Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition affecting the digestive tract. It affects the large intestine.
IBS commonly presents as bouts of loose motions, cramps or pain in the abdomen, bloating of abdomen, gas troubles or constipation.
The symptoms vary between various individuals and affect some people more severely than others. They come up often during the times of stress or after eating certain foods and last for about few days to a few months at times.
The symptoms can be controlled by dietary changes if they are mild; however some people may need strong medications to feel better.
How IBS presents:
Most of the people have flare-ups when they eat or drink something that triggers the problem. The symptoms then last for a few days and improve later but do not disappear completely.
The symptoms vary from person to person. IBS commonly presents as:
- Pain in the abdomen or cramps
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Gas troubles
- Mucus in the stools
- An unsatisfactory feeling even after passing stools.
- Lethargy or weakness
- Sick feeling
- Bladder problems
The symptoms may have a significant impact on a person’s day to day life and can lead to anxiety or depression.
What causes IBS?
The exact cause of IBS is unknown; however various theories can be related to the problem. One of the causes can be due to problems with the muscular activity in the intestines. The walls of the intestines are lined by muscles. These muscles usually contract and relax in a rhythmic manner and allow smooth passage of food in the gastric tract.
When a person is suffering from IBS, these rhythmic contractions are altered and the passage of food is either too fast or too slow in the digestive tract leading to diarrhea or constipation respectively. When the food passes too quickly from the intestines, there is no enough time for the absorption of water and hence the person gets diarrhea. Or the opposite may occur when the contractions are too weak, leading to slow passage of food and dry stools.
Other causes can be:
- Increased sensitivity of the gut
There is proper coordination of the signals sent by the brain and the nerves of the digestive tract in normal circumstances. But when a person suffers from IBS, there is poor coordination of the brain and the nervous system of the digestive tract. This leads to the overreaction of the body to certain changes that normally are mild in nature. This overreaction can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation.
- Psychological factors
Stress and anxiety can trigger certain chemical changes in the body which lead to IBS.
Some people develop IBs in later who have suffered from certain emotional disturbances in childhood like abuse, neglect, a serious childhood illness, some death of a close one etc.
- Drinks or foods that contain caffeine such as tea, coffee or cola
- Fatty or fried foods
- Processed snacks like chips and biscuits
- Family history of IBS
- Hormonal changes during menstrual cycles or menopause.
How is IBS diagnosed?
In most of the cases, the diagnosis of IBS is based on the typical signs and symptoms. The person will be asked if he have had any of these symptoms often in last 6 months:
- Changes in bowel habits like diarrhea or constipation
- Bloating of abdomen with frequent passage of gas
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Passing mucus in stools
- Symptoms getting worse after eating.
If the diagnosis is in doubt, certain tests may be required to rule out other conditions that can present with similar signs and symptoms. Some blood tests along with stool examination and other imaging tests are to be done.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: it includes examining the lower part of intestine with a lighted tube called sigmoidoscope.
- Colonoscopy: the test used to examine the whole colon when the symptoms are severe.
- X-rays: gives an image of the colon.
- CT scan: it helps to rule out other conditions causing similar symptoms.
- Lower gastrointestinal series: in this test, the large intestine is filled with a liquid (barium) which helps to visualize any problems on the X-ray.
- Lactose intolerance test: lactase is an enzyme found in dairy products. If a person cannot digest this enzyme, it produces similar complaints of diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc. So in order to rule out this condition, lactose intolerance test in necessary to be done.
- Blood tests: to rule celiac disease which is due to oversensitivity to wheat, barley, and rye proteins.
- Stool test: to check for any bacteria or parasites that may have lead to infections producing similar signs and symptoms like that of IBS.
In many of the cases of IBS, simple lifestyle changes as well as dietary changes are enough to relieve the symptoms of IBS.
- Balancing the amount of fibers in the diet
Fibers help in reducing constipation but at the same time, increases gas troubles and abdominal cramps. So it is necessary to include fibers in the diet.
The amount of fibers should be increased slowly in the diet over a period of weeks. If the fibers cause more problems, the intake should be lessened.
Examples of foods containing fibers are whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans.
- Avoiding problematic foods
Foods and drinks like alcohol, chocolates, caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, soda, dairy products etc should be stopped as they worsen the problem. Fatty foods and foods like beans, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli make the gas troubles more, so they too are better to be avoided.
- Meals at regular intervals
Meals should be taken at regular timings each day in order to regulate the bowel movements. If a person has diarrhea, he should eat small meals at frequent intervals, where as if he has constipation, he should go for high fiber diet with plenty of water.
- Drinking plenty of liquids
It helps to relieve constipation and gas troubles. Water should be preferred over carbonated beverages and caffeinated beverages which make the gas troubles worse.
Regular exercises and stress releasing techniques like yoga should be done regularly in order to decrease the anxiety, stress or other mind symptoms which can trigger the problem.
If the symptoms of IBS are mild certain life style and dietary changes can help to reduce the symptoms. When your symptoms are moderate or severe you may need to eliminate certain foods in your diet like gluten (wheat, barley and rye) , high gas- producing foods like carbonated beverages, broccoli , cauliflower etc. You will need to find out your trigger and avoid it. Homeopathy medicines reduce the bowel sensitivity and improve overall symptoms of IBS.
Best Homeopathy medicines for IBS
- The patient is usually constipated and doesn’t feel satisfied even after evacuating his bowels.
- Prolonged use of stimulants like tea, coffee and alcohol.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Chilly patient.
- Flatulence or bloating of abdomen is the main symptom.
- Everything or anything that he eats, turns into gas. The patient describes himself as full of gas.
- Tense abdomen which aggravates when lying down.
- Slow digestion
- Aversion to fatty foods, meat and milk.
- Great desire to eat sweets
- Diarrhea on mental exertion (nervous diarrhea). Anxious when he goes out in public places like engagements, church etc and gets diarrhea.
- Persistent belching with great distension of abdomen.
- Constant feeling of weight in the rectum.
- Jelly like mucus in the stools.
- Often ends up passing stools while passing flatus.
- Rumbling and gurgling in the abdomen with much flatulence.
- Constant sense of insecurity in the rectum.
- Bitter taste in the mouth.
- Aversion to fatty foods which aggravates the troubles.
- Heaviness in the stomach as if from a weight.
- Feels better in open air.
- Changeability of symptoms.