Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most common functional disorders of the digestive system. It affects about 10 percent of the population and is more commonly seen in women; although anyone can be diagnosed with this condition.
It causes a variety of symptoms, including abdominal cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. The diagnosis of IBS is usually made only when no other cause for these symptoms can be found despite a thorough workup.
The problem of IBS flare-ups
A person with this syndrome may experience IBS flare-ups often related to certain foods or to stress. Needless to say, this condition is frustrating for the IBS sufferer and can be difficult to treat with the current medications available. Fortunately, there are some natural irritable bowel treatments that work for some people.
Here are some non-drug ways to help ease the symptoms of IBS:
Supplement your diet with good bacteria
Although still unproven, some studies show that probiotic bacteria help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. One particular species of probiotic called Bifidobacterium infantis has shown considerable promise for relieving the crampy abdominal pain and flatulence IBS sufferers frequently experience. Probiotics can be found naturally in foods such as yogurt with active cultures and fermented foods, but there are also probiotic supplements available which offer a more uniform quantity of bacteria. IBS sufferers can talk to their doctor about starting a probiotic supplement that contains Bifidibacterium infantis.
Omega-3s have shown promise in treating inflammatory diseases of the colon such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. And scientists have discovered, although not well-studied for IBS, that omega-3's anti-inflammatory properties may help relieve some of the symptoms of people with IBS experience. It's best not to take more than 2,000mg a day since higher doses can be associated with diarrhea.
*Remember to check with your healthcare provider before beginning an omega-3 supplement plan.
Live a stress-free lifestyle
Stress plays a big role in provoking the symptoms of IBS. Regular exercise helps reduce levels of hormones that can trigger IBS flare-ups. Hypnosis, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques are other natural ways to reduce stress levels and, consequently, relieve IBS symptoms.
Keep a food diary
Certain foods can trigger the symptoms of IBS, but this varies per individual. Wheat, fatty foods, milk, artificial sweeteners, simple sugars, and caffeine are examples of foods that can cause problems for people with IBS. The best way to find out which foods to avoid is to keep a food diary for at least three weeks. Record all the foods you eat, and take note of any symptoms you might feel after eating each food. Then avoid those that bring about IBS symptoms.
Psyllium is a soluble fibre—the same one found in over-the-counter Metamucil. One study showed that IBS sufferers who were supplemented with psyllium for three months experienced fewer symptoms. Thos who had constipation experienced the greatest improvement. This is a simple, natural treatment you can find at the drugstore.
Peppermint oil is a natural irritable bowel treatment that's shown promise in small research studies. Some studies show that acupuncture helps, although there isn't enough data to recommend this treatment at this point, at least for IBS. Another natural remedy that holds promise is the herb slippery elm, which helps reduce irritation of the digestive tract and prevents diarrhea.
The bottom line
There are natural irritable bowel remedies that may be helpful for those with IBS. But they're always best used under the care and supervision of a medical professional.
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