If you are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS you'll be only too well aware that the abdominal cramps and spasms can seriously affect your ability to enjoy life. And if you have consulted your GP regarding irritable bowel symptoms you've no doubt tried everything on offer with little or no improvement. I have yet to find anyone who has experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms from using Lactulose, Fybogel or wheat bran which seems to be the most commonly prescribed remedies for IBS by doctors in the UK. Whilst it is important to consult your GP in order to ensure that there is nothing more serious going on, for most people the ultimate outcome is that you will just have to learn to live with your irritable bowels.
I believe that IBS is over diagnosed and that very often there are simple and effective natural remedies for IBS. I advocate a step-by-step approach to eliminate the most common and simple to address issues first.
Read the whole of the section and make sure you correct anything which may be contributing to your IBS symptoms. All my products are entirely natural remedies and may help to correct your bowel problems. I have tried and tested everything and they do just what it says on the tin. These are the products I use to great effect in my practice. Full details are given with each product. If you would like help with your selection the please e-mail me.
Virtually any regular disruption to your bowel function is now described as IBS. I don't think it is useful at all. It describes a group of symptoms that's all but does not give any clues as to why you are suffering from bowel problems.
IBS should not be confused with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). It differs in that IBS is considered to be a functional disorder of the colon which simply means that the colon is not working properly but there is no evidence of any structural organic abnormality.
IBS has been known by many names in the past: spastic colon, nervous colon, nervous diarrhoea, functional colitis etc. Reference to the disorder as any type of colitis is inaccurate as there is no inflammation, ulceration or any other damage linked to IBS.
IBS is not a pshychosomatic illness as was once believed however there are some people for whom there is a strong mind body connection and sympoms of IBS can be exacerbated by stress.
It is at this point where the alternative community and the vast majority of doctors in the allopathic tradition part company. As I have mentioned before, in my experience the vast majority of doctors seem ill equipped to deal with bowel issues. I am constantly consulted by people who's lives have been impaired by their bowel problems often unnecessarily. It is said that the cause of IBS is unknown but that is not my experience. As I have said previously, IBS is massively over-diagnosed and very often the cause of someone's "IBS" is easy to spot. Listed below are just some of the issues which can cause IBS symptoms:
- Irregularities in intestinal hormones and nerves responsible for bowel motility
- Poor Diet
- Insufficient dietary fibre
- Food sensitivities, intolerance or allergies
- Inadequate production of digestive enzymes
- Bacterial imbalance in intestinal flora (too much bad bacteria and not enough good)
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Helicobacter Pylori
- Consumption of processed foods
IBS is the second most common reason people are absent from work and I would say that three quarters of my clients have been diagnosed as having IBS at some time. Very often during the initial consultation I will spot things in their diet and lifestyle that shout out loud and clear to me that here is the cause of their problems. The same issues pop up time and again so lets have a look at one at a time of the possible causes of your IBS.
I would say that less than 10% of the people who pass through my clinic drink anywhere near enough water.
Chronic dehydration is often misdiagnosed as IBS largely because one of the most noticeable effects of being dehydrated is chronic constipation.
If you drink less than two litres of water (more if you are heavier than average) per day then you are dehydrated. Appropriate fluids include herbal teas and water: they are the only things that will hydrate you.
Do not underestimate the impact of dehydration, symptoms of which include: difficulty concentrating, impaired cognitive skills, tiredness, constipation and depression. A 2% reduction in your hydration status can lead to a 25% reduction in your performance both mentally and physically. In addition, dehydration puts a strain on every organ in your body, makes your skin age prematurely and weakens your immune system.
You can get superior hydration, much quicker results and a host of other benefits drinking Kangen Water.
It had never occurred to me that I had been taught to sit on a toilet. So it will probably come as something of a surprise to you to discover that a great many of our bowel problems are caused by just that, sitting on western style toilets.
The healthiest way to evacuate your bowels is a squat position. This can be achieved on your loo by elevating your feet either with a Health Step from Ginacor or by improvising with something else to raise your feet off the floor. Ikea do a childs step for the toilet which costs very little and will work just fine. Squatting takes the strain off the anal canal, opens the pelvic floor muscles, straightens the rectum and allows easy emptying of the bowel.
It is claimed by scientists in America that around two-thirds of people who have been diagnosed with IBS are actually experiencing food sensitivities or food intolerances and I have to say that is consistent with my experience. Some of the foods which commonly cause problems for people experiencing bowel problems include:
- sugar, manitol, sorbitol, fructose
But you can be or become sensitive to any food. If you are going to have to make dietary changes to alleviate your condition then it makes sense to ensure that you are not eating something which is causing the problem. Symptoms can be very varied and the time it takes for the onset of the effects varies too. There are things I am sensitive to that if I eat them I will be able to feel the effects within half an hour. Other foods may take 24 hours to have an effect or even a little longer sometimes. So following the standard medical advice of keeping a food diary is a pretty futile exercise - it is almost impossible to guess what is causing your bowel problems.
There are various forms of food sensitivity testing currently available. The system I offer is known as Vega Analysis and draws on homeopathy, kinesiology and accupressure. The reason I offer this method is that it was the one which identified my own complex food sensitivities and it was life changing for me. Read my story in Food Sensitivities. The test is only as good as the testers ability so if you can't book in with me choose your tester carefully. Tests involving blood or hair samples seem to have variable results and I often retest people who hae had these tests and find problematic foods which when removed from the diet get the desired result.
One of the common features I notice amongst people presenting with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a tendancy to eat erractically: often no breakfast, sometimes even no lunch. It is absolutely essential that you eat regularly if you want your bowels to function normally. You must eat breakfast – there are no exceptions. Eating breakfast wakes your bowels up. When food reaches your stomach a hormone is released which sends a message to your colon to empty as there is more food on its way for processing. If you miss out the first meal your bowels are going to be out of synch. If you really can't face food then take a fibre supplement and have a smoothie or a protein drink followed by fruit or a handful of nuts and seeds mid-morning. Make sure you chew nuts and seeds very well otherwise they can add to your difficulties.
A colon full of undigested food is going to add considerably to abdominal discomfort, bloating, stomach cramps and flatulence. Poor digestion can be an issue in IBS but very often it is exacerbated by a lack of chewing. We have become so accustomed to eating food which is practically pre-chewed that we often give our food no more than a couple of chomps before swallowing. Experiment with chewing each mouthful 30 times to discover how much or little you chew and eat slowly to limit the amount of air you gulp down.
Fermenting, rotten food has no place in your colon. By the time your food leaves your mouth it should not be easy to identify. When you have been to the loo check to see if the pan has identifiable food in it. The only thing you should be able to name is corn and maybe some bright red tomato or capsicum skin - everything else should be entirely indistinguishable.
The other advantage of eating slowly and chewing thoroughly is that you are less likely to overeat - you brain has the opportunity to tell you when you are full. When you just trough it down the food is often gone before you realise you are too full.
Digestion is a complex business. Food is broken down initially in your mouth, it is then passed to your stomach to be drenched in gastric juices and churned before being squeezed into your digestive tract (Gastro-intestinal tract or GI tract) for digestion and absorption.
There are many reasons that contribute to a decrease in the production of digestive enzymes:
- Advancing age - from around 30 production of digestive enzymes begins to decline
- Diet - many people do not give their bodies the nutrients they need
- Dehydration - your stomach cannot flood with gastric juices if you are chronically dehydrated
- Hereditary - some people are born producing inadequate digestive enzymnes
- Pancreatic disease
- Stress - has a devastating effect on your digestion
- Gall stones
- Lack of bile salts
- Insufficient Hydrochloric Acid
Stomach Acid Test
Poor digestion is often a factor in IBS. If you regularly experience indigestion, heartburn, reflux, bloating or excessive belching it may well be that you have insufficient stomach acid. To test, take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with your main meal of the day. If you get any warmth, tingling, burning or discomfort then you have enough acid if not then it is worth supplementing with Well Digested.
You can also test stomach acid levels by taking a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda in a small glass of water first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. If you are not burping your head off within ten minutes then it is likely your stomach acid is low.
It’s really hard for people to know these days what constitutes a healthy diet. We have been fed misinformation by advertisers for so many years that it can be difficult to see through the hype. For people experiencing IBS symptoms it is a good idea to go back to basics and by that I mean protein (meat, fish, eggs) and at least three veg (not including potatoes) and eating only “real” food. As a guideline, if we have eaten a food for several thousand years keep eating it, if it has only been around for the last fifty years give it a miss. So that means removing from your diet:
- Refined carbohydrates including white bread, potatoes, white rice, white pasta.
- Low fat products
- Ready meals
- Cook-in sauces
- Generally anything in a packet
- Refined sugar including mannitol, sucrose, sorbitol and fructose
- High sulphur foods – garlic, onions, leek, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts (leave these out for a couple of weeks and then reintroduce - they don't affect everyone in the same way)
- Deep fried foods
- Carbonated drinks sich a Coke or fizzy water
- Anything containing high fructose corn syrup
- High fibre foods including brown rice, lentils, wholegrain bread, beans and pulses (although many people are unable to digest these without lots of gas) and whole grains
- Aim for nine to 14 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (not as much as it sounds when you break it down into 3 meals per day)
- Eat some raw vegetables every day
- Two to three portions of good quality protein i.e. fish, poultry, eggs, meat
- Fats – ensure your diet has sufficient fat including some saturated fat
- Small quantity of well chewed nuts and seeds
Very often when patients present at doctors surgeries with chronic constipation the GP will advise them to add fibre. Most often the recommended fibre is bran. Many people however are sensitive to bran and find that it makes them bloat even more.
Fybogel is commonly prescribed but for some reason I have never found anyone that the product works for - maybe it just does not have enough active ingredients.
In recent years there have been lots of fibre supplements introduced that are clear when mixed with water. They contain less fibre than a decent sized apple. To be effective you would need to talke a box a day.
Fibre is of primary significance in alleviating some of the symptoms of IBS. For happy healthy bowels it is necessary to consume a combination of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre comes mainly from fruits and vegetables, whilst insoluble comes mainly from grains and seeds. The government are now advocating aiming for 25 grams of fibre per day however I suggest that 35 grams is more appropriate. Bearing in mind that a medium apple contains approximately 2 grams of fibre it can help to supplement whilst adjusting your diet.
Personally, I have taken a fibre supplement for years despite consuming several pounds of raw fruit and veg per day as well as lots of nuts and seeds. I see the fibre supplement as a kind of insurance policy. Generally people who eat high fibre diets don't develop bowel cancer.
The product I use and stock is Go Daily, the base of which is psyllium husk. Go Daily also includes digestive enzymes, probiotics (good bacteria) and prebiotics (to support and feed the prebiotics) and L-glutamine (to soothe and regenerate your colon) . It promotes soft gel-like faeces and absolute abdominal comfort. With regular use your bowels will become amazingly efficient.
Psyllium Husk is gentle enough for most IBS sufferers and for anyone with sensitivity we also stock Hemp Fibre.
Some people experience extreme pain owing to cramping in the colon which used to be known as spastic colon. The colons of some IBS sufferers seem to be more sensitive and reactive to stimulation than that of most people. Colon Calm, as the name suggests, contains calming soothing herbs which work on the striated muscles of the colon to promote abdominal comfort. Breathing deeply and alowly during cramping can also help. Breath in slowly and deeply for a count of five, hold for five then breath out for five. Whilst you are breathing visualise the breath travelling down to the area which is cramping.
Whatever form your IBS takes, Colonics can be amazing. Results are often rapid although a long standing condition will take longer to get complete resolution. If you are experiencing constipation colonics can quickly bring relief and begin to educate your bowel to re-establish normal activity. It is also brilliant for rebalancing gut bacteria by removing all the pathogenic bacteria to allow a healthy bacterial balance to be established. It also brings tremendous relief by removing large quantities of trapped gas which can make your tummy instantly more comfortable and a great deal flatter. Colonics are likely to reduce the time it takes to get your colon working and your tummy comfortable. For more information read the section on colon hydrotherapy.
There is no aspect of your health and wellbeing that will not benefit from getting enough exercise. Exercise is really important to our bowels and every other aspect of our health. You can stay fit and healthy with as little as half an hours brisk exercise daily. You don't have to join a gym, walking is great exercise as long as you walk fast enough to raise your heart rate or you can use a trampet (described by NASA as the most efficient method of exercise ever discovered), take up skipping, join a dance class etc.
Working on your core strength will pay dividends. Our colons are meant to be held snuggly in our abdominal cavity. Loose abdominal muscles however allow the organ to flop forwards or down. Well toned abdominal muscles will support your colon and enable more efficient peristalsis.
Stress has a devastating effect on your digestive tract. If you are very driven, if you put your job before your health, if you find it difficult to unwind, if you are constantly "wired" you are going to be doing yourself no end of harm. Stress is a killer. If you are stressed out then you need to find ways of unwinding that are calm, peaceful, relaxing ( so that does not include going to the gym).
In our natural state stress was generally related to an event. Digestion takes a lot of energy - about 30% after a big meal. If a tiger had its eye on you for dinner and your survival depended on your getting away then your fight or flight response would be triggered. Your body would stop digestion completely. Any waste material in the very lowest part of your colon would be evacuated (which I suppose is where the saying I s*** myself came from). The remaining waste would then be dragged back for storage so that it can be eliminated at a less pressing moment. And there is the start of your bowel disruption. The longer the waste is then sitting in the colon the drier it will be and the slower it will move. You will not absorb nutrients efficiently from the undigested food and so the decline begins.
In the past, often there would be a stressful event, the body would go into fight or flight, the event would pass, the body survived and the recovery process would begin and food eaten to restore energy levels. Unfortunately, the way we live our lives now means that the "event" is sustained, there is never a period of recovery but our bodies press us to restore depleted energy levels. Instead we turn to alcohol, cigarettes, carbs, sugar etc All these stimulants will keep the body in its fight or flight state. This kind of sustained stress is what is so damaging.
There are many ways of chilling out which will give you long term very positive benefits including a gentle walk, Yoga, Tai chi, Qi gong. Meditation is amazing for stress and developing a daily practice even if you begin with 5 minutes per day will have benefits for your heart, circulatory system, blood pressure, digestion and bowel function. Meditation costs nothing to practice, you can do it anywhere, you don't need any special clothing or equipment, and it can take as much or as little time as you wish. And there's no need to make it complicated or atrie to achieve anything. Simply sit comfortably, set an alarm clock for the time you wish to begin with then close your eyes. You can start by counting your breath and paying attention to it. Notice the feeling of the air entering your nose. Allow your breathing to settle into a relaxed pattern and count the breaths. When you get to seven start again. You will notice that you start to think - but just acknowledge the thought, let it go and return to the breath. For me the best time of day for meditation is when I get up. that way I start the day in a nice frame of mind and I don't forget to do it.
Reiki is also amazing for relaxation and some people find that having a course of treatments helps them get into the right frame of mind to begin a meditation practice. Reiki is deeply calming and relaxing, I find it even more so than a massage. Lots of people like that Reiki treatment occurs with your clothes on and only the very lightest contact. Reiki works on both a physical and emotional level. I charge £35 for an hours Reiki (I am a Reiki Master) and am happy to discount for a course of treatments.
So lets see where we are up to in your IBS self-help programme. The very most common issues are covered here. If you don't get resolution from your bowel issues then the best thing to do would be to book in for a free consultation with me or a practitioner close to home if you are not from Yorkshire.
1. Get hydrated
2. Change your position on the loo - get your feet up!
3. Eat regularly
4. Chew, chew, chew!
5. How is your digestion?
6. Eating for healthy bowels - have you made the changes?
7. Food sensitivities - perhaps time for a test?
8. Exercise - even 1 half hour brisk walk per day will make a difference.
9. Rest and Relaxation - are you getting enough?