The Best Herbs and Natural Treatments to Relieve IBS

The Best Herbs and Natural Treatments to Relieve IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a relatively common problem among many people. According to estimates it affects 1 in five people in USA and one in ten in the UK. It is characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, burping and alteration of bowel habits (frequent diarrhea or constipation or stringy stool).

The exact cause of IBS is unknown. The most common theory is that IBS is a disorder of the interaction between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract, although there may also be abnormalities in the gut flora or the immune system.

Although there is no cure for IBS, there are treatments that attempt to relieve IBS symptoms, such as nutritional adjustments, stress reduction and supplements.

The problem with IBS is that it significantly affects the quality of life: it is a source of chronic pain, fatigue, and it has also been suggested that some IBS patients may develop depression. To help IBS patients, it is recommended to use a combination of treatments, which are going to be covered in this article:

1. The Best Herbs to Relieve IBS

1.1 Peppermint
There is some scientific evidence to suggest that peppermint may improve IBS symptoms. Peppermint is used to calm muscles in the colon, which may cause some of the diarrhea and abdominal discomfort suffered by people with IBS.

Peppermint has also anti-spasm properties so it may improve intestinal pain and flatulence. You can consume peppermint as an herbal tea after dinner, or try the peppermint oil enteric-coated capsules.

1.2 Slippery elm
Slippery elm is believed to calm gut irritation by coating the lining of the intestinal system, thus giving it time to heal preventing further damage. Slippery elm is best taken in capsule or powder form mixed with water.

1.3 Aloe vera
It is thought that aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory effect could help reduce the pain associated with IBS. It helps to sooth and reduce inflammation in the gut lining. You can consume it as a juice or capsules.

Taking aloe vera by mouth is not recommended for children or pregnant women, or if you have diabetes, kidney failure or thyroid disease (unless otherwise specified by your doctor). Also be aware that common side effects of drinking aloe vera juice are diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

You can read more information about aloe vera juice, how much you should drink and precautions in my article why you should start drinking aloe vera juice.

1.4 Licorice
Licorice is often used for its anti-inflammatory effects. It contains a compound which helps to sooth and repair the irritated gut lining. You can consume it as an herbal tea or tincture.

1.5 Other herbs
There are other herbs that are generally good for the digestive system, and treat other symptoms that characterizes IBS. For the full list refer to my article The Top 10 Herbs and Teas to Improve Digestion.

2. Supplements

It is sometimes mentioned that supplements such as evening primrose oil, borage oil, fish oil, fiber or probiotics may help relieve IBS. Some say the oil supplements help calm down the gut, and probiotics restore the good balance of bacteria in the digestive system.

Some studies indeed support in taking probiotic supplements, especially those with a predominance of Bifidobacterium infantis, which alleviates IBS symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating and bowel movement irregularity (see my article about the reasons to take probiotics).

However there is no scientific proof regarding fish oil supplements, and research into the role of fiber supplements in treating IBS symptoms is conflicting. In any case, consult with your doctor before taking any supplements as to make sure they don’t interfere with current medications you take.

3. Nutrition

There are certain foods that should be avoided. In general, foods that are high in fat, fried foods, spicy foods, alcohol, sugar and caffeinated coffee and tea can be problematic. It’s also best to avoid gas producing foods, such as beans, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peas and onions.

These can cause significant bloating, gas, abdominal pain and sometimes hard stomach in IBS sufferers. It’s also advisable to use lactose-free or reduced-lactose dairy products.

The problem is that there is no one diet that fits all in the case of IBS, as a proper diet for IBS is highly individualized. It is sometimes recommended to eat smaller, more frequent meals spread throughout the day instead of larger meals, as this can lead to less discomfort for some people.

What is really important is to identify the foods that are causing the symptoms, and eliminating them from your diet for a trial period of 1-2 weeks. The goal is to find the most possible varied diet that still keeps IBS symptoms under control.

Consider the FODMAP diet – Scientific studies have shown that a low-FODMAP diet can significantly relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms for many sufferers.

You can also try the recipe for this delicious digestive detox smoothie that consists of pineapple and papaya which contain digestive enzymes that help to ease the burden of the complicated process of digestion, or try the colon cleansing infusion in the article about herbal infusions to cleanse your body.

4. The Stress Factor

I wrote in the past about how stress affects your body. It is not entirely clear how stress, anxiety and IBS are related, but studies show there is a link between them. There are several theories about the connection between IBS and stress and what comes first, but it is believed that feelings prolong stress and anxiety can affect your gut health.

There is evidence that stress management can help relieve IBS symptoms. You can use relaxation techniques such a deep breathing or visualization, where you image a peaceful scene, or you can reduce stress by doing something you enjoy to do, such as reading, exercising, meditation or listening to music.

Try out different stress management techniques to see which work best for you to ease your IBS symptoms. you can also read my article about effective natural remedies for stress and anxiety.

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