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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a disease but describes a group of gut symptoms that occur together. While the symptoms do change the way that the gut functions, there is no tissue damage. The most common symptom of IBS is abdominal pain or discomfort from trapped wind and this may cause painful cramps. There may be diarrhoea or constipation, or both. Pain or discomfort may increase with a change in stool frequency and consistency, or pain may be relieved by a bowel movement. Research suggests that most people do not seek medical attention for their symptoms and may be managing the condition with lifestyle changes and without intervention. IBS is diagnosed when a person has abdominal pain or discomfort at least 3 times per month for the last 3 months without other disease or injury that could explain the pain. Stress is a known trigger for IBS. The colon has many nerves that connect it to the brain. These nerves control the normal contractions of the bowel and cause abdominal discomfort at stressful times. In people with IBS, the colon can become overly responsive to even slight emotional conflict. Some sufferers respond well to low doses of antidepressants and achieve reasonable pain control with this approach.
Foods & herbs for the home
- Large meals can cause cramping and diarrhoea. Eat small meals more frequently or reduce portion size and monitor the effects after a month.
- People with IBS may want to limit or avoid certain foods. Keeping a food diary is a good way to track which foods cause symptoms so they can be excluded from or reduced in the diet. Common triggers are high fat foods, wheat, milk and other dairy products, beans and cabbage, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners and soda drinks.
- If you experience constipation, add foods such as Linseed and Psyllium Husks to your diet. These high fibre foods make the stool bulky and easier to pass but may not reduce pain from gas and bloating.
- Fennel Seeds and peppermint oil capsules are anti-spasmodic and thus can be effective at reducing the cramps from trapped gas. Also make a tea from caraway seeds and fresh grated ginger. You can read more about this herb by downloading Jill Davies' book “Ginger” for free.
- If you experience diarrhoea, use Slippery Elm Plus Powder to soothe an irritated intestine.
- Read Jill Davies' book on "St John’s Wort" as a free download and learn how this herb may be a useful addition to the lifestyle changes that you need to introduce.
- Superfood Plus is well tolerated and the powdered foods in the formula will provide essential nutrition during active phases of IBS.
- Probiotics, specifically bifidobacteria, seem to improve symptoms for many people. Choose a good quality probiotic supplement at your health food store.
- Mental health is an important indicator for IBS and it makes sense to work at this level as well as the physical. Hypnotherapy has been shown to be 80 percent successful in NHS trials. Seek out a hypnotherapist with a psychotherapeutic background and one who specialises in IBS. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help also.
- Gentle abdominal massage with essential oils of Chamomile and Ylang-Ylang is helpful.
- Exercise that is grounding and gentle may be of particular benefit; yoga and pilates are two examples.
Additional help is available by phoning the free product advice line at Herbs Hands Healing between the hours of 9.00am to 1.00pm. Tel: 01379 608201.
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