good herbal supplement designed for this purpose. Repeat every 6 months.

A general natural whole food multivitamin and mineral supplement such as Garden of Life’s Perfect Food is needed to replenish nutrients that are being lost due to poor digestion. Vitamin B-complex and C are especially important for a healthy nervous system.

Disclaimer: All information here is for educational purposes only and is not meant to cure, heal, diagnose nor treat. This information must not be used as a replacement for medical advice, nor can the writer take any responsibility for anyone using the information instead of consulting a healthcare professional.  All serious disease needs a physician.

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