IBS Treatment Options
The cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is unknown. However, researchers do know that IBS occurs when muscles in the intestines contract faster or slower than normal. These contractions cause pain, cramping, excessive gas, sudden bouts of diarrhea, or prolonged periods of constipation.
IBS treatments generally focus on alleviating the symptoms and include high fiber diets or antispasmodic drugs to relieve constipation, or anti-diarrhea medications to relieve diarrhea. Other treatments include stress management techniques, psychotherapy and biofeedback. Many people turn to alternative IBS treatments such as acupuncture, herbal remedies or colonics.
Listed below is a brief overview of the various IBS treatments. As with any disorder, it's best to consult with a qualified practitioner.
Acupuncture is an ancient form of healing modality used in China for thousands of years. Fine needles are inserted under the skin, along primary meridians. These meridians regulate all physical and mental processes. The Chinese believe the energy (chi) in these meridians can become blocked, flow too quickly or too slowly; resulting in illness and disease. Acupuncture can bring balance to these meridians.
Aromatherapy dates back at least 5,000 years and is considered to be one of the oldest healing methods. It involves the inhalation or absorption of essential oils directly into the body. When treating illness, only therapeutic essential oils should be used. Some IBS sufferers have found relief from IBS symptoms by using the essential oil of Chamomile.
Ayurvedic medicine is a form of traditional medicine used in India. Ayurvedic medicine is based on the belief that there are three "doshas" which control the health of the body. If any of the doshas become imbalanced, then illness will result. Triphala is the most popular Ayurvedic herbal formula used to treat IBS. Composed of three fruits, Triphala is a laxative that cleanses and detoxifies the body, without depleting its reserves.
Biofeedback is tool used to help people learn how to better control their reaction to certain events and stimuli. In biofeedback therapy, sensors are placed on the patient's body and used to measure body processes. The sensors measure various bodily functions and results are displayed on a computer monitor in the form of graphs or sounds. This information is then used by a trained biofeedback therapist to help the patient modify or change any unusual responses.
Colonics are used to wash out waste products from the colon. Warm, sterile water is inserted into the rectum and fecal matter is expelled through a plastic tube connected to a colon irrigation machine. Because colonics induce peristaltic contractions in the colon, many IBS patients are sensitive to colonics and may find them to be uncomfortable or even painful.
Enemas are used to help soften the stool and may be useful for IBS treatment for patients who suffer from chronic constipation. Enemas use water or other liquids and solutions to cleanse the lower part of the colon. Health advocates claim that enemas contribute greatly to the strength of the digestive system by improving the blood circulation to the entire digestive system.
Herbalism involves the use of remedies made from the various parts of plants including leaves, roots, berries, barks and oils. Remedies are generally available in the form of tablets, tinctures, teas, and essential oils. Peppermint oil can reduce abdominal pain and distension. Fennel seed can relieve IBS spasms. Clown's mustard can help restore tone to the gastrointestinal tract. Caution should always be used when ingesting herbs. Just because it is natural does not mean that it is safe. Pregnant women should avoid the use of any herbs or herbal preparations unless under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine used to treat a variety of health conditions. The science of homeopathy is based on the Law of Similars. The Law of Similars states that "since exposure to a substance can cause specific symptoms in a healthy person; that substance -- when correctly prepared as a homeopathic remedy -- can stimulate the body's curative powers to overcome similar symptoms during illness."
Simply put, a substance which would cause a certain symptom when given in large doses; is given to a patient in very small doses and diluted many times, to treat that same symptom. Homeopathy is practiced in many regions of the world, including Europe, Asia, the U.K., and the U.S. Homeopathic practitioners have collected information on the use of several hundred remedies, as well as documented clinical trials. It's best to work with a qualified homeopathic physician to establish a proper IBS treatment.
Hypnotherapy is a well-established treatment for IBS. Gut-directed hypnotherapy is a special form of hypnotherapy developed for IBS and digestive disorder sufferers. It uses gut-specific treatments and suggestions aimed at normalizing bowel movements and removing pain and bloating.
Reflexology is a technique of foot and hand massage that may help to open blockages in the body's meridians. Reflexology is based on a theory that different zones on our feet and hands correspond to other areas of our body. Light pressure is applied to reflex zones corresponding to the area of the body that is out of balance. There is no evidence to support that reflexology has any affect on IBS symptoms. However, many people who use reflexology claim that it helps reduce abdominal pain and episodes of diarrhea.
Yoga is a practice of discipline developed in India. Yoga focuses on physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation. Yoga can be a helpful IBS treatment, as it is known to help reduce stress. Stress often causes flare-ups of irritable bowel syndrome. Yoga may also be beneficial in treating IBS pain.