Treating and Healing IBS Naturally
Just like Gastritis and many other issues, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects the digestive system. Research in a recent study found that approximately 10–20% of the general population has IBS, and IBS patients usually suffer from chronic gastritis and other conditions. (1)
It’s often hard to know if your problem is IBS, Gastritis or another digestive issue as symptoms can be very similar. Bloating, constipation and Diarrhoea can be an issue for several conditions.
I remember going to my GP once and telling her about these painful spasms I was having, accompanied by bouts of constipation.
I had been given medication for Gastritis and felt sure these were side effects. The Doctor told me it was probably IBS and that if I had issues with Gastritis it was very likely I would have IBS issues too.
I don’t know how true that is but it seems that if you have a problem with something like Gastritis, it seems to have a knock-on effect to other areas of your digestion.
Symptoms of IBS
- Diarrhoea –
- Painful cramps – These are often eased after doing a poo
- Changes in how often you have a bowel movement
- Mucous in your stool
- Changes in the way your stool looks
- Stomach pain
Often your GP will diagnose IBS with just knowledge of your symptoms, but will sometimes do extra checks to rule out anything else.
- Take a stool sample, which could show infection
- Blood test – to possibly check for coeliac disease
- Suggest a diet – to rule out certain food allergies
- Refer you for a colonoscopy
Causes of IBS
The cause of IBS is mostly unknown, but it’s thought that it’s sometimes caused by nerves in the stomach that are too sensitive. It could be down to stress, or can be hereditary.
If you have mild symptoms these can be helped by making lifestyle changes and also changes to your diet.
There are different types of IBS, some people suffer from Constipation and some with Diarrhoea, some people suffer from both.
How you deal with your symptoms will depend on what type you have.
Eating a high fibre diet – if you have constipation IBS this will really help. But increase the amount you have slowly or it can have negative effects like gas and bloating if you have too much too quickly.
Foods to eat
- Choosing whole grain over white is a good way to increase your fibre i.e brown rice, pasta and wholemeal bread.
- fruits & vegetables, beans and walnuts.
- I find dates and chia seeds really helpful and are generally tolerated by Gastritis sufferers too.
Foods to avoid
- Processed food – Such as biscuits and crisps
- Dairy products – particularly cheese
- Carbonated drinks – sparkling drinks and alcohol may increase gas and should be avoided.
- Caffeine – Coffee, tea and caffeine soft drinks
Psyllium husks – These can be useful to add to foods and smoothies and do help with constipation, but for some these may make other IBS symptoms, such as bloating worse, so start slowly and see how your body reacts.
IBS-D – (Diarrhoea)
When you are having a Diarrhoea flare-up, eating a low fibre and low-fat diet can help.
Foods to eat
- Boiled white rice,
- Mash potato
Foods to avoid
- Avoid raw fruit and vegetables
- Limit wholewheat foods – Brown rice and brown bread
- Red wine
- High fat dairy foods
If you have any symptoms that are unusual for you like your bowel movements have changed. Or if you have any bleeding from your bottom or unexplained weight loss, go see your GP to rule out anything else.
Things that may help
- Drink plenty of water ( 6-8 glasses) a day.
- Exercise – Try and do some exercise at least 2-3 times a week. Maybe just a walk around the clock for 20 minutes. Just get moving, it will really help.
- Eat small regular meals – Try and eat meals at regular times and don’t overeat, large meals will not help your digestion.
- Avoid Sorbitol ( you find this in some sweets and chewing gum)
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols
No I know, those words don’t mean much to me either, but basically they are a group of fermentable carbs (sugars) that some people with sensitive stomachs can’t tolerate.
So FODMAPS are something called osmotic, this is the when water is pulled into the intestinal tract. This results in them being hard to digest and may lead to unpleasant side effects, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.
There have been lots of studies on people with IBS following a low FODMAP diet and it has shown to be very beneficial.
In fact, it showed that 70% of people in the study with IBS had improved symptoms.
Many people who follow the diet typically get results within 2-6 weeks, but as with anything, it won’t work for everyone.
It’s important to know that following this diet is not ideal for everyone, if you haven’t been properly diagnosed with IBS, you shouldn’t be following this diet.
I followed the recipes in this brilliant book, its for beginners and I just found it helpful to have a proper book to flick through for ideas and help.
The developers of the low FODMAP diet is the researchers at Monash university and they have a really useful APP that is excellent for looking up quickly what’s ok and what’s not when following the diet. It’s not free but I found it very helpful.
IBS and stress
Much like gastritis your gut and your emotions are interlinked, if you are stressed out or anxious it’s very likely this will make your IBS worse.
Stress may affect the intestines by changing the motility, where it can speed up or slow down our bowels.
Stress and anxiety can also cause an imbalance in the bacteria in your gut, which is needed to help with healthy bowel function
Dealing with stress
- Yoga, meditation and mindfulness – These are a great way of dealing with stress.
- Get plenty of sleep – aim for 7-8 hours a night. Getting a good nights sleep helps you deal with stress better. So get into the habit of sticking to a regular bedtime.
- Counselling – If you regularly suffer with stress and anxiety, it may be beneficial to see a counsellor or mental health professional and get advice on coping mechanisms.
- Breathing exercises – It may seem like a simple thing but it can lower your heart rate and reduce stress levels in the body if done on a regular basis. The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise created Andrew Weil, M.D. is amazing and will be so useful in stressful situations throughout your life.