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IBS – Symptoms, Diet and Solutions


IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is one of the most common digestive complaints.

Stress, poor diet, food intolerances, dysbiosis and pharmaceutical drugs all contribute to this growing health complaint.


Defining IBS

According to recent diagnostic criteria IBS can be diagnosed when a patient complains of recurrent abdominal pain associated with defecation and or change of stool appearance and change in toilet frequency.

There are also three IBS subtypes –

  • IBS-C; mostly constipation
  • IBS-D: mostly diarrhoea
  • IBS-M: a combination of both of the above

A recent review revealed that IBS is one of the most common disorders of gut-brain interaction, effecting around 1 in 10 people around the world.

Interestingly the prevalence of anxiety in patients with IBS was 44% and that of depression 84%.

Therefore gut health and mental health are intimately connected and this can be explained more when you understand the workings of the amazing vagus nerve.


Aetiological Factors

In Medical Herbalist Kerry Bone’s book, Functional Herbal Therapy the aetiological factors involved in IBS are listed –

Host factors

  • altered gastrointestinal motility
  • visceral hypersensitivity
  • altered gut-brain interactions
  • increased intestinal permeability
  • gut mucosal immune activation
  • psychosocial distress

Luminal factors

  • dysbiosis
  • neuroendocrine mediators
  • bile acids

Environmental factors

  • food
  • medications
  • supplements
  • antibiotics
  • enteric infection


Remove Obstructions to Cure – Dietary Modifications

The phrase “you are what you eat” was first mentioned a few centuries ago and science continues to show us that this is so true.

But not just what we eat, but how we eat and the functionality of our digestion.

For many sufferers following the FODMAP diet can be very beneficial. The main principle of the diet is to avoid foods high in specific short-chain carbohydrates that tend to be malabsorbed because they are indigestible or slowly absorbed from the small intestine.

If this diet is too strict studies show that avoiding gluten improves symptoms. Consuming gluten was shown to alter gut barrier function in IBS patients experiencing diarrhoea.

A gluten free diet has been shown to improve overall IBS symptom severity score.

Keeping a food diary and tracking symptoms can be helpful when addressing gut irritants. Interestingly patients often report that stress combined with an irritating food can exacerbate symptoms.


Functional Therapies for IBS


  • Add soothing herbs to your diet to improve gastrointestinal motor function; chamomile, fennel, mint, ginger. These can be in the form of herbal teas.
  • Support the nervous system with herbs like Lemon balm, Holy basil and Valerian.
  • Improve overall digestion and gastric acid barrier with bitter herbs. Best taken 10 minutes before each meal.
  • If symptoms seem exacerbated around the menstrual cycle support with Chaste tree tincture, the hormone balancer.
  • Ensure regular bowel movements. This is a gentle formula to encourage natural peristalsis.
  • Address inflammation issues and gut barrier weakness with herbs like Turmeric and consider the healing benefits of collagen.
  • Slippery elm is a gentle demulcent herb for IBS with constipation and one of my favourite all round digestive herbs, soothing and anti-inflammatory. In fact it is the ideal IBS herb.
  • If SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is present Clove and Oregano capsules can be extremely beneficial. See study here.


Probiotics for IBS


With digestive supports IBS symptoms can be very much improved and eradicated.


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