Do you suffer from recurrent abdominal pain, bloating and intermittent diarrhoea, often alternating with constipation? You may be one of the increasing number of people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
IBS is the most common of all gastrointestinal conditions. It is far more common among women, and generally occurs between the ages of 25 and 45. There is no single known cause of IBS, but instead it is thought there are a wide range of possible underlying causes such as stress, food sensitivities and intolerances, exaggerated muscle contraction in the intestinal wall and gastrointestinal infection. The nutritional approach focuses on a tried and tested ‘4R’ approach, which aims to treat the root cause(s) of the problem combined with natural solutions for symptom relief.
The 4R Approach
1) Remove – Pathogens & Dietary Triggers
IBS is often connected to infection in the gut by parasite or bacterial pathogens, or yeast overgrowth such as candida. Identifying and removing any potential pathogens is an important first step in the treatment of IBS. Natural antimicrobials such as caprylic acid, grapefruit seed extract, berberine, red thyme, oregano and garlic can all help to support elimination of pathogens. Your health care practitioner will be able to recommend the most beneficial synergistic herbal formula for you.
Many common foods such as wheat and dairy products can act as a trigger for IBS symptoms. Keeping a food diary to help identify foods associated with symptoms can be a useful first step towards planning a suitable diet. Once problematic foods have been identified, it may be useful to follow an elimination diet whilst gut healing is targeted, before these foods are gradually reintroduced into the diet.
Common Food & Drink Triggers
• Citrus fruits
• Fructose, lactose, sorbitol & fructans
• Spicy foods
The ‘Replace’ phase of the 4R protocol refers to optimising digestion through use of appropriate nutritional support formulas. IBS sufferers can commonly be deficient in digestive enzymes and stomach acid. Your health care practitioner can identify whether this is the case and may advise short- term supplementation with:
Natural Digestive Enzymes
Inefficient digestion of food in the intestines can result in malabsorption, inflammation and bacterial imbalance. Supplementing with digestive enzymes including amylase, protease, lactase, cellulase and sucrase stimulates the natural production of digestive enzymes and can help to normalise digestion, often resulting in a relief of the symptoms of IBS.
Stomach acid is essential for the early stages of digestion which takes place in the stomach. Deficiency can result in incomplete digestion of foods, leading to symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort and malabsorption. Supplementation with natural sources of HCl can help to support these initial stages of digestion and help to reduce associated discomfort.
The ‘Reinoculate’ phase is primarily about ensuring a healthy balance of friendly bacteria in the gut, using high strength effective supplementation. Supplements containing the microorganisms Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM strain and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 strain can help restore bacterial balance in the gut. These beneficial bacteria provide an essential barrier to prevent pathogens from entering the blood stream and help ensure gut immunity by keeping out pathogenic bacteria, yeast and parasites. Having a healthy bacterial balance helps to ensure optimal gastrointestinal function and therefore helps to control IBS symptoms.
The final stage of the 4R protocol involves targeting gastrointestinal repair. This is especially important for both malabsorption and leaky gut, so often associated with IBS. L-glutamine, quercetin and zinc citrate can be a very effective, synergistic combination to help support gastrointestinal repair and promote optimal absorption.
• Glutamine is an essential amino acid and the preferred fuel for the protective mucosal cells lining the gut; it is also essential for the synthesis of rapidly dividing mucosal cells.
• Quercetin is a flavonoid that has been shown to be gastroprotective, whilst zinc helps to support immune health and also helps to regenerate the gut lining.
Additional Comprehensive Support
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:
Stress is both a major contributory factor and significant side effect associated with IBS. As a result, many IBS sufferers find themselves trapped in a vicious circle of stress. Targeted stress reduction is therefore an important part of any IBS treatment strategy.
Stress management techniques such as incorporating yoga, gentle exercise and meditation into your daily routine can be extremely beneficial for IBS sufferers.
• Fibre – find the best kind of fibre for you by trying different sources; try brown rice, porridge, barley, linseed, rye and vegetables
• Simple, unprocessed, wholesome foods and plenty of gently steamed vegetables
• Nuts, seeds, oily fish, ginger and turmeric as these all have anti-inflammatory activity in the body
• Tea, coffee and alcohol as these aggravate symptoms of IBS
• Raw fruits and vegetables in high quantities, as these can be too harsh for the digestive system
• Citrus fruits and excess amounts of fructose (fruit sugar) and sorbitol, which can aggravate symptoms of IBS
Several conditions can produce the symptoms of IBS. These include:
• Candida or other yeast infections
• Parasite infection
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Lactose intolerance
• Other food interolances
It is important to eliminate these as causes of gastrointestinal upset so that each can be treated appropriately. A Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis test provides a detailed assessment of gastrointestinal function and can identify or eliminate many of the above factors. The test is available through Genova Diagnostics. See your health care practitioner for further information.