Six Things to Know About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Author: Dr. Jeda Boughton, B.A., R.Ac., Dr. TCM, FABORM – Boda Health

If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you’re well-aware of the impact this condition has on your quality of life. Not only is IBS uncomfortable, but it may also involve urgent bathroom visits, unpleasant bouts of constipation and embarrassing gas and rumbling. To make matters worse, people who don’t know much about IBS just don’t get how difficult the symptoms of this condition can be. At BodaHealth, we do get it, and want to share what’s important to know about IBS.

1) IBS is a kind of inflammatory bowel disease that affects your large intestine, called the colon. IBS is also called a spastic or irritable colon, mucous colitis or spastic colitis. The term colitis refers to inflammation of the colon. IBS is a functional problem, which means that your GI tract isn’t damaged, nor does it increase your risk for colon cancer. Instead, the function of your colon or your gut-brain connection is the cause of your symptoms. IBS is called a syndrome because it involves a group of symptoms. It also means that each person with IBS experiences it differently, and not everyone will have every symptom.

2) The symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating and stools containing mucous. IBS is a chronic condition in which symptoms may swing between flare ups and remission. IBS is often grouped according to symptoms, in which IBS-C is predominantly constipation-related, IBS-D more related to diarrhea, and IBS-M is a combination of mixed symptoms.

3) Scientists aren’t completely clear on the cause of IBS, but they have put forth a number of possibilities. Hypersensitivity of the nerves in your intestinal walls and muscles, as well as inflammation likely play a role in this condition. It may also run in families or be triggered by an intestinal infection. Dietary habits and food intolerances also play a role. And emotional stress is thought to be not only a powerful underlying cause, but also a trigger for flare-ups.

4) About 10 to 20 percent of the adult population has IBS in some form, with first episodes most frequently occurring between the ages of 20 and 30. Women are twice as likely as men to have IBS. Interestingly, women are more likely to experience constipation than men, who tend more toward diarrhea-related symptoms.

5) While there’s no cure for IBS, some people are able to control their symptoms fairly well. Others experience symptoms that are severe enough to substantially and negatively affect their quality of life. Conventional treatments for IBS include the use of medications to reduce cramping or relieve constipation or diarrhea, antibiotics for suspected infections, antidepressants and treatments targeting the emotional components of this condition.

6) Some people prefer not to take prescription medications or they just don’t work for their IBS, but there’s good news in the form of natural treatments. At BodaHealth, our practitioners offer a wide array of therapeutic options for our patients with this condition, including:

  • Acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is well-known for its effectiveness in treating digestive issues, and IBS is no exception. It works by ramping up the circulation of feel-good neurotransmitters that help promote calm and relieve stress. Acupuncture also calms your parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes rest and digestion—the opposite of your body’s fight or flight reaction. Acupuncture can also help reduce inflammation and pain in your lower gut to calm IBS symptoms.
  • In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and dietary therapy is a good option for patients with IBS, as both therapies target the underlying cause of your IBS, treat your symptoms and enhance the effects of acupuncture treatments. Herbs have specific actions, and can be combined into a formula specific to your needs to heal your digestion, reduce pain, calm stress and reduce inflammation.
  • Our Naturopathic Physician works with IBS patients to correct any dietary, digestive and health issues that you have that may be contributing to your condition. Their treatments may include dietary recommendations, herbal or nutritional supplementation, the use of peppermint oil, probiotics and lifestyle suggestions. While the focus of naturopathy is on natural solutions, our practitioner is also able to order lab tests and prescribe medications when it’s appropriate.
  • Because what you eat plays a huge role in the severity of IBS, our Holistic Nutritionists have the training and experience to help you through diet and nutritional therapy. They can help you identify foods that trigger or aggravate your symptoms, recommend foods to eat and those to avoid to heal your digestion and an eating plan to calm your IBS that you can comfortably maintain for the rest of your life.
  • At BodaHealth, we also offer Cold Laser Therapy as a way to effectively treat IBS. Cold laser is a kind of light therapy that gently and painlessly penetrates deep into tissue layers to promote changes at the cellular level. This kind of low level laser therapy doesn’t heat or burn tissue like high-powered lasers. Instead it improves blood flow, restores cellular balance involved in tissue healing and enhances cellular metabolism—changes that promote tissue repair and regeneration to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

The bottom line is that while there’s no cure for IBS, it is possible to decrease the intensity and frequency of flare ups, sometimes for months and years at a time. Having IBS doesn’t need to translate into bouts of cramping or running to find a bathroom. If you’d like to know more about IBS and how we can help you at BodaHealth, contact us today.

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