What to Know About Natural Remedies for IBS
If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), then you know how uncomfortable and embarrassing it can be. You also probably know how difficult it is to manage your symptoms daily. Although there are a variety of prescriptions and over the counter medication for IBS, many people prefer more natural remedies for IBS. In this article, we explore some of the best natural remedies for IBS and how they help.
What Is IBS?
IBS is short for irritable bowel syndrome. It is a common digestive disorder that causes a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Most doctors classify IBS as a functional disorder. This means that the digestive system does not work as efficiently as it should. Unlike many other digestive disorders, IBS does not cause inflammation or other physical changes to the intestines.
Typical IBS Symptoms
IBS affects everyone differently. Some of the most common symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal pain
Some people with IBS lean toward diarrhea (IBS-D), while others lean toward constipation (IBS-C), and some people experience a mixture of diarrhea and constipation at different times (IBS-M).
What Causes IBS?
Nobody is exactly sure what causes IBS. However, most experts agree that a dysfunction in gut motility makes food pass through the intestines too fast or too slowly. Another theory is that people with IBS have oversensitive nerves in their digestive systems.
Many people with IBS find that certain foods or drinks trigger their symptoms. Stress also aggravates the condition in many cases. Finally, people with a family history of IBS are more likely to develop the condition.
Natural Remedies to Help Cope With IBS
Although there are many medications available for IBS, some can cause unwanted side effects. Therefore, many people are now seeking more natural remedies for IBS. Here are some of the best.
Diet is one of the most important factors in managing IBS symptoms. However, there is no one size fits all approach to the best diet for IBS. For example, increasing fiber intake is a good way to relieve constipation and bloating, but could make diarrhea worse.
Try keeping a diary of what you eat and how it affects your IBS symptoms. This will help you identify trigger foods so you can eliminate them from your diet. Everyone’s trigger foods for IBS are different. However, some common culprits include:
- Brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Dairy products
- High-fat foods
- Spicy food
- Processed food
Whenever possible, cook your meals from scratch so you know exactly what they contain. Eat little and often, relax while eating, and be sure to chew your food properly. Drinking enough water throughout the day can also prevent constipation.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Many people find that their IBS symptoms become worse when they are under pressure. Therefore, using relaxation techniques may help. Some good options to try include:
- Deep, abdominal breathing
- Meditation, mindfulness, or visualization
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Try to use these techniques on a regular basis, even if you do not feel stressed. They may help you to feel calmer and more able to cope with your IBS.
Incorporate Exercise Into Your Daily Routine
Exercise is another important way to manage stress. Furthermore, getting your body moving is a great way to improve digestion and prevent constipation. It’s up to you what type of exercise you do to help your IBS. Just choose something you enjoy so that it will be easy to stick to in the long run.
Probiotics can help to maintain a healthy microbiome (the helpful bacteria in your gut). They are available as supplements, although not everybody finds these effective.
You can also increase your intake of probiotics by eating more of the following foods:
If you decide to go down the supplement route, talk to a dietician to find out which products are best for you.
Like probiotics, prebiotics help to improve the balance of bacteria in your digestive system. They are available as supplements, but can also be found in the following foods:
Many other fresh fruit and vegetables are also good sources of prebiotics.
Add Psyllium Powder to Your Meals
Psyllium is a soluble fiber that comes from the seeds of a plant called Plantago ovata. It may be helpful for people with all forms of IBS. Psyllium comes as a powder and you can mix it with oatmeal or a glass of water. Most experts consider it safe and it may have a range of other benefits too.
L-glutamine is an amino acid. You can find it as a supplement or in a variety of foods, including:
- Dairy products
The possible benefits of l-glutamine include improved bowel movement frequency and consistency. However, it is not suitable for everyone and you should consult a doctor before using l-glutamine supplements.
Apply Essential Oils
Peppermint oil is one of the oldest natural remedies for IBS. It has anti-spasmodic properties, meaning that it can help to relax the intestines to relieve pain. Other essential oils that may help include ginger and fennel. However, you should not take essential oils orally unless instructed by a qualified professional. They are safe for most people to use externally, but should always be mixed with a carrier oil, such as almond or olive oil.
Some people find herbs effective for relieving IBS, although evidence to support their use is limited. Some popular herbal remedies for IBS include:
- Slippery elm
- Artichoke leaf
- Aloe vera
Talk to a doctor or qualified herbalist to find out which may be best for you.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that uses fine needles to rebalance the body. It may help to relieve symptoms such as pain, bloating and constipation. It could also aid relaxation and stress relief. However, like most of these natural IBS remedies, clinical evidence is limited and not everyone finds that acupuncture helps.
When to See Your Doctor
If your IBS symptoms do not improve despite making diet changes and trying these natural IBS remedies, consult your physician for further advice.