- Diarrhoea with or without abdominal pain
· Alternating diarrhoea and painful constipation
· Painful constipation only
IBS is associated with increased sensitivity to bloating of the stomach. This often worsens during the day resulting in flatulence, and sensitivity to tight clothing. IBS is often associated with stress and anxiety but may also be caused by intolerance to common foods such as wheat and dairy products.
Herbs offer many treatments for IBS. Conventional treatment is limited to pain relief or antispasmodic drugs which ignore the underlying cause. The aim of herbal medicine is to treat both the symptoms and the underlying cause. Patients often benefit from herbal treatment in combination with diet and life style changes.
The approach taken by a Medical Herbalist depends on each individual patient. Herbal medicine can bring the following benefits in treating IBS:
· Reducing diarrhoea and mucous production.
· Forming healthy stools
· Optimising digestive secretions to normalise bowel function
· Reducing flatulence
· Reducing painful spasms of the gut wall
· Reducing gut permeability by repairing the gut lining
· Improving the ability of the body to cope with stress.
Recommended diet and life style changes include:
· Probiotics to help maintain good gut flora
· Fermented food to promote a good gut flora. These include miso, sauerkraut and yogurt
· Excluding possible irritants from the diet such as wheat, dairy products, fizzy drinks and sugar
· A diet which removes the foods that can cause gas and bloating and promotes foods that are easy to digest.
· For those with constipation, increasing the intake of soluble fibre eg psyllium and drinking more water
· Regular exercise
· Reducing stress and including relaxation exercises through, say, yoga and meditation
IBS is a disorder of the gut wall with several symptoms: