Are there any natural remedies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irene McCabe Naturopathic Nutritionist says:

Irritable bowel syndrome is characterised by abdominal cramping, bloating, alternating diarrhoea and constipation, sometimes accompanied by fatigue, depression and anxiety. It is poorly understood, but may be caused by stress, food intolerance or digestive enzyme insufficiency.

A balanced, alkalising diet, including plenty of fluids is recommended. Alcohol, coffee, strong spices and food additives which stimulate excessive contraction of the bowel muscles should be avoided. Some people find that symptoms are triggered by particular foods (e.g. wheat, dairy products).

Mild spices can be very soothing, in particular turmeric which has wonderful anti inflammatory properties. When taken together with black pepper, this can increase the potency or uptake of the turmeric powder. Peppermint oil is for many the most effective immediate soother for bloating and spasms.

There are many natural anti inflammatories in the diet and in supplement form that may be helpful, and steps should be taken to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and optimal production of digestive enzymes, including: A hydrating and alkalising diet, including small amounts of fermented foods such as kefir, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut. Also eating mindfully in a peaceful environment and chewing well can help.

Effective supplements include Pro Biotics, Fish Oil, Digestive Enzymes, Aloe Vera, Magnesium Citrate and herbal tea such as Chamomile, Rose, Marshmallow, Meadowsweet, Valerian, Hawthorn, Hop and Passiflora. Hypnotherapy and Acupuncture are also very valuable therapies to help with the symptoms of IBS

Nikki Biddiss, Medical Herbalist says:

IBS is common, affecting 1 out of 5 people and it is more common in women than men. There is no test to confirm IBS, instead it is often diagnosed after tests have ruled out other conditions. As a result it is a very wide categorisation and two people can present with completely different symptoms. Common symptoms are abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, bouts of either constipation or diarrhoea or urgency first thing called ‘morning rush’.

IBS can be caused by over-activity of gut nerves or muscles. Stress or an emotional upset may have triggered it and lead to ongoing episodes. Food intolerances can affect our digestive system and keeping a food diet may help identify culprits e.g. caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks, artificial sweeteners or dairy. IBS may have follow gastroenteritis and symptoms can continue long affect infection.

Herbal medicine helps many people manage their symptoms. I will ask clients to keep a food, symptom and mood diary to identify how food and stress are affecting digestive health. We can then look to remove culprits and replace them with other foods. Helping clients manage stress is often very useful and gentle exercise can also help. I will prescribe herbs tailored to individual symptoms but they can include anti-spasmodic herbs along with herbs aimed to reduce inflammation and repair sensitive gut tissue or manage diarrhoea or constipation. Probiotics can also help and opt for a supplement if you find dairy can trigger symptoms.

Consult your health practitioner before following any advice if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have underlying health issues or are on any other medication.

Nikki Biddiss is a Medical Herbalist, Aromatherapy Massage Therapist and Stress and Wellbeing Coach. To book a consultation For Nikki call Napier’s, 61 Cresswell Street, Glasgow on 0141 339 5859.

Irene McCabe is a Naturopathic Nutritionist and has been an Independent Nutritional Researcher for over 30 years. Irene also practices Allergy and Intolerance Testing and Advanced Clinical Hypnotherapy and is the former owner of Napier’s in Glasgow’s West End. To book a consultation For Irene call The Harvest Clinic, 201 West George Street, Glasgow on 0141 333 0878