All about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
What is the condition?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most commonly found disorders in the world today. Statistics suggest that one in five have this disorder and only a few go to the doctor for it. There are also more women who suffer from this disorder than men. In the medical world, this disorder is known as intestinal neurosis, mucous colitis, spastic colitis or spastic colon. The afflicted population is usually in the age group of twenty-five to forty five.
In this disorder, the digestive tract develops irregular and uncoordinated muscular contractions instead of the rhythmic, muscular contractions. As a result, the food and the waste material passage and movement is affected. This increases the toxin accumulation in the intestines. Due to the accumulated toxins, the digestive tract gets obstructed and the resulting symptoms like bloating, distension and constipation occur.
The most common symptoms of IBS are bloating, distension, gas and constipation. The other prominent symptoms displayed are pain in the abdomen, anorexia, constipation/ diarrhoea, flatulence and specific food intolerances. There are a number of affected people that also complain of nausea and severe headaches. The classic symptom of IBS is triggered pain by the intake of food and immediate bowel movement which may cause temporary relief.
IBS can also trigger off several other disorders. One of the most common IBS related disorder is peripheral arthritis. This affects the extremities such as the ankles, knees and wrists and sometimes the spinal cord. Many people also suffer from abnormal levels of the liver enzymes in IBS.
What causes it?
The causes of IBS are unknown. However, there are many theories to ascertain the cause of this disease. One theory states that IBS is caused by the irregularities in the intestinal hormones which affect the bowel motility. These hormones include cholecystokinin (CCK, motilin, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). There are some researches that indicate a possible viral or a bacterial factor. Some other studies have suggested that this may more be a lifestyle disease caused by stress and unhealthy diet. Excessive use of antibiotics, antacids or laxatives can also be a likely cause of IBS since over dosage can impair the delicate bacterial micro flora in the intestines.
Diet and lifestyle advice:
IBS is primarily a lifestyle related disease. Hence, changing food habits and lifestyle patterns would greatly help in controlling this disorder. It is advisable to have a diet that is high fibre, which comprises of plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, such as brown rice and legumes. A balanced diet helps in the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Supplemental fibre such as Psyllium powder is known to control and stabilizes the bowel movements and can be taken on a daily basis. Oat bran and ground flax seeds can be used on alternate days on a daily basis.
People afflicted with IBS are advised to avoid all fat and fat containing products. Carbonated drinks, coffee, chocolate, ice creams and junk food can play havoc with IBS. Hence, a person should avoid additives like sorbitol, mannitol, margarine, nuts, spices and spicy food, chewing gum and dairy and wheat products. The prime reason why these foods need to be avoided is that they enhance mucous secretion and prevent proper absorbtion of nutrients. Foods like beans and broccoli may need to be avoided since they can produce gas. Patients with IBS should avoid tobacco and alcohol completely since these irritate the stomach lining and create problems. Try sticking to a bland diet or organic baby food if your symptoms are very extreme. You can supplement this with fibre and a protein supplement.
Rule out food allergies since many times taking out allergens from the diet can also help alleviate symptoms of IBS. It can be extremely helpful to keep a food diary to begin to understand which food make your IBS worse. The gluten in wheat for example is a very common problem for many people with IBS. There are some very good gluten-free products available now compared to many years ago. Practice chewing your food well and taking time over a meal. If you chew your food well, your intestines will have less work to do. Remember your stomach does not have teeth!
Try doing some yoga and deep breathing exercises since a healthy intake of oxygen can make a big difference. Inhale through your stomach allowing your stomach to inhale slowly like a balloon, exhale slowly too. By doing this and repeating this method of breathing you increase the oxygen levels to your digestive tract and this in turns helps to relieve spasm and pain, and release trapped air.
The conventional approach:
Though allopathy has a lot of prescriptions for IBS, there are a lot of side effects also related to this kind of treatment. Many doctors prescribe anti spasmodic drugs like Di-Spaz and Lotomotil and Imodium which cause the gastro intestinal tract to slow down. However, these drugs cause dependency and other side effects. Many also prescribe tranquilizers and antidepressants, which are very addictive.
Complementary Therapies that can help:
There are many complementary therapies that can help IBS including massage, Reiki, reflexology etc. It is known that IBS is greatly relieved by peppermint and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Breathing exercises like yoga and meditation also help in the healing of IBS.
Try Peppermint Tea or any other digestive teas. Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to a base oil and massage over the tummy, inhaling as well.
IBS is most often a lifestyle disease and can be greatly controlled by healthy eating, moderate exercise and a stress free life!
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NB. This information is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any diseases or medical conditions. If you are unsure as to the suitability of any of the products or recommendations with regard to your condition please consult your doctor. If your doctor does not approve of natural health products it may be helpful to find one who does.