Research Shows Natural Approaches Give Relief to Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Do you suffer from abdominal bloating and pain, excessive flatulence, and problems with your bowels such as constipation and diarrhoea? Although these symptoms can be caused by serious conditions, often after investigation no disease is found to cause this irritability of the bowel, so the diagnosis is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).


Naturopaths believe many factors cause health problems rather than just one cause. IBS in particular has many causes. Perhaps this is why naturopaths have so much success in helping people who have IBS. The medical approach which addresses singular causes sadly gives limited relief.


Traditional naturopathic approaches give relief from IBS

Over the years research has begun to show traditional naturopathic approaches, such as changes in the diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine and lifestyle changes, do give relief from the symptoms of IBS. It is important these methods are tailored to meet the unique needs of the person to gain a full recovery from IBS.


The Bowel needs bulk- but not all high fibre foods help

It is important for the bowel to have bulk to work well. If you eat a lot of refined foods, such as white flour, white bread, sugar and very little fruit and vegetables you will not have the fibre the bowel needs. Although fibre is needed to help in relieving IBS [1] not all high fibre foods will help. Always avoid added bran; this can irritate the bowel [2] and decrease the absorption of nutrients [3]. In wholegrains the bran is still naturally attached so is generally more nutritious. Unfortunately sometimes grains can be a problem for IBS suffers [4]. Choose mainly vegetables and some fresh fruit for your main source of fibre. Studies show that psyllium husks can be a very helpful source of fibre [2], however I have found soaked linseeds to be even better.


Food Intolerances and Allergies

Food intolerances often cause IBS. A food intolerance is different to a food allergy. Food allergies tend to be fast, severe, and sometimes life-threatening. Food intolerance can cause distressing and painful reactions, but reactions tend to be slower, so are often harder to identify. Studies show that avoiding certain foods helps give relief from IBS [4, 5]. If you suffer from IBS you could  be intolerant to a number of foods [4, 5], in my naturopathic practice I  have found dairy foods (milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt), and/or grains (especially wheat) are most likely to aggravate the bowel. Recent studies have confirmed that grains [4] and dairy foods [4] can cause IBS [4,62].


Foods intolerances can produce symptoms such as; gas, gut pain, diarrhoea or constipation, severe headaches, severe fatigue, loss of concentration, memory and reasoning, muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations, and a variety of allergies [6]. If foods are not digested properly the bacteria naturally present in the gut produce toxins which lead to these symptoms [6]. Lactose found in dairy products is a common cause of food intolerances. If you are highly sensitive to lactose you will have to avoid not only dairy products, but the foods which may contain lactose such as processed meats, bread, cake mixes, soft drinks, and lagers [7].


Poorly digested foods ferment in the gut

Poorly digested foods will ferment in the gut. Fermentation produces gas; a lot of gas results in bloating, pain and bowel disturbances. Any food can cause this if a meal is rushed or eaten when feeling anxious or stressed. Sugars in particular increase fermentation, and IBS symptoms [8]. The sugars can further add to the problems by decreasing magnesium [9]; a mineral that is used by the body at times of stress [10, 11]. The Entire Katoa Food State supplements have been shown to have high absorbency [12-16] and are ideal for people with IBS.


Prolonged bowel problems may cause low nutrients - Probiotics help

Other nutrients may be low as a result of prolonged bowel problems; which make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients. Probiotics are helpful bacteria that have a role in helping absorption of nutrients, and maintaining general health. Most bowel problems, and antibiotics decrease this helpful bacteria. In some cases IBS starts  with a bout of gastroenteritis [17]. If the bowel does not have enough probiotic bacteria it doesn't work well, so bowel problems continue. Many studies show that replacing the probiotics as a supplement help relieve IBS [ 18, 19202122].


Herbal remedies

Herbal remedies help digestion, decrease gas, and relieve anxiety. Numerous research studies show that peppermint, relieves IBS symptoms [1, 23, 24]. Other herbal medicines that have been shown to help not only the fermentation and gas, but also digestion and stress experienced with IBS, include: Chamomile, Caraway, Liquorice, Lemon balm and Milk thistle [23].


Some herbs help IBS by supporting other systems of the body. For example, imbalances in womens' hormones may contribute to IBS symptoms [25]; herbal medicines help to rebalance the hormones.


There are so many natural methods that help give relief from IBS that you no longer have to suffer this distressing condition. 


Contact Bay Health Clinic today to find out more about herbal medicine that can be tailored to your personal needs and to book your Naturopathic consultation; call 07 571 3226 or email us:


Copyright Jaine Kirtley Registered Naturopath (NZ Soc Naturopaths), Registered Nurse (mental Health) practises in Judea, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty. 



Click on the title to link to the reference

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