In basic terms, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating and irregular bowel habits - including alternating diarrhoea and constipation. In some people, irritable bowel sydrome can be a mere mild annoyance, however, others can suffer a tremendously crippling effect. IBS is the most common gastro-intestinal disorder reported to doctors. There are many sufferers however, who do not seek medical attention for the condition. Also known, as "spastic colon" and "spastic colitis", we at Evergreen believe that the symptoms of IBS may be helped to be reduced through a careful diet, exercise and nutritional supplements. If you're eating right now as you read this, you might want to finish your meal before reading on, there is copious mentions regarding bowel movements - we wouldn't want to turn you off your food!
The abdominal pain is usually triggered by eating and relieved through the passing of a bowel movement. Believe it or not, an Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferer is at high risk of becoming malnourished, as no matter what they eat, the nutrients cannot be properly absorbed. Normally, the bowel smoothly digests the foods that we eat. Digestion rates vary from person to person but in general, our stomachs empty about 2 to 3 hours after we eat. IBS suffers do not enjoy this regularity and normal level of digestive health. Their bowels become irritated when they eat, which in turn manifests itself as tension which results in uncomfortable pains, similar to colic.
Important factors of IBS are as follows
Stress is one of the most important factors associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Symptoms of stress such as anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, bed habits and hurriedly eating can aggravate the condition. As people try to manage their busy lives, they become increasingly reliant on ready meals and highly processed foods. This leads to an overload of refined foods entering our bodies, which our digestive systems struggle to deal with. A diet high in refined foods will also lack fibre, a nutrient where a deficiency can lead to chronic constipation.
Food Allergies and Intolerances
Especially wheat and gluten, can be a huge factor in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. An intolerance essentially means that your digestive system cannot digest the particularly food group/type properly. Therefore, the food will not pass through the digestive tract, and will instead obstruct the whole system, leading to uncomfortable side effects such as bloating and constipation. IBS can obstruct the whole gastrointestinal tract, from mouth right to the colon.
With improved diet, exercise and relaxation, you should be able to achieve a balanced digestive system, which in turn will help to relieve symptoms. While not a substitute for an adequate combination of diet, rest and exercise, nutritional supplements and natural remedies can assist the digestion process. However, since every person is different, there is no "one for all" remedy.
Supplements & Natural Remedies Which May Help
An Acidophilus supplement is often chosen by Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers to replace the "friendly" bacteria. It is also thought to help with the manufacture and digestion of B vitamins. Acidophilus is also very useful after bouts of diarrhoea or vomiting. It should be noted that if people are on a dairy-free diet, they should use a dairy-free acidophilus supplement.
Evening Primrose Oil may help to reduce inflammation in many IBS sufferers. It may also helpful for women whose symptoms worsen before and during their period. As mentioned in one of our previous blog posts, Aloe Vera has been found to be both soothing and cooling to the digestive tract. It can be particularly useful in cases of constipation. It is available in supplement form in both liquids and tablets.
B Vitamins are traditionally used to help people to deal with stressful situations. As stress can be a major trigger of IBS symptoms, a B Complex is an important vitamin supplement to take. Natural bulk laxatives such as Psyllium Husks may also offer relief. They provide a gentle source of fibre which can help to regulate bowel movements. Other products which may help include digestive enzymes, flaxseed oil, peppermint, chamomile, magnesium and valerian.