Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 people are affected by IBS, with more women than men being diagnosed. There isn’t enough research for a definitive answer as to why this is the case but it may be that women seek out a diagnosis sooner than men or that the effect of the female hormones is having an exacerbating effect on the IBS symptoms.
IBS is an interesting condition because there is no test, scan or procedure that can say you have it. IBS is a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’ meaning that other problems like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis (or other digestive problems) are ruled out first and so eventually you are left with the diagnosis of IBS.
So you now have a label for the symptoms you are experiencing, which in itself can be something of a relief, you may also have been told there is no definite cure for IBS. So where does that leave you, what do you do now, live with the symptoms for the rest of your life?
What are your choices?
First have a look at what you are eating and keep a food and symptom diary so that you can detect any pattern to your symptoms. You want to keep an eye out for foods that trigger symptoms, but you may also discover that there are certain times of the day which are worse, maybe when you are tired or that your symptoms are linked to regularly stressful aspects of your week.
Try excluding wheat and dairy foods first for two weeks as these have been indicated in clinical trials. Keep a careful note of your symptoms and if they have gone after two weeks, introduce one of these foods groups back in to your diet gradually over two days to see if you get a flare up of symptoms or not. If not then bring the other foods back in.
You can follow this formula for any number of foods but keep in mind it does take 2 weeks of exclusion before you can reintroduce the food to test if it is a trigger.
It is important to leave two days in between testing foods because the reaction can often be slower than you think as the food passes through the digestive system.
A good quality multivitamin and mineral would form the foundation of your supplement programme to make sure that you are getting a ‘little bit of everything’. You then add in those nutrients in slightly higher amounts which are known to be helpful for IBS.
Vitamin D is important for IBS because it has a balancing effect on your immune function. It is thought that the immune response in the gut with IBS is too strong and is over-reacting to foods causing pain and cramping.
These days many people are deficient in vitamin D without realising it. We have alarmingly low levels of vitamin D in the UK, more than 50 per cent of adults has insufficient vitamin D levels.
There is some concern that most people today are not getting much vitamin D from their diet, especially those who are eating junk food and not eating any or very little oily fish or eggs. My recommendation would be check your level with a simple home finger prick test please click Vitamin D Deficiency Test
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are so important because they help to control inflammation in your body and it is now thought that inflammation is the root cause of many of our degenerative health problems in today’s world. It is usually thought there is no inflammation connected with IBS but researchers have found a kind of ‘mini-inflammation’ in the lining of the bowel which can then make your bowel more sensitive and increase pain and cramping. By using certain nutrients that have an anti-inflammatory effect it is possible to help reduce this sensitivity.
Many of the women I see in the clinic have been taking evening primrose oil supplements – an Omega 6 fatty acid – for years and have not been eating enough Omega 3 oils, or taking them in supplement form, to counterbalance this. Some women are also taking combinations such as Omega 3, 6, and 9 in supplement form because they have heard that we need a good balance of all the Omega fatty acids. This is true, but you have to take into account what your own levels may be in the first place. It is no good adding in more Omega 6 if you have already got enough or in fact too much in your body. (You can now have a blood test to tell you if you have the correct levels of Omega 3 to Omega 6 in your body see below). To check whether you have sufficient levels of Omega 3 please click Omega 3 Deficiency Test (at home finger prick blood).
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is very helpful for your immune function. In large amounts it can cause diarrhoea so can actually be helpful if you have constipation by gradually increasing the amount. Start with 500mg once a day and gradually increase the amount by 500mg each day until the stools are the consistency that is comfortable. If you suffer predominantly from diarrhoea rather than constipation, then try just 500mg a day and if it doesn’t make the diarrhoea worse then try another 500mg the next day. I would suggest you use the alkaline form of vitamin C magnesium ascorbate and not ascorbic acid. The optimum amount per day for your general health is 500mg twice a day.
Research has been mounting over the years to suggest that probiotics can be extremely beneficial in helping with IBS. Scientists think that probiotics work for IBS because they are now suggesting that IBS could be caused by an imbalance in bacteria within the gut, the effects of having a gastrointestinal infection, having a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or an overactive immune function in the gut and probiotics can help with all these possible causes.
When you are aiming to restore your digestive function you want a good combination of botanicals to support your body’s ability to do that. A good combination should contain peppermint oil, marshmallow, slippery elm, ginger, chamomile, artichoke, fennel, turmeric and liquorice.
It has a number of benefits for IBS in that it can help to prevent indigestion, gas and bloating. Ginger also acts as an anti-spasmodic and it relaxes and soothes your intestinal tract. It is also known to reduce anxiety which for some people can worsen gastrointestinal symptoms.
It has been shown to contain a number of substances which can bind to the serotonin receptors in your digestive system in order to lessen some of the IBS symptoms.
It helps calm and soothe the digestive tract by coating the lining of the intestines to reduce irritation and to calm the inflamed mucous membranes in the intestines. Slippery elm has this calming and soothing effect because it contains mucilage which becomes a gel when combined with water.
Slippery elm is good for both constipation and diarrhoea as it can add bulk to stools if you have diarrhoea and to soften the stools if you are constipated.
Like slippery elm, marshmallow contains mucilage which can reduce irritation in the digestive system and can form a protective coating over irritated and inflamed intestinal mucosal membranes so it is good for all the symptoms associated with IBS.
It can help to heal the irritated surfaces of your intestines and also has an anti-spasmodic effect so lessening abdominal cramps. Licorice has been show to help with IBS especially when combined with slippery elm.
It can reduce spasms and control ‘nervous’ reactions in the gut making it less sensitive to food and other triggers. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect and can improve peristalsis (the muscular movement of the stool through your intestines).
It helps prevent and relieve flatulence, as well as soothing the digestive tract and reducing cramps and spasms.
This herb has had the most research in terms of its effectiveness for reducing IBS symptoms. It can eliminate or reduce spasms, bloating, trapped wind, constipation and diarrhoea.
It has significant anti-inflammatory effects throughout your body and has been shown to help 66% of sufferers relieve the symptoms of IBS.
This vegetable used as a leaf extract has been shown to reduce the symptoms of IBS by over 25%. People using the extract showed a significant shift away from bowel movements which were alternating constipation/diarrhoea to a more normal pattern.
There are a number of tests available that are extremely useful and are well worth considering. These tests can give you invaluable insights into understanding what is going on in your body at the moment.
The analysis of these results lets you know what supplements you need to take in order to bring your body back into balance and into optimum health. You would then be re-tested after three months to monitor your progress and to adjust the supplement programme accordingly.
I think a stool test can be extremely useful in trying to determine the cause of IBS because it is well known that having a bout of food poisoning can leave you twice as likely to develop IBS and in my experience that ‘bug’ may still be there causing you symptoms.
The stool test I would suggest gives you much more information than just checking for bugs or parasites. It actually assesses how well you can digest and absorb your food, especially your ability to absorb fats, which are often a trigger for IBS symptoms. This stool test also gives a measure of how much of the beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium you have in your gut. When you are checking for parasites, it is important that you give three stool samples, not just one, because the parasite may not be picked up on only one sample. For more information click Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis & Parasitology Test
Online Personalised Supplement Assessment Programme
Discover what vitamins and minerals you need and should be taking
The analysis of this comprehensive questionnaire will give you a three monthly supplement programme to help balance any vitamin and mineral deficiencies you may have. Find out more – Online Personalised Supplement Assessment Programme
Vitamin D Deficiency Test (at home finger prick blood)
With all the news in the press about the benefits of having good levels of vitamin D e.g. prevention of cancer, especially breast cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis it is important that you know whether or not you are lacking in this vital vitamin.
We know that Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption, but it also plays many other important roles including prevention of cancer, especially breast cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. As well as all of these benefits, it is now thought that having good levels of vitamin D is important for healthy immune function which is crucial for IBS and it can also help slow down the ageing process and low levels have been implicated in other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and inflammatory bowel disease. To check whether you have sufficient levels of Vitamin D please click Vitamin D Deficiency Test (at home finger prick blood)
If you want to find out if you are getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids from your diet and whether you have the correct balance of essential fatty acids.
Signs of an Omega 3 fatty acid are dry skin, lifeless hair, cracked nails, fatigue, depression, dry eyes, lack of motivation, aching joints, difficulty in losing weight, forgetfulness, cystitis. If you have also tried to lose weight by going on a low-fat or no-fat diet, you are likely to be deficient in these essential fats. It is now estimated that we are getting ten times more Omega 6 fats from our diet than Omega 3 and over the last century there has been an 80% decrease in the consumption of these Omega 3 fatty acids. When you eat Omega 3 fats they are converted to substances that have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Find out more – Omega 3 Deficiency Test (at home finger prick blood)
Many of the women I see in the clinic have been taking evening primrose oil supplements – an Omega 6 fatty acid – for many years as it can be helpful with PMS. But you can end up with too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 in your body. Some women are also taking combinations such as Omega 3, 6, and 9 in supplement form because they have heard that we need a good balance of all the Omega fatty acids. This is true, but you have to take into account what your own levels may be in the first place. It is no good adding in more Omega 6 if you have already got enough or in fact too much in your body. (You can now have a blood test to tell you if you have the correct levels of Omega 3 to Omega 6 in your body see below). To check whether you have sufficient levels of Omega 3 please click Omega 3 Deficiency Test (at home finger prick blood).
After three months you would then have a re-test in order to monitor your progress and adjust your supplement programme according to your new condition.
Plan of Action
Ensure you are getting the right nutrition. Follow the dietary recommendations outlined in the free Foundation of Health ebook. For more information on the specialist dietary recommendations for IBS, read the book Natural Solutions for IBS’s at The Natural Health Practice.
The supplement programme below should be taken for at least three months in order to achieve best results.
Nutrients and Amounts
|A good multivitamin and mineral||Probiotic 22 billion beneficial bacteria|
|Omega 3 (770mg EPA and 510 DHA)||Vitamin C 1000mg|
A good herbal formula should contain:
- Peppermint oil 200mg
- Marshmallow root 170mg
- Slipper elm 120mg
- Turmeric 100mg
- Ginger root 80mg
- Fennel 80mg
- Chamomile 60mg
- Artichoke 20mg
To avoid having to purchase numerous supplements for the above and to make the process easier, I have put together a supplement programme which contains all the nutrients mentioned above and in the correct amounts. For more information about these click IBS Supplement Programme for over 45’s or IBS Supplement Programme for under 45’s.
In my book Natural Solutions for IBS, I explain the impact of nutrition on your digestion and also give in great detail a list of the most important nutrients required in order to help you. If you would like to order these special supplements now, you can do so through the Natural Health Practice by clicking IBS Supplements for over 45’s at The Natural Health Practice or IBS Supplements for under 45’s at The Natural Health Practice.
The tests below have been specially selected to be the most helpful if you are concerned about IBS.
Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis & Parasitology Test
After three months you would then have a re-test in order to monitor your progress and adjust your supplement programme according to your new condition.
If you need help in obtaining any of the supplements or tests mentioned above, click IBS at The Natural Health Practice. They can supply all of them for you online or if you prefer to talk to somebody first you can also order by mail order on the telephone. The products supplied by this company are always of the highest quality.
If you would like more in-depth advice on how to look after digestion and IBS then read my book Natural Solutions to IBS.
The contents of this site are for information only and are intended to assist readers in identifying symptoms and conditions they may be experiencing. This site is not intended to be a substitute for taking proper medical advice and should not be relied upon in this way. Always consult a qualified doctor or health practitioner, especially if you are pregnant, taking the pill or on any medication. Your situation will need to be looked at individually and you should not attempt to self treat. The author and publisher cannot accept responsibility for illness arising out of the failure to seek medical advice from a doctor. The views expressed by third parties placing material on these pages are not representative of the views of the author or publisher. The Author and Publisher cannot monitor the content not produced by us and has not reviewed all the third party material published on this site and the Author and Publisher accept no liability whatsoever in relation to the content of third party material placed on these pages.