What is IBS exactly?
Unlike more serious intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, IBS does not increase the risk of colorectal cancer, and in most people the symptoms are mild. The primary characteristic is a gastrointestinal disturbance. Everyone has digestive disturbances at times. Do all you can to moderate your dietary habits to support good digestion... but, if IBS symptoms are a chronic problem, see a trained medical professional to help you resolve it.
Even if you are already working with a Gastroenterologist you may want to consider adding a Naturopathic Doctor to your treatment team, as there are a number of safe, natural and effective steps your ND can recommend to get your system moving in the right direction again.
Common symptoms of IBS include...
- Abdominal cramping or pain
- Diarrhea, constipation or alternating bouts of both
- Mucus in the stool
These sorts of intestinal symptoms have been labeled IBS, this doesn't mean medication is the best or the only answer. In fact, taking pills may cause a need for other ones, because they so often generate side effects.
It's worth noting that the medications specifically approved for IBS, Alosetron Hydrochloride for diarrhea and Tegaserod Maleate for constipation, have serious side effects, including even more severe constipation or diarrhea and decreased blood flow to the colon. This may lead to even more digestive problems and diseases. Sometimes medication may prove necessary, but often you'll do better to identify and address the underlying causes of the digestive problem.
The proper functioning of your digestive system has an awful lot to do with what you put in your mouth, what happens to it before it reaches the large intestine, and whether you have the appropriate balance of bacteria in your large intestine.
Suggestion to Help with IBS:
Be picky about what you eat and drink. Avoid sodas and other sugary treats, caffeine, alcohol and fried or processed foods, all of which impede digestion. Try to eat more whole foods, healthy fats (e.g., found in salmon, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds) and complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and steamed veggies.
Monitor food combinations, as these directly influence how quickly and efficiently food is digested. For example, don't combine "white" foods (such as white sugar, white flour, white bread, white potatoes, etc.) with saturated fats (for example, red meat or dairy products). Taken together, these can require as long as two to three hours to digest, during which time microorganisms in the food can colonize the stomach lining and cause digestive disturbances.
Keep fluids with meals to a minimum, and chew food thoroughly. The natural process by which saliva is added to food as it is chewed, to break it down thoroughly in the mouth, sets the rest of the digestive process in motion. Washing down food with water or other beverages turns out to be counter-productive. Fluids may also dilute stomach acid, making digestion less efficient.
Digestive Enzymes may be needed.
If you are 35 or older, consider taking supplemental digestive enzymes. Since aging tends to diminish our digestive enzymes, taking them as a supplement helps the body break down foods into compounds that make nutrients easier to digest, and also work to decrease the number of colonized microorganisms in the stomach.
Consider HCL or Hydrochloric acid supplements to aid digestion and nutrient absorption. Try the Apple cider vinegar test at home to assess need.