Soothing Your Tummy Troubles: Simple Natural Fixes for IBS Woes

I meet people every day and talk to them about improving their health. They usually have no problem talking about almost any issue … until it comes to the “embarrassing” ones. For instance problems with digestion and elimination, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

But if you have IBS, it’s at the top of your mind even if you aren’t comfortable mentioning it to a health advisor or practitioner.

So let’s talk about it here, because you need to know that there are natural remedies that can relieve IBS with no side effects and give you a lot of peace of mind.

IBS affects both men and women, although the experts have debated whether there are true gender differences in the disease. Hormones seem to play a role in women but not in men. Women in western countries appear more likely than men to have the disease and three times more likely to seek medical help. By contrast, men in eastern countries are four times more likely than women to see a doctor for symptoms.

Although there are a number of medications that can be used to help relieve symptoms, natural remedies are becoming increasingly more popular, especially since drugs are associated with side effects and do not address the underlying cause of the disease.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal condition that affects approximately 10 to 15 percent of adults. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, irritable bowel syndrome is second only to the common cold when it comes to a reason for missing work.

Having irritable bowel syndrome typically means experiencing an urgent need to use the bathroom, often with little warning. This fact, along with the pain, diarrhea, constipation, spastic contractions of the colon, and bloating make it an illness that can significantly affect quality of life, even though it is not a life-threatening condition.

Fortunately, you can choose from several different natural remedies that can be helpful in managing this disease. The other good news is that these options are also beneficial for overall health.

Restore your biotic balance. Among the more common natural remedies for irritable bowel syndrome is probiotics, or beneficial bacteria. That’s because an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in your gut—also known as dysbiosis—can lead to irritable bowel syndrome. Nurturing your body and intestinal tract with probiotics can restore balance and help manage the disease.

Since your intestinal tract is ground zero for this disease, you need to cultivate a healthful environment every day, and that means plenty of probiotics. These good bacteria can be found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, and especially in a high-quality probiotic supplement.

For best results, choose a probiotic supplement that contains at least five but preferably more strains of beneficial bacteria. The most commonly used organisms are species from Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. A diet low in sugar and processed foods and high in natural, whole foods will help support good bacteria in the gut and the benefits of the probiotics.

In addition to probiotics, you can face the challenge of irritable bowel syndrome with a number of other natural remedies.

Go gluten free. Eliminating gluten from your diet can relieve your symptoms rather quickly if you are sensitive to or intolerance of this protein. Gluten is found not only in wheat but in barley, couscous, durum, einkorn, farina, kamut, matzo, oats, rye, semolina, spelt, and triticale. Once you stop eating foods that contain gluten, you should experience a significant improvement within 7 to 14 days.

So what can you eat? This list is longer than the elimination one! It includes amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat (kasha), cassava, corn, flax, millet, quinoa, rice, sorghum, tapioca, and teff. You also can try gluten-free flours made from beans, coconut, and nuts.

Pass on processed foods. Refined, processed foods contain countless numbers of artificial and potentially harmful ingredients that could have a negative impact on your gut. Choose whole, fresh, and/or minimally processed foods and organic whenever possible.

Control stress. Living with irritable bowel syndrome can be a stressful experience, and at the same time, unmanaged emotions can exacerbate the symptoms. Explore ways to control your stress, such as yoga, guided visualization, breathing exercises, meditation, artistic endeavors, or dance. The authors of a new study found that use of relaxation response/mind-body intervention by adults with irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease resulted in improvement in anxiety, pain, and other disease symptoms as well as an impact on inflammatory molecules.

Conduct parasite patrol. Ask your physician to check your stool for parasites. The presence of parasites can contribute to and exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome. In a new review, parasites that may have a role include Blastocystic hominis, Giardia spp, Entamoeba histolytica, Dientamoeba fragilis, and Trichinella spp.

Listen to your body. Everyone has a different genetic makeup, biochemistry, and metabolic rhythm, so it’s important for your eating habits to be in synch with these factors as much as possible. When that happens, you are much less likely to experience symptoms of irritable bowel. You may need to keep a diary of your meal breakdown (percentage of protein, fat, and carbs) and whether you feel better on a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet or a low-fat, low-protein, high-carb approach (with most carbs coming from vegetables). In all cases, go organic when you can – as much as your budget allows.

Feast on fiber. You can use fiber to help control both diarrhea and constipation. Although dietary fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are preferred, you may need to take a fiber supplement to enhance your efforts. One type of fiber that assists with both constipation and diarrhea is psyllium. Choose organic psyllium to prevent any possible irritation from pesticides or chemical residues. Ground organic flax seed (2 to 3 tablespoons daily) can be helpful as well, plus it provides healthful omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation.

Peppermint oil. A natural antispasmodic to consider is peppermint oil, which blocks calcium channels, leading to relaxation of the gastrointestinal smooth muscles. Several studies have indicated that peppermint oil can offer short-term relief, although not much is known about long-term use. A new study from the University of South Alabama, Mobile, reported good results from use of a slow-release peppermint oil formula. The authors credit their success to a “unique formulation of ultra-purified peppermint oil” and a dosing delivery system that differs from other peppermint oil products on the market.

Don’t let the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome get your down. Consider these natural remedies and discuss them with a knowledgeable healthcare provider to help you make a choice.