April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome month. Bet you didn’t know that. What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)? IBS is a common intestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. It is also known by the terms spastic colitis, mucus colits and /or nervous colon. Signs include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas and constipation or diarrhea. Pleasant huh? IBS causes discomfort and even pain, but most people that experience it will not have severe complications. The cause of IBS is not well understood and diagnosis for most folks is often made based on symptoms. There is no known cure for IBS and unfortunately this is chronic condition requires people to take a long term management route. The good news is, only a small number of people with IBS have severe signs/symptoms.
Certain foods can trigger IBS such as, friend/fatty foods, carbonated drinks, foods high in chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, fructose or fiber, just to name a few.
Most doctors treat IBS by recommending changes in diet and lifestyle with the addition of probiotics and sometimes medication.
If you suffer from IBS it is important to first of all take a look at your diet. What works for one person will not work for another. For instance it is possible that someone can help their IBS by increasing fiber intake while another person would need to decrease his/her fiber. No two people are alike in this regard. Some common things to stay away from are foods that cause flatulence (beans, celery, onions, carrots, raisins, bananas, pretzels, and bagels). Similarly, cutting down dairy generally works for most and reducing caffeine, and sugar helps most folks as well. Because everybody is different and diet is a key component, I recommend keeping a food diary and noting the foods that you eat that make your symptoms worse.
Some people also get relief via emotional therapy as it seems to be tied into ones emotional state. It has been shown that people who have had traumatic experiences are at higher risk for IBS.
There are some herbs that can help ease IBS and I think they are worth looking at!
- Slippery Elm Bark: This herb has a long history with Native Americans as a remedy for a multitude of conditions. Slippery Elm is great for IBS because it helps calm irritation by coating the lining of the intestinal system. One way to take this is to grind it up, add some honey and warm water and eat it out of a bowl.
- Peppermint Oil: This herb gets a seal of approval from the American College of Gastroenterology duet to its effectiveness in reducing abdominal pain. It has the ability to relax muscles in your stomach and can in turn reduce muscle spasms. Be careful with this one, as taking too much can cause nausea, vomiting, and a slowed heart rate! Be smart!
- Triphala is an herbal preparation made from the fruit of the Amalaki, Bibhataki, and Haritaki trees. It can help with constipation and bloating/pain.
- Chamomile is an anti-inflammatory and can help quiet spasms in the gut. You can take this in tea or capsule form.
- Berry Leaf teas (blueberry, raspberry) contain tannins which are anti-inflammatory and can help reduce inflammation and secretion of fluids in the intestines.
I have personally used Slippery Elm bark (mixed with honey and warm water). It was very soothing and did its job. You can get this from most good health food stores in the bulk herbs section or order it online. Get it in powedered form if you can otherwise you will be grinding down chunks of bark and that’s a tough job!
If you are suffering from IBS, you may want to give one or more of these ideas a try! If you currently are on medications, are pregnant or nursing, always consult your physician first before starting an herbal regimen.
Until next time, thanks for reading and remember, at Bucklebury we believe your best wealth is your health! Good day!