Natural Therapies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Bloating, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea/constipation are the classic conglomeration of symptoms you can associate with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A holistic evaluation and treatment approach is the optimal method to manage this chronic, multi-factor condition.
About 30 million Americans have this disorder, one where the large bowel contracts too much and in a disorganized fashion. Studies have revealed multiple potential underlying causes, including disturbances in your nerve or hormone function, alterations in your gastrointestinal flow and diet. Food sensitivities, chronic inflammation or intestinal infection, along with stress also may be at the root of your IBS.
Food is often first-line therapy in Integrative Medicine, and our doctors and health coaches can help guide your diet changes. Elimination challenge diets, specific to IBS, can uncover food sensitivities that are contributing to your symptoms. The average intake of fiber for American is less than 15-35 grams each day, so when you eat more soluble fiber, instead of insoluble forms of it, you also can improve bowel function. It is also important for you to increase how much water you drink each day as well, especially when you increase your soluble fiber intake. We recommend between 48-64 ounces of water daily; it's an optimal amount.
Another approach to combating IBS is with probiotics. These living organisms can address underlying alterations in your bowel flora, which is a complex community of organisms that live in your intestines. When you make improvements to the makeup of this flora, you can decrease gas and bloating. These tiny living things also play a vital role in the hormone, nerve and immune function of the gastrointestinal tract. Another approach is the use of acupuncture, since it can help normalize your bowel's nerve, hormone and immune functions.
Patients often tell us that when life's stress gets worse, so too does their IBS. We can help you implementi stress management strategies that will maximize your IBS management. Just 30 minutes of daily exercise can be an effective outlet for your stress, not to mention it can help clear some of that intestinal gas and bloating. If 30 is too many minutes, consider that only 10 minutes of mindfulness practice — deep breathing, guided imagery or biofeedback — can give you a management tool for stress since it helps balancie your autonomic nervous system that orchestrates bowel function. When you bring the autonomic nervous system back into balance with your mindfulness practice, it can help balance out your bowel function, too.
We have found applications of essential oils help many patients with stress management, pain, bloating and sleep — these small steps tend to help with the "bigger" problem of IBS as well.
We can help you with IBS, and we'd be happy to answer your questions.