Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): How Finding Physical and Emotional Well Being Can Help
Having an urgency to run to the toilet at all times of the day?
Do you have abdominal pain that improves after passing a bowel movement?
Bloating and gas with loose and/or constipated stools?
Your symptoms could be those of IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
An estimated 5 million Canadians suffer from IBS, with 120,000 new cases each year (Fedorak RN, et al. 2012).
We have some good news for you.
40% of Canadians suffering from severe IBS symptoms seek medical treatment, while patients with milder symptoms use a combination of lifestyle changes, food trigger avoidance, pharmaceuticals, and/or supplements to manage their wellbeing.
Do you want to find out more?
Who gets IBS?
You have an increased risk for IBS if you have a family history of a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with IBS. Onset is usually in the teenage years and is more common in women than men. This may be because women are more likely than men to seek health care services for their symptoms.
Also, clinical trials indicate that gender differences occur in responsiveness to drug treatment, pain processing, transit time (the time it takes for your food to move through your digestive tract), and effects of hormones (estrogen, progesterone) on digestive functions (Anbardan SJ., et al. 2012).
Do you have IBS?
A doctor will diagnose IBS if symptoms have been present at least three days per month in the last three months, started at least six months ago, and symptoms (specifically, abdominal pain) are relieved after a bowel movement (Jung HK, 2011).
Symptoms include more or less frequent bowel movements, change in stool appearance, and incomplete emptying of bowels. You may also have bloating, heartburn, and nausea (Jung HK, 2011).
Other diagnostic methods should be used to rule out more serious conditions like colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac disease.
What causes IBS?
Some of the known causes of IBS include a history of gut infections, abdominal surgery, changes in diet, antibiotic use, and/or bacterial/hormonal/neurotransmitter imbalances. IBS pain is tied to the evolution in a healthy human microbiota (the friendly microbes in our gut), the immune system, and brain-gut communication (Grice EA, 2012).
Think of brain-gut communication as our mind-body connection, one that exists through the central (mind) and enteric (gut) nervous systems.
Peristalsis is a coordinated muscle contraction that promotes the movement of food through the GI tract. In IBS, irregular peristalsis (spasm) can slow transit time or increase it causing constipation or diarrhea, respectively.
Some home remedies
This is a useful tool for managing IBS symptoms (Cash et al., 2016). Menthol, an essential oil, is an antispasmodic and can help to calm the muscular and mucosal (mucus) walls of the intestine, reducing abdominal pain and regulating peristalsis (Khanna et al., 2014).
In an Egyptian text from 1550 BC, mint was indicated for abdominal pain. In ancient Greece, Hades softened a spell on his mistress Minthe, so that ‘when people walked upon his lover they would smell her sweetness’.
Similar to peppermint, probiotics can be an effective symptom management tool.
Studies have shown that certain probiotic strains, specifically the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium families, can relieve symptoms of abdominal pain, gas, and bloating (Majeed et al., 2016) (Moraes-Filho JP., Quigley EM, 2015).
However, not everyone has the same reaction to probiotics.
To give some perspective, the human microbiota (the friendly microbes in our gut) is the size of an ocean compared to the small droplet of probiotics delivered to our bodies by supplements. Scientists still have many questions regarding the human microbiota. Does it control us? Do we control it? If so, how? The complex relationship between our mind and our microbiota is one that can be slightly altered by diet, environment, and our stress level (Grice et al., 2012).
The ability of your body to fully digest and absorb the calories from the food you eat is controlled by your microbiota (Grice et al., 2012).
Avoiding dietary triggers that alter the capacity of friendly microbes, and possibly feed the bad ones, is an important goal to reduce inflammation within the digestive tract. Our microbes have the ability to heal the gut wall and mucosa, so the diet and lifestyle factors necessary are those that create the ideal conditions for the friendly bugs we were born with.
Acupuncture, a useful tool in IBS management, assesses and treats the individual patient holistically. IBS patients receiving acupuncture for symptom management reported greater improvement than patients receiving only pharmaceutical drugs (Manheimer et al., 2012).
The Mind-Body connection
It is important to remember that IBS affects both physical and mental-emotional wellbeing. You should seek a health care professional who will provide an IBS treatment plan that addresses both physical and psychological factors. IBS can be tough to deal with, but its symptoms can be managed and so can your stress.
Remember: Always consult a healthcare professional before taking any new supplement or medication.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Now I would like to hear from you. Do you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome? What have you tried to help your symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.