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How To Heal Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms, Diet Tips, And Prevention

Medically reviewed by Lucas Aoun, Naturopathic doctor
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How To Heal Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms, Diet Tips, And Prevention Hyderabd040-395603080 June 12, 2019

IBS or irritable bowel syndrome affects around 11% of the global population (1).

This condition is quite tough to manage and can be embarrassing, given its symptoms like bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea. While there are a number of home remedies available to manage this condition, you will have to figure out what works best for you. To know more about this syndrome, its treatment options, and tips to manage it, read on.

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long-term gastrointestinal disorder that is characterized by symptoms like abdominal bloating, irregular bowel movements, mucousy stool, and so on.

This condition is also known as spastic colitis, nervous colon, and mucus colitis. IBS is a chronic condition, but its symptoms may change with time.

The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unclear. However, the following factors are often associated with this syndrome.

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Factors that may have an important role to play in triggering IBS include:

  • Diet choices – Certain foods like chocolate, alcohol, milk, caffeine, etc. can worsen the symptoms in some individuals.
  • Environmental factors like stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Problems with the nervous system – Certain problems with the nerves in your digestive system
  • Severe infections like gastroenteritis
  • Changes in the microflora of your gut

What Are The Risk Factors For Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Some factors can also increase your risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome. They are:

  • Age – It is more common in those below 50 years of age.
  • Gender – Females are more likely to be affected.
  • Family history – If any of your close family members had IBS, you are also quite likely to develop it.
  • Mental disorders – Disorders like anxiety and depression may also put you at a higher risk of developing IBS.

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you are quite likely to exhibit some of the following signs and symptoms.

Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The symptoms of IBS may vary from one individual to another. The most common ones include:

  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Bloating and excess gas
  • Abdominal cramps accompanied by pain
  • Passing of mucus via the rectum or while passing stool
  • Sudden and urgent need to use the loo

Most of these symptoms usually worsen post eating. A flare-up may follow and last for about 2-4 days before the condition begins improving.

Certain symptoms may also affect other body parts and mimic other conditions. Such symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain during sex (in women)
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Bad breath or halitosis
  • Joint/muscle aches
  • Irregular menstruation

Most of the above symptoms are quite common to both men and women, other than the signs associated with sexual intercourse and menstruation.

If you can relate to the above symptoms, it is better to get yourself tested for IBS to rule out other underlying conditions.

Test For Irritable Bowel Syndrome

There is no specific laboratory or imaging test to diagnose IBS. Your doctor is likely to begin with the analysis of your complete medical history.

This may be followed by a physical examination and tests like a stool test, upper endoscopy, breath test, X-ray, etc. to rule out the possibility of other medical conditions.

Once the other conditions have been ruled out, your doctor may use any of the following diagnostic criteria for IBS:

  • Manning Criteria – It focuses on incomplete bowel movements, mucousy stool, changes in the consistency of the stool, and pain that eases upon passing stool. The more symptoms you exhibit, the greater the chances of IBS.
  • Rome Criteria – It includes abdominal pain and discomfort that occur on an average of at least once a week in three months. This symptom may be further diagnosed with any two of the following factors – discomfort and pain while passing stool, changes in bowel movements, or changes in the consistency of stool passed.
  • Type Of IBS – To prescribe the appropriate treatment, IBS may be classified into any of the three types depending on your symptoms: constipation predominant, diarrhea predominant, and mixed.

There is no cure for irritable bowel disease. The prescribed treatments usually aim at alleviating the symptoms of the condition.

IBS Medical Treatments

Treatment can help ease IBS symptoms and enable you to live as normally as possible. One of the main ways to manage IBS symptoms is to alter your diet and stay away from foods known to trigger a reaction. We will have a detailed discussion about diet tips for IBS patients later.

Some medications may also be prescribed by the doctor depending on your symptoms. They include:

  • Laxatives – To treat constipation symptoms
  • Fiber supplements to help with mild constipation
  • Antidiarrheal medications
  • Pain medicines
  • SSRI or Tricyclic antidepressants to help depression while also helping with pain and constipation
  • Anticholinergic medications like dicyclomine (Bentyl) to help painful stomach cramps and diarrhea

Some medications that are specifically prescribed for IBS patients are:

  • Alosetron (Lotronex) – It helps to relax the colon and is often prescribed to women with severe diarrhea that doesn’t respond to other treatments. It should not be taken by men and is associated with an array of side effects.
  • Linaclotide (Linzess) – It promotes secretion of fluid in the small intestine and helps relieve constipation. It may cause diarrhea in some cases.
  • Eluxadoline (Viberzi) – It helps ease diarrhea but is associated with side effects like nausea, mild constipation, and, in some cases, it can also trigger a condition called pancreatitis.
  • Lubiprostone (Amitiza) – It is often prescribed for women with IBS and constipation. It is only prescribed in case of severe symptoms when the patient doesn’t respond to other treatments.

As we mentioned, diet also has a significant role to play in treating IBS symptoms. The following section discusses some useful diet tips for IBS patients.

Diet For IBS

Those with IBS will be advised to reduce the intake of certain foods from their diet (2):

  • Foods That Cause Gas – Carbonated drinks, alcohol, and certain fruits and vegetables like apples, prunes, pears, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc. can also aggravate symptoms of bloating and gas.
  • Gluten – People with IBS were observed to show improvement upon stopping the intake of gluten, even if they did not have celiac disease.
  • FODMAPs – Some individuals with IBS are sensitive to carbohydrates like fructans, fructose, lactose, and others known as FODMAPs — fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. Such carbohydrates are commonly found in grains (wheat, spelt, semolina, barley, rye), fruits (apples, cherries, mangoes, figs), veggies (asparagus, Brussels, cauliflower mushrooms), and dairy.

IBS patients must increase the intake of certain foods to help ease the symptoms:

  • High-fiber foods like grapes, berries, leafy greens, eggplant, and zucchini.
  • Gluten-free foods like oats, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.
  • Nuts
  • Seafood like salmon and tuna
  • Lean meat and other protein-rich foods like eggs, tofu, beef, and poultry.

Now that you have a fair idea about what constitutes the perfect diet for IBS, let us look at some additional remedies that can help manage IBS symptoms. Listed below are some of the best home remedies that can help treat IBS symptoms effectively with minimal side effects.

7 Natural Remedies To Treat IBS Symptoms

1. Peppermint Oil Capsules

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You Will Need

Peppermint oil capsules

What You Have To Do

Consume 180-200 mg peppermint oil capsule daily for about 6 months. Consult a doctor for the correct dosage.

How Often You Should Do This

You can take 1-2 capsules daily.

Why This Works

Peppermint oil can relieve the general symptoms experienced by IBS patients and improve their quality of life (3). This could be due to its anti-inflammatory activities.

Caution

Patients experiencing severe constipation, diarrhea, gallstones, or GERD must avoid taking peppermint oil capsules.

2. Probiotics

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You Will Need

Probiotic supplement

What You Have To Do

  1. Consume probiotic supplements daily after consulting your doctor.
  2. Alternatively, you may also consume probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or kefir.

How Often You Should Do This

You may take this 1-2 times daily or as advised by your doctor.

Why This Works

According to a study published in the World Journal Of Gastroenterology, probiotics exhibit a beneficial effect on IBS symptoms and can be used to alleviate them (4).

3. Acupuncture

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Acupuncture is an alternative medicine therapy that uses one or multiple needles on specific acupuncture points all over the body to provide relief from disease symptoms. This therapy is a great option for treating the symptoms of IBS (5). However, you must avail this therapy only from a trained acupuncture professional.

4. Slippery Elm

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You Will Need

  • 1 tablespoon of slippery elm powder
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • Honey (optional)

What You Have To Do

  1. Add a tablespoon of slippery elm powder to a glass of boiling water.
  2. Stir well and allow it to steep for 5-7 minutes. Let it cool for some time.
  3. Drink the concoction.
  4. You can also add honey to the mixture for flavor.

How Often You Should Do This

You may drink this 1-2 times daily or as prescribed by your physician.

Why This Works

Slippery elm powder is an herbal remedy that helps in treating inflammatory bowel disease with its antioxidant nature (6). This makes it an effective remedy to manage the symptoms of IBS.

5. Artichoke Leaf Extract

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You Will Need

Artichoke leaf extract supplement

What You Have To Do

Consume artichoke leaf extract supplement daily after consulting your doctor for a suitable dosage.

How Often You Should Do This

Consume this based on your physician’s advice.

Why This Works

Artichoke leaf extract can help in treating IBS symptoms and improving the quality of life of the patients. It was found to be as good or even better than other existing treatments for managing IBS symptoms (7).

6. Aloe Vera

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You Will Need

2-4 ounces of aloe vera juice

What You Have To Do

Consume 2-4 ounces of aloe vera juice once daily. Consult a doctor before doing so to be sure that this remedy doesn’t interfere with any other medications that you are on.

How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this once daily or as prescribed by your physician.

Why This Works

The intake of aloe vera juice can help to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. These benefits could be due to its anti-inflammatory and laxative effects. However, this remedy should only be used for short-term treatment (8).

7. Triphala

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You Will Need

Triphala supplement

What You Have To Do

Consume Triphala supplement daily. Talk to your health care provider to find the correct dosage of Triphala for you.

How Often You Should Do This

You may take this on a daily basis, preferably between meals.

Why This Works

Triphala is an herbal concoction that is made of three therapeutic plants native to India, namely, amla, bibhitaki, and haritaki. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties exhibited by this concoction make it an effective treatment option for managing IBS symptoms (9).

Now that you know all about the natural hacks for managing irritable bowel syndrome, how about some tips to prevent its symptoms from recurring often?

How To Manage IBS

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Manage your stress levels.
  • Limit your dairy intake.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently instead of large meals.

All these tips can be quite helpful in preventing the recurrence of IBS symptoms. They can also help the above remedies give faster and better results. In case you do not notice any improvement in your symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor to avoid any further complications.

Did you find this post informative? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Can probiotics make IBS worse?

While probiotics may be effective in alleviating IBS symptoms in some people, they may worsen the symptoms in a few others. This is because some probiotics contain ingredients like oats, lactose, fructose, sorbitol, and xylitol that can aggravate the symptoms.

How long does it take for IBS to go away?

The symptoms of IBS usually surface soon after eating, and the flare-up may last for about 3-4 days. After this, the symptoms will start improving or even disappearing.

When to see a doctor for IBS?

See a doctor immediately if you experience symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, cramping, and gas that are also accompanied by severe abdominal pain.

References

  1. The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome” Clinical Epidemiology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  2. Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients!” World Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  3. Peppermint oil in irritable bowel syndrome.” Phytomedicine, US National Library Of Medicine.
  4. Effectiveness of probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome: Updated systematic review with meta-analysis” World Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  5. Effectiveness of acupuncture to treat irritable bowel syndrome: A meta-analysis” World Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  6. Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study.” DescriptionAlimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, US National Library Of Medicine.
  7. Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in a post-marketing surveillance study.” Phytotherapy Research, US National Library Of Medicine.
  8. Aloe vera Is Effective and Safe in Short-term Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, US National Library Of Medicine.
  9. Triphala: current applications and new perspectives on the treatment of functional gastrointestinal disorders” Chinese Medicine, US National Library Of Medicine.