IBS… What it is, anyway

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long-term condition that causes re-occurring pain or discomfort in the abdomen (tummy) and an altered bowel habit which may be diarrhea or constipation. It is one of the most common problems of the digestive system and is second only to the common cold as a cause of absence from work.

Studies suggest the worsening of the IBS symptoms in stressful conditions. It affects all aspects of life and significantly reduces the quality of life.

How to Diagnose

IBS is considered a functional disorder wherein diagnostic testing does not show any visible disease process. To determine whether a person is just having temporary digestive distress or if he does have IBS, doctors use a standard called the Rome III criteria.

According to this, it can only be diagnosed if symptoms have been present for at least six months. Symptoms must have been experienced on at least three days of at least three months.

Specifically, symptoms must consist of recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort with two or more of the following:
1. Pain is relieved by a bowel movement
2. Onset of pain is related to a change in frequency of stool
3. Onset of pain is related to a change in the appearance of stool


Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS affects each person differently. The hallmark is abdominal discomfort or pain. Other frequently encountered symptoms are:
1. Abdominal cramping and pain that are relieved after bowel movements
2. Alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation
3. Change in the stool frequency or consistency
4. Gassiness (flatulence)
5. Passing mucus from the rectum
6. Bloating
7. Abdominal distension

The following are NOT the symptoms or characteristics:
1. Blood in stools or urine
2. Vomiting (rare, though may occasionally accompany nausea)
3. Pain or diarrhea that interrupts sleep
4. Fever
5. Weight loss


The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not clear. It may have something to do with over activity of part or parts of the GI tract. The small and large bowel (also called the small and large intestine) are parts of the GI tract inside the abdomen.

Food is passed along by regular contractions (squeezes) of the muscles in the wall of the GI tract. Pain and other symptoms may develop if the contractions become abnormal or overactive. The area of over activity in the GI tract may determine whether constipation or diarrhea develops. Recent research is linking psychological factors to physiological functioning in many digestive disorders including IBS.

How does Stress Affects

Stress – Feeling mentally or emotionally tense, troubled, angry, or overwhelmed – can stimulate colon spasms in people with IBS.

The colon has many nerves that connect it to the brain. Like the heart and the lungs, the colon is partly controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which responds to stress. These nerves control the normal contractions of the colon and cause abdominal discomfort at stressful times. People often experience cramps or ‘butterflies’ when they are nervous or upset.

In people with IBS, the colon can be overly responsive to even slight conflict or stress. Stress makes the mind more aware of the sensations that arise in the colon, making the person perceive these sensations as unpleasant.

Explanation and reassurance to patients

The patients of irritable bowel syndrome should be explained about the absence of any fear of developing cancer or any serious trouble in the future.

IBS is known to worsen with stress; thus, it is very important to establish ways to manage stress. Aside from exercise, which reduces tension, a hobby or other social activities could provide a break from stressful situations. Writing on a journal and meditation are some examples to help relieve stress.

  1. Have regular meals and take time to eat.
  2. Avoid missing meals or leaving long gaps between eating.
  3. Drink at least eight cups of fluid per day, especially water or other non-caffeinated drinks.
  4. Restrict tea and coffee to two cups per day.
  5. Reduce intake of alcohol and fizzy drinks.
  6. Reduce intake of ‘resistant starch’ (starch that resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon intact), which is often found in processed or re-cooked foods.
  7. Limit fresh fruit to three portions per day (a portion should be approximately 80 gm).
  8. People with diarrhea should avoid sorbitol, an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free sweets (including chewing gum) and drinks, and in some diabetic and slimming products.
  9. People with wind and bloating may find it helpful to eat oats such as oat-based breakfast cereal or porridge.

It is generally advised that fiber in the diet should be increased gradually over a long period of time, to give the bowel time to adjust. Not all fiber is the same. ‘Soluble’ fiber, which is found in oats and many green vegetables, is generally well tolerated and beneficial in IBS.

Some ‘insoluble’ fibers – especially nuts, seeds and legumes – often make symptoms worse. Wheat bran can help ease constipation but should be used with care, as it can also trigger attacks in some people. An increase in fiber will only be effective if fluid intake is adequate.

  1. Avoid alcoholic drinks
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Reduce stress levels, in fact avoid taking stress
  4. Move your diet routine to 5 small meals a day
  5. Avoid fried food and red meat
  6. Do yoga, meditation

Homeopathic medicines are prescribed by studying the holistic symptomatology of the patient rather than the name of the disease. This is because each case of a particular illness can manifest differently in different people.The most recent approach used in treating irritable bowel syndrome is addressing the overall symptoms of this disease and prescribing a remedy capable of normalizing unfavorable responses to aggravating factors such as stress, diet, hormonal and so on.

In IBS people are afraid to go out of home because diarrhea can trouble them anytime or they can have acidity, gas, bloating, flatulence which stops them from attending the necessities of their lives. Just relax because homeopathy has the answer. The loose bowel movements or unusually hard stools can be easily taken care by the remedies without side effects.

Spasms of the colon which never let a patient do anything and which are intensified when a patient is planning to go out or is stressed can effectively be treated.

While choosing the medicines the causes of various symptoms of IBS are also evaluated. The causes may be sedentary habits, dietary errors, faulty feeding habits, mental stress, and weakness of digestive system muscles and so on.

The need for your existing allopathic medication reduces gradually as you improve with homeopathy.

There are 110 medicines which give great relief in IBS. However, the correct choice and the resulting improvement is a matter of experience and right judgment on the part of the doctor. The treatment is decided after thorough case taking of the patient. Thus, homeopathic remedies of irritable bowel syndrome are tailor made unlike allopathy in which all patients receive the same medicines although trade name may be different.

  1. Before delving into homeopathic treatment let us first discuss the conventional or allopathic treatment available.

    The allopathic medicines might provide immediate relief from the symptoms of IBS, but the root cause of the problem is not touched upon and the dangerous side effects can be worse than the IBS symptoms.

    1. Most allopathic physicians prescribe anticholinergic drugs which block the responses of nerves in the colon which might relieve you temporarily from IBS; however, these drugs will leave you with several side effects including dry mouth, blurred vision, and difficult urination.
    2. Antidepressants such as propantheline and antianxiety drugs; these can cause hot flushes, drowsiness, dizziness for which more medicines will be required.
    3. The various antibiotics used can alter the population of the helpful bacteria in the intestines causing diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, acidity.
    4. Antacids which are most frequently prescribed will leave the patient with constipation and intestinal upsets which will again cause acidity and other uncomfortable symptoms.
    5. Narcotics, including diphenoxylate and loperamide, can stop diarrhea by slowing the movement of stool through the intestine. They can lead to constipation and are potentially addictive.
    6. Painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin can make the symptoms worse.
    7. It is usually seen that if a patient is treated for constipation predominate IBS, diarrhea results and vice versa. There are certain drugs like lotronex which are given in cases with diarrhea can reduce the blood supply to the colon and may cause severe constipation.

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