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Relieving IBS Symptoms With Alternative Medicine

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 15 May 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Ibs Symptoms Supplements Alternative

Many people who suffer from IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, spend years desperately searching for any type of remedy to alleviate their symptoms and cure their distress.

Some sufferers are lucky and find a treatment that alleviates one or all of their symptoms or triggers, which can include taking antispasmodics to get rid of abdominal cramping or taking antidepressants to ward off stress, which often makes IBS symptoms a lot worse.

Others, however, look for alternative remedies that do not involve medication to treat their IBS, either in the form of diets, different types of therapies, lifestyle changes and a wide range of supplements.

What is IBS?

Experts estimate that about 15 per cent of the population suffer from IBS, although nobody knows its exact cause, and there is no one specific treatment.

It is characterised as a chronic digestive disorder that often involves severe abdominal cramping and pain as well as bouts of alternating constipation and diarrhoea, or one or the other.

Most doctors would say that IBS is an intestinal malfunction, but the causes are unclear. It can occur after severe stomach flu, or following a traumatic event. Stress can also trigger it, and it can often be confused with other more severe illnesses, such as colon cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

How Alternative Medicine Can Help

Many types of supplements can alleviate IBS symptoms, although what works for one person may not work for another. They can include:

  • Prebiotic fibre soluble supplements. These include supplements which have a positive effect to soothe the gastrointestinal tract, such as fennel and peppermint.
  • Aloe vera. Can soothe the gut and is sometimes used as a laxative.
  • St John's Wort. Good for relieving anxiety and getting rid of depression.
  • Probiotics. Can aid faster digestive transit and also help maintain a healthy gut.
  • Fibre supplements. Good to keep digestion on track.
  • Charcoal pills. Can help with excess wind.

Alternative Therapies

In clinical studies, some alternative therapies have proved beneficial in managing IBS symptoms, as they relax both mind and body. They include:

  • Hypnotherapy. Can help you relax if you get symptoms and visualise relief when they occur. Can also help in warding off triggers, and your response to them – especially in the form of stress.
  • Acupuncture. Known as a “gut-directed therapy” as each acupuncture point corresponds to a specific part of the body. Can help stimulate bowels, ease muscle contraction and aid relaxation, and relieve stress.
  • Stress management. Helping ward off triggers and cope with episodes.

Lifestyle Changes

Other ways to manage IBS symptoms include making long-term lifestyle changes. The most important one can be cutting down on stress, which not only can trigger IBS in the first place, but also be a trigger for subsequent episodes.

Keeping track of the food you eat can also play major role in managing IBS symptoms. This usually involves keeping a food diary to see if certain foods trigger bouts of IBS.Some foods are more notorious than others for causing IBS symptoms. They include citrus, wheat, caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. Foods which can help include chicken, fish and asparagus, among others.

Eating too quickly can also encourage IBS symptoms, as can eating fatty foods, fried foods and meals that are too large.

See Your GP

If you are experiencing any IBS symptoms, it’s important to see your GP and get a correct diagnosis, during which time you’ll also rule out anything more serious.Once the diagnosis has been made, it’s up to you whether you want to try supplements, lifestyle changes or medications to keep symptoms under control.

Be aware that any supplements, even those that are completely natural, can interact with other supplements, as well as with prescribed medications. Always read the labels carefully, and only buy supplements from a reputable outlet. And talk to your GP first.

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