Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can really affect your quality of life. It’s painful, can limit your physical activities, and make you feel unhealthy. IBS is a chronic condition, and one of the most commonly experienced digestive problems. It affects up to 10 percent of people worldwide, and it’s one of the most frequent reasons people visit their doctor. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930986/
IBS is a functional problem in your intestines. It’s also called spastic colon or mucus colitis. It’s considered to be a motility problem, in which the muscle contractions in your intestines are sped up or slowed down. The abnormal movement of food and waste through your bowels can cause a number of symptoms, the most common of which are diarrhea or constipation, often in alternating episodes. IBS can also cause cramping pain, gas, bloating, and nausea.
Irritable bowel syndrome is not like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It doesn’t cause tissue changes or ulceration, nor does it raise your risk of developing colon cancer, which is the case with inflammatory conditions. IBS is called a syndrome, because it involves a group of symptoms that are different for each person who has it. The symptoms of IBS can come and go, and for some people, the symptoms can go away completely for long periods of time.
The underlying cause of IBS isn’t completely clear, but there are a number of factors that seem to be associated with the condition.
- IBS may be related to changes in what’s called the gut/brain axis. Disorganized signals between your brain and your gut can cause your digestive system to overreact, causing symptoms.
- Changes in how your intestinal muscles contract also play a role in this condition. Overactive contractions can cause diarrhea, and sluggish muscle contractions slows the movement of food through your bowel, causing constipation.
- While IBS isn’t considered to be inflammatory in nature, some people with this condition have high levels of certain immune cells in their gut, which can trigger the symptoms of IBS.
- Intestinal infections may also be a culprit in IBS, as some people develop symptoms after they’ve had a severe case of bacterial or viral-caused diarrhea, called gastroenteritis or after taking oral antibiotics.
- Your gut depends on helpful bacteria to support your digestion and maintain your health. However, scientists suspect that the intestinal microbes in people with IBS may be different from people who have healthy digestion.
People who suffer from IBS often find that certain triggers can set off or aggravate their symptoms. While food isn’t necessarily the underlying cause of IBS, many people find that eating certain foods can make their symptoms worse. Some common offenders include milk and cheese, gluten, vegetables in the cabbage family, citrus fruits, beans, nuts and carbonated drinks. Similarly, stress hasn’t been found to cause IBS, but stress and emotional upsets can trigger or aggravate your symptoms. In addition, some women have found that fluctuating hormones may play a role, with many reporting that their symptoms flare up before or during their periods. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016
Getting Help for Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Like many chronic health conditions, IBS is often caused by more than one factor. For that reason, we believe that it often takes a number of treatment strategies to effectively treat your IBS. The good news, however, is that IBS often responds well to diet, lifestyle changes, and natural treatments. At BodaHealth, we can offer a variety of approaches to help reduce your symptoms and return you to your everyday activities. For patients with IBS, we may recommend the following:
-Acupuncture, as a way to regulate motility in your gut and reduce stress. A number of research studies have concluded that acupuncture exerts significant control over IBS symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and the rate and consistency of bowel movements. Scientists believe that acupuncture works for IBS by affecting your somatic nervous system, which regulates muscle contractions and intestinal motility. In addition, acupuncture is highly effective in treating emotional health conditions, such as stress and anxiety, which are well-known triggers for IBS symptoms. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930986/
-Chinese herbal medicine may also be prescribed for your IBS symptoms. In the Chinese tradition, the use of herbs has developed over centuries of clinical experience. Each herb in the Chinese formulary has specific actions on the human body. In treating IBS, a specific combination of herbs, called a formula, is prescribed based on the specific symptoms you’re experiencing and according to the diagnostic patterns that are a part of Chinese medicine. There is scientific evidence that supports the use of Chinese herbs for relieving painful cramping, abdominal distension, and diarrhea. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4342906/
-Diet is an important component in managing your IBS symptoms. Certainly avoiding foods that are known triggers is a good place to start. However, if you can’t tell what foods are triggering or aggravating your symptoms, we can help. Any one of our holistic nutritionists or acupuncture practitioners can work with you to develop a nutritional strategy based on the principles of Chinese medicine. They can prescribe a dietary plan specifically suited to your symptoms, health history, and diagnosis.
-Naturopathic medicine at BodaHealth we offer a number of tools for treating your IBS. Our naturopaths may begin by assessing your diet, nutritional status, gut health, stress levels, and hormones. They can suggest herbal or nutritional supplements, vitamin injections, a nutritional plan, and lifestyle modifications to achieve an effective reduction in your symptoms. Our naturopathic physicians also provide primary health care, and can prescribe medications and order lab testing when necessary.
It’s also important to know that good self-care is a key factor in managing your IBS symptoms. Identifying and eliminating known triggers, getting enough sleep and adequate exercise are all essential. However, when self-care isn’t enough and you need help managing your IBS, we’re here to help you. At BodaHealth, our practitioners are knowledgeable, experienced, and offer the best natural treatments available. If you’re tired of struggling with your IBS symptoms, call us today to find out how we can help you.