Because it is not clear what causes irritable bowel syndrome, medical treatment tends to focus on the relief of symptoms. Some of the treatments include anti-diarrhea drugs, anticholinergic (these drugs suppress the nervous system) drugs and even anti-depressants. Bear in mind, all of these drugs have side effects, some even fatal. Because of the side effects, I will point my patients towards a more natural approach to treating IBS.
Supplements for the dietary management of IBS can be unbelievably helpful for stabilizing digestion. This is particularly true when they’re combined with proper diet, stress management, and chiropractic care. Soluble fiber supplements, herbs, probiotics, calcium and magnesium, as well as digestive enzymes are some of the courses of treatment that I recommend in my office.
Peppermint – Enteric coated peppermint oil capsules may help reduce the symptoms of gas, stomach cramps and bloating associated with IBS. If you don’t take peppermint oil sometimes even a good peppermint tea can help.
Fennel and dill – Fennel and dill seeds can be brewed into a calming tea which helps to reduce the symptoms associated with gas and bloating.
Ginger – this spice can be used as a digestive regulating herb. It helps to alleviate the symptoms associated with nausea, morning sickness, motion sickness and indigestion. Ginger may cause heartburn in certain susceptible individuals.
Cinnamon – this spice can be used to help prevent diarrhea. It can be sprinkled on top of food, such as oatmeal and buttered toast.
Proper diet is very important in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. First of all, by process of elimination, try to discover any food sensitivities that you may have and stay away from those foods. Also, increase your water intake as well as stay away from carbonated drinks and a lot of dairy products. Gradually try to increase your intake of foods rich in fiber such as whole grain bread, brown rice, oats, and bran. Eating raw fruits and vegetables is also a good source of fiber. Also try to avoid fatty or fried foods.
Probiotics are live microbial organisms that are naturally present in the digestive tract. These “friendly” bacteria promote health by suppressing the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, improving immune function, and enhancing the protective barrier of the digestive tract. Studies have found that probiotics can be helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome. One study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that using a probiotics composed of the bacteria Bifidobacterium infantis was effective in reducing abdominal pain, bloating, bowel dysfunction, incomplete evacuation, straining, and gas.
Calcium and Magnesium
Calcium and Magnesium play critical and antagonistic roles in regulating muscle function. Together they provide the mechanism for muscle contraction and relaxation. In terms of GI tract function, calcium has a constipating effect, whereas magnesium acts as a laxative. As a result, calcium supplements can be truly beneficial for people with diarrhea-predominant IBS, and magnesium supplements can work wonders for IBS-constipation. To take a calcium/magnesium supplement that will keep your bowel function in balance, it’s typically recommended to use a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, as many people absorb magnesium more easily than calcium.
Digestive Enzymes can be helpful when taken right before a meal, especially if the meal tends to be fattier than what you can tolerate with your IBS. Enzymes are available at all health food stores and may be of more benefit to older people, as natural digestive enzyme production declines with age.
Stress reduction should always play a part in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Some forms of achieving stress reduction are psychological counseling, biofeedback, exercise, yoga, Pilates, massage, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.
One of the most telling realizations about irritable bowel syndrome is that even though the cause is unknown, most medical doctors will tell you that there is a dysfunction in the muscles of your intestines that causes the food to be moved through them either too fast or too slow. This movement is controlled by your parasympathetic nervous system. Those parasympathetic nerves exit your spine in your low back and go to the intestines. If there is a problem with that area of your low back, it can affect how the intestinal muscles function. Just like people can have symptoms in their legs as a result of a low back problem affecting the nerves to the legs, they can have intestinal symptoms if the parasympathetic nerves going to the intestines are involved with a spinal problem.
The way we treat IBS in our office is through specific chiropractic adjustments that affect the parasympathetic nervous system. If you’re suffering from this chronic, and often times debilitating, condition, wouldn’t it be worth giving chiropractic a try? Unlike the medications, chiropractic care has no side effects. If you’d like to give chiropractic a try, let me know. If I’m not in your area, I’d be more than willing to help you find a good chiropractor near you.