There is no cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the cause of it is unknown, but the symptoms are only too well known to those who suffer from it. Bloating, gas and abdominal soreness, constipation alternating with diarrhea, that urgent need to ‘go’ – and feeling that the bowel motion is incomplete, all contribute to the sufferer’s discomfort.
While experts debate the cause of IBS, or simply shake their heads in perplexity, it is generally agreed that allergies to certain foods can act as a trigger for IBS. These foods include sorbitol, dairy foods, wheat, caffeine, fructose, spices, alcohol and beans. While doctors feel that all these food groups are best avoided, if the sufferer used an elimination diet then it might be found that some of these groups did not affect the IBS problem at all. A great deal depends on the individual.
In some people it is stress that plays a major part in causing IBS symptoms. Once IBS is diagnosed, there are certain natural supplements that can be taken to alleviate the symptoms.
- Fiber is one of nature’s best aids for IBS and it doesn’t matter whether you are suffering from constipation or diarrhea. Adding bulk to the diet will help in both cases, absorbing the watery elements of diarrhea while adding bulk and softness to harder stools. Fiber can be taken as a supplement such as psyllium husks, but it is wise to experiment a little as sometimes fiber can exacerbate the problem. In any case, it is best to keep to grains that have no gluten such as corn, millet and rice.
- Probiotic supplements containing friendly gut bacteria, lactobacilli are also most helpful. You can get this from yogurt or in pill form, but make sure the label states that there are ‘live bacteria’ in the product. If you want to avoid dairy foods, then you can use soy yogurt.
- To ease the gas and bloating the IBS sufferer can take peppermint oil or caraway oil.
- Calcium and magnesium will help to normalize and regulate the contraction and relaxation of the bowel, providing relief from cramps.
- Digestive enzymes are also beneficial and their effect is often felt almost immediately. They should be taken just before your meal, especially if it is a fatty one – which should really be avoided. Digestive enzymes are especially useful for the older age group, as they are most likely to suffer from a lack of these enzymes due to age.
Some foods such as lentils, beans, and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli are gassier than others. Avoiding them or taking enzymes before your meal will help. Enzymes also help to break down raffinose, which is a complex sugar that some people have trouble digesting and which causes fermentation and so, gas in the digestive process. You can get brand-name digestive enzymes over the counter that will help to break this down into simple sugars and make it much easier to digest.