Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex health problem that baffles patients and healthcare providers alike. The most common of all gastrointestinal problems, IBS is far more prevalent among women, and generally occurs between the ages of 25 - 45. ‘IBS’ is more of an umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms rather than an explanation of what’s causing the problem, and this makes it difficult to treat. There is no single known cause and conventional treatments tend to focus on symptom relief.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and unfortunately for sufferers, often interfere with normal daily life. For those with IBS, everyday activities such as dining out can become a daunting prospect, as anxiety over how the body will react builds. Many IBS sufferers have symptom ‘flare-ups’, which settle down again, and so the cycle continues.
As with many complex health problems, a functional medicine approach can be an incredibly effective way of dealing with IBS. With IBS it is crucial to uncover and work on the root cause(s), at the same time as using natural symptom relief so that any improvements are not just temporary, but long lasting.
The good news is that you don’t need to ‘just live with’ unwanted symptoms of IBS. Read on if you’re ready to take action to improve your gut health for good.
Here we identify common symptoms of IBS, a range of possible underlying causes, a simple 4R plan and some natural IBS symptom relief. Use this simple guide to IBS as an ideal starting point to help restore normal gut function.
A simple guide to IBS
Common symptoms of IBS:
- Recurrent abdominal pain and cramping (often relieved following a bowel movement)
- Change in bowel habits (diarrhoea / constipation or both)
- Excessive wind
- Urgent need to go to the toilet
- Lack of energy
Possible underlying causes of IBS:
- Dietary triggers – most commonly; wheat, dairy, gluten, yeast, tea, coffee, alcohol, raw fruits & vegetables in high quantities, citrus fruits, excess fructose (fruit sugar), sorbitol, lactose, fructans and spicy foods
- Chronic stress
- High levels of exercise
- Intestinal infection (bacteria / yeast / parasite)
- Leaky gut
- Imbalanced gut flora
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Low digestive enzymes or stomach acid
IBS – Simple 4R Plan:
You can take the first steps to restoring normal gut function with this simple 4R plan.
Step 1: Remove
Parasite, bacteria or yeast infection can often be at the root cause of gut symptoms and need to be addressed as a first step. Use a broad-spectrum herbal formula containing red thyme oil, oregano oil, sage leaf and lemon balm to help support the removal of unwanted invaders.
Step 2: Replace
Digestive enzyme production is often low, which may lead to typical IBS symptoms of bloating, pain and gas. Use a natural plant enzyme formula before each meal to gently support the digestive process.
Step 3: Re-inoculate
Low levels of friendly bacteria may be at the root cause of common gut symptoms. Supplement your diet with a range of beneficial micro-organisms that have been shown to be supportive to health such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, plantarum and rhamnosus & Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis and infantis.
Step 4: Repair
The gut lining can become leaky and needs to be repaired as a final step. Gut repair nutrients include glutamine and zinc. In addition, antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins B2, C, E, manganese, alpha lipoic acid and green tea extract help to protect the gut lining from further damage. Ongoing support with prebiotics (food for beneficial bacteria), probiotics and a range of essential vitamins and minerals may help to support maintenance of gut health.
IBS – Symptom Relief
Tiredness, fatigue and high levels of oxidative stress often accompany the more characteristic symptoms of IBS. So in addition to targeted gastrointestinal support, a comprehensive range of essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to enhance cellular energy, normalise metabolic function and increase antioxidant intake are strongly recommended.
Ongoing, natural support to help manage symptoms is an essential part of any treatment strategy for IBS sufferers.
Struggling with IBS? The route back to optimal health starts here!
If you’re struggling with IBS symptoms and unsure which way to turn, the simple 4R plan is the ideal place to start. You don’t need to ‘just live with’ IBS symptoms, you can take the first steps back to optimal health right away. More than just symptom relief, the simple 4R plan helps you to target some of the most common underlying causes of IBS. Remember that good health starts in the gut; if you’re suffering from unwanted symptoms, now is the best time to take the first steps back towards optimal health, for good.