• Natalie Gibson

IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome and how it can be supported

IBS otherwise known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a functional bowel disorder characterised by abdominal cramping and altered bowel motions.

Signs and symptoms may include: urgency, incomplete evacuation of stools, abdominal bloating and passage of mucous.

Other signs and symptoms that may be experienced include: bloating, increased flatulence, nausea, fatigue and back pain. I meet too many clients who have been diagnosed and then sent off with no recommendations or treatment. Or the other batch of clients I see are the ones who are put on to a low FODMAP diet and sent away and they then stay on this diet for a long period of time up to years and years. The low FODMAP diet is a short term diet used to reduce symptoms and flare ups but is never intended to be a long term way of eating. Eating a low FODMAP diet long term can lead to nutritional deficiencies, further food intolerances and more problems in the future.

IBS is an incredibly frustrating condition and no 2 cases are ever the same. It is stated that there is no treatment for IBS however with every case being different, there are ways to support and manage symptoms and flare ups.

How is IBS treated and supported using naturopathy?

Symptom control and removing triggers is the key focus:

1. Addressing food allergens - many people who suffer with IBS complain that certain foods aggravate their symptoms. Identifying and temporarily removing those foods can assist in calming down symptoms. This is highly recommended to work with a practitioner to ensure no nutritional deficiencies and also to do this safely. During this period, there will be some supplements and herbs used to reduce reactivity for the digestive system so the foods can be reintroduced gradually when symptoms calm down. Our aim is to reintroduce as many foods as possible!

2. Looking at fibre in the diet - the addition of fibre can be supportive however for some individuals it can be irritating. Working with different fibre types and in specific quantities can be of assistance.

3. Ensure adequate hydration - hydration is necessary for healthy bowel motility. Water consumption helps with regulating bowel motions and ensuring there is no straining whilst passing a bowel motion.

4. Reducing inflammation of the digestive tract. Inflammation causes irritation to the digestive system and can cause irritation to the digestive tract. To reduce inflammation we can use herbs, diet and specific nutrients to calm the gut.

5. Addressing dysbiosis if present. Dysbiosis is an imbalance of the gut microbiome or gut bugs in our large intestine/colon, it could be that you do not have enough of the healthy bugs in your gut, or that the pathogenic bacteria are in excess. Regulating the microbiome can assist greatly in reducing symptoms and improve functioning of the digestive tract.

6. Using herbs to reduce symptoms present: decrease pain, decrease abdominal distention, flatulence, improve peristalsis, modulate transit time, and reduce any stress and anxiety that may be present. Herbs have the ability to go in and reduce symptoms by calming and reducing irritation within the digestive tract.

7. Address stress and other mental health concerns. Stress exacerbates digestive symptoms and we all know of the Gut-Brain axis, if our nervous system is stressed, then our digestive system will be experiencing forms of stress. And this works in the opposite direction also, what stresses the gut also causes a stress to the nervous system and can exacerbate mental health concerns.

8. Addressing other aspects of health can have a significant impact on your digestive health such as: sleep, exercise and mindfulness.

9. Look at potential causes. Even though IBS is a collection of symptoms there are particular causes that can cause symptoms identified as IBS, it may be a motility issue (things not moving through at the correct pace causing irritation, it could be SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth - gut bacteria that have migrated up into the small intestine) or it could be a previous infection that has caused dysbiosis or may still be causing problems today.

Every single case is different so there may be more of an emphasis on some factors rather than others. The symptoms you experience will dominate the way we support you but there are things we can do. 

Book a consult today if you are sick of letting your IBS symptoms control you. 

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