We’ve all heard of Irritable Bowl Syndrome (aka IBS), and chances are we’ve either experienced it first hand or know someone who has.
Technically speaking, IBS is defined as a functional motility disorder that is associated with bacterial overgrowth and visceral hypersensitivity. Food intolerances are not typically the cause, however increasing evidence confirms food intolerances can exacerbate the symptoms. If you have IBS, you probably suffer from symptoms such as:
• Abdominal pain and cramping
• Bloating and distention
• Constipation and diarrhoea, or alternating between the two
• Flatulence and gas
• Anxiety, depression or ‘foggy head’
Although traditionally thought of as only a gastrointestinal problem, we now know that IBS can have an effect on mental health. Most of our serotonin receptors (serotonin being a neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy) are located in the gut. Therefore, through this gut-brain connection, we are finding that an unhappy gut is usually associated with an unhappy mind – enter anxiety, depression irritability etc.
As a holistic practitioner, I believe that there isn’t a one fix wonder, and everyone should be treated as an individual according to their symptoms, genetics, diet and lifestyle. However, time and time again I’ve found that there are a few foundational treatments that can help relieve IBS symptoms fast!
- Herbal medicine – Herbs are great because a single formula from a naturopath can treat a multitude of symptoms. Carminative herbs such as Chamomile, Dill, Lemon Balm and Ginger sooth and reduce pain and flatulance in the bowel. Herbs such as St. Mary’s Thistle and Rosemary will help digestion via the liver pathways. Withania and Lavender are just two of the many herbs that can help calm the nervous system and increase mood. Furthermore, there are herbs such as Golden Seal and Thyme, which can modify bowl flora, helping to balance desirable bacterial species. Western Herbal Medicine is tightly regulated and evidenced based, so as long as you are consulting a Naturopath, any contraindications with conditions you have and medicines you’re taking, can be avoided.
- Yoga – The movement in yoga not only helps a sluggish digestive system, but also helps to move the nervous system out of a sympathetic dominance, into para-sympathetic mode (aka ‘rest and digest’). By soothing the nervous system and calming the mind, the body will be in a much better state to focus on digestion.
- Pure water – Ditch the soft drinks and squash for water. Simple, but oh so helpful! Aim to drink 2L of water per day (even better if it’s filtered water). It will not only aid digestion but also bring ease to all of your body systems.
If these suggestions don’t help to relieve your IBS symptoms, be sure to see your GP for further investigations. Also consider seeking advice from a Naturopath (nutritionist and herbalist) for individualised dietary and lifestyle advice as well as nutritional and herbal supplementation.