A Natural Approach to IBS Treatment
Many people are new to natural treatments and are not sure how it all works. So below is an overview of some of the natural medicine treatments that I use as a Naturopath.
Naturopathy aims to get to the root cause of the condition and doesn’t just treat symptoms. It also looks at the body as a whole and not individual pieces or systems, which is one of the reasons I find it works with conditions like IBS that are complex and require a multifaceted approach.
Please be aware that every person is different and the treatments used are only prescribed after a consultation taking into account symptoms, past medical history and any medications used. Just because something is natural does not mean it comes without risk, so please consult your health care professional before taking any of the herbs or nutritional supplements mentioned below.
There are two different areas that food is important in treating IBS.
- The first is to ascertain and remove any food intolerances. This process can include using the FODMAPS, GAPS or other elimination style diets to find out whether there are any food triggers involved in the presentation of IBS.
- In my experience it is not enough to simply remove a food intolerance, repair of the intestinal lining as well as improving the function of the digestive system is also important and is often overlooked. So using food as medicine like bone broths are often part of my treatment plans.
Stress is often a big factor in IBS, and so I work with clients to reduce stress using tools like breathing techniques, yoga and meditation. Other lifestyle factors such as sleep quality and exercise are also important to be addressed.
Herbs are fantastic remedies for chronic conditions like IBS. Unlike medications which have one sole purpose, herbs have many different constituents which can help to heal different parts of the body at once and work together to heal the body as a whole, not just a specific symptom or one part of the body. Herbs can therefore be used not only for symptom relief but also to help heal the root cause of the condition.
For example, chamomile can be used not only to treat the symptoms of abdominal pain and flatulence but it also promotes wound healing in the gastrointestinal tract, enhances the immune system and promotes bile production1
Nutritional supplements, like herbs and diet, can be used to treat symptoms as well as the underlying cause and help with repair. Due to IBS, many people have low absorption of nutrients so addressing these with supplementation of vitamins and minerals is also taken into account. There are a wide range of different supplements that can be suitably prescribed, for example, probiotics for balancing the good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract, glutamine for healing the intestinal walls and magnesium to help with cramping, spasms and stress.
Flower essences are fantastic for dealing with any emotional triggers or factors occurring alongside the physical symptoms of IBS. There are a number of different sets of flower essences, but I am trained in the original Bach Flower Essences, as well as Australian Bush Flowers. Examples of flowers that I have used with IBS patients are Gorse for the feeling of hopelessness that many people feel when they have IBS, Olive for the fatigue and Clematis for the disconnection many feel between the body and the mind when IBS seems to be running their lives.
As you can see, Naturopathy provides a wide range of treatment options for IBS depending on how it is presenting for each person. Every Naturopath has different training so the above is my approach taking into account my education, continued training, client experience and own personal experience with IBS. Again, each patient is treated differently so please consult a Naturopath or health care practitioner before using any of the above remedies.
- Braun, L & Cohen, M, Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide, 3rd ed., Australia, Elsevier; 2011:299-302.