Irritable bowel syndrome – all too common nowadays

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Breda Gardner Homeopath, LCPH, MCOS, RGN runs busy natural health clinics at Health Therapies Clinic, 13 Gladstone Street, Waterford and 15 Upper Patrick Street, Kilkenny. For information Tel: 087 2025753 / 056 7724429.

I see many clients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – indeed it is an all too common complaint nowadays. IBS is also known as spastic colon, or mucous colitis (inflammation of the colon). It is usually characterised by pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea, or alternating episodes of each.

The causes of IBS include:

  • • Chronic constipation
  • Food allergies: the most common offenders are wheat, corn, milk and dairy products (remember cow’s milk is not for everyone), peanuts, fruits (especially citrus), coffee and tea
  • Too many over-refined and/or fried foods in the diet
  • Hurried meals and over-drinking alongside meals
  • Emotional stress, overwork, anxiety, lack of sleep, hurried lifestyle, frustration etc
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Abuse of laxatives.

Constipation is a holding on, a tightening of the muscles such that elimination or release cannot take place. People with constipation may be controlling, dominating and find it hard to be spontaneous. Letting go means trusting that life will resolve itself. It means learning how to play and express yourself freely, and how to be at peace with whatever happens.

Diarrhoea can mean that the sufferer has difficulty digesting, and no desire to hold on to anything, or any information that is overwhelming or fear-provoking. If you are the type that rushes through life without stopping to listen and absorb what is being said, then the message here is to slow down, take time to listen, and absorb one situation fully before moving on to the next one.

The intestines are where we hold on to those issues that we are afraid to let go of, where our outer reality connects with our inner reality. They indicate how at peace we are with ourselves and the world around us.

To help alleviate IBS, try the following options:

  • Eliminate potential problem foods or drinks from your diet for a week to see if you notice an improvement in your health. It is best to eliminate foods or drinks one at a time.
  • Turn detective: keep a diary of your life and bowel habits. Pay special attention to events, stresses or hormonal changes relating to your bowel habits. You may discover the factors that trigger an attack and learn how to prevent future problems
  • Graze: instead of eating 3 large meals a day, try eating 5 / 6 smaller meals. Between meals, nuts and seeds (eg almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds etc) are a good option to maintain blood sugar levels, balance the hormones and hence stabilise the mood.
  • Eat foods rich in fibre such as whole grains and fresh vegetables. Remember that the best time to eat fruit is actually at the beginning of a meal: it can cause indigestion if eaten as a desert. Try psyllium husks, oat bran and ground flax seeds, all of which are available in your local health store
  • Avoid sugar, as it can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and also fermentation which can affect the digestion of food.
  • Drink at least 1.5 litres of filtered water daily
  • Keep coffee and tea at a minimum, as they can dehydrate and irritate the colon
  • Chill out! Many IBS sufferers appear cool and collected on the surface while holding much anxiety and anticipation inside. This causes tension on the colon. So don’t be too uptight: express yourself!
  • Yoga and meditation are natural tranquillisers that help you physically, emotionally and mentally: so try joining a local class
  • Exercise helps to relieve stress and release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Exercise also improves muscle tone and bowel tone.

There are a number of homeopathic remedies that can help with IBS, and I will cover these in next week’s article.

Breda Gardner Tel: 087 2025753/ 56 7724429.

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