So, this month we have been discussing IBS, and as a sufferer myself I know how frustrating this can be. Over the years, through trial and error, I have learned how to control my symptoms through my diet, and managing my stress levels as this is a huge trigger for me, and one of the reasons why I became a therapist.
Is it widely estimated that 20-25% of people in the Western World suffer from IBS to some degree, and this is three times more likely to occur in women. IBS is a wide description, and there are two types of sufferers – 1) spastic colon-type IBS, where gripping pain is associated with alternating constipation and diarrhoea, and 2) Painless diarrhoea-type IBS, which occurs usually first thing in the morning, or after a meal. Both types have common symptoms such as bloating, wind, headaches, nausea, anxiety, cramps and depression.
It is suffered frequently by people who have a food intolerance, most commonly wheat, dairy, coffee, tea and citrus foods. Stress is also a big factor, as your digestion shuts down in times of extreme stress, meaning the digestive juices are not doing their job properly.
You could also consider if you have an imbalance of good to bad bacteria in the gut. Yeasts such as candida and bad bacteria can easily upset the delicate balance of the bowel and cause IBS. This balance can also be upset by insufficient fibre, too much alcohol, fatty foods, sugar and antibiotics.
Holistic ways to help reduce/eliminate IBS symptoms
As stress is a big factor, which can undermine your immune system, and weaken the digestive process, Hypnotherapy has been proven to help IBS sufferers eliminate many symptoms. Hypnosis can place you in a deeply relaxed state, promoting positive thoughts and coping strategies.
Stress management – stress is a powerful trigger, given the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, stimulates adrenaline, and upsets the contractions of the gut needed to digest meals properly. Interestingly, studies show a direct link between emotional stress and IBS flare ups. Yoga is highly effective for reducing stress related symptoms. It rests on three principles – breathing, exercise and mediation – joining the mind and body in a state of balance and harmony, and therefore reducing both mental and physical stress. Reflexology has also proven to be a great help for IBS sufferers, and has helped both myself and my clients a great deal over the years. And remember to get a good night’s sleep, as being tired can increase our stress levels. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
Any gentle exercise that enhances relaxation can help like yoga, swimming, and walking. These gentle exercises can stimulate the bowel without over taxing the system.
Aloe Vera juice, 20ml taken before meals, has helped many sufferers including myself.
Chew, chew and chew again. As you chew, the body sends signals to the brain to produce digestive enzymes. Thoroughly chewed food is less work for the enzymes, making them more effective.
Peppermint oil has anti-spasmodic properties, massage it onto your stomach, and drink peppermint tea after meals.
Foods to eliminate
Refined wheat, high in gluten can irritate the gut, as can Cow’s milk. Cut these out for two weeks and see if there is any change to your symptoms
Melted cheese is hard for the body to digest, try to this avoid at all costs.
Highly Processed foods – white rice and pasta, cakes, pastries, fried foods, sugar and alcohol all deplete the body of good bacteria and feed the bad bacteria in the gut.
Processed meat can be hard to break down, and gets stuck in the bowel, fermenting and causing bad bacteria to build up in the small intestine.
Helpful tip - If your diet has been mainly processed for some time, try the Neal’s Yard Organic Fibre blend – it contains a cleansing blend of apple, flax seed and chia seed to promote the natural health of your gut.
Foods to Include
Try organic rice, almond or oat milk, which are easier to digest.
Eat more brown rice as this is cleansing and healing to the digestive tract.
Herbal teas such as peppermint, fennel and camomile are calming, enhance digestion and ease discomfort.
Use more ginger – it soothes the gut and has anti-parasitic properties.
Pineapple contain Bromelain, which helps to digest protein, and has anti-inflammatory properties to aid digestion and reduce gut inflammation.
I hope you find some of this information helpful, but as I have found, there is no ‘right’ answer. Individuals have to find their own triggers and learn to manage these based on the type of IBS you suffer with and the severity of your symptoms.
On a positive note, there is lots of help and advice out there too, as we slowly learn more about IBS. Check out the IBS Network for more information www.ibsnetwork.org.uk
Your IBS does not define you, your strength and courage does.