04 Jun 2019

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Do you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

The irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic, functional gastrointestinal syndrome characterized by relapsing abdominal pain and altered bowel habits, with either predominant symptoms of diarrhea (IBS-D), constipation (IBS-C), both (IBS-M), or undetermined (IBS-U), and is categorized according to the Rome IV criteria [1]. As a common digestive tract disorder, IBS affects an estimated 5–15% of Western populations [2]. Lovell and Ford conducted a meta-analysis of the world’s literature and reported that, on a global scale, IBS is seen predominantly in females, and the age of onset is typically under 50 years-of-age [3]. In their research, Lovell and Ford found the global prevalence of IBS to be 11.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 9.8–12.8%) [3]. IBS accounts for a significant number of annual visits to primary care physicians, health-care utilization, quality of life, and adverse economics owing to absenteeism from work [4].

The pathophysiology of IBS is complex and involves an interaction of various factors, which includes, but is not limited to, genetic predisposition, gut-brain axis, visceral sensitivity, gastrointestinal motility, gut dysbiosis, neurotransmitters, food reactions, intestinal permeability, bile acids, inflammatory mediators, early-life stressors, psychosocial maladaptation, and somatization, among others [5]. IBS patients with mild and intermittent symptoms usually benefit from lifestyle and dietary modification, which includes a diet low in fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) [6]; and in some cases, lactose and gluten avoidance [7]. Smooth muscle relaxants and antispasmodics can also be used to help with IBS symptoms, especially abdominal pain and bloating [8].


Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition where there are the symptoms of bowel disease in the absence of an underlying structural cause. The periods of alternating constipation and diarrhoea associated with abdominal pain, distension, bloating and wind are caused by disordered contraction of the intestinal muscles. The condition is worsened by stress and anxiety. Dietary modification will help, as will the reassurance that there is no abnormal underlying pathology. In patients whose main problem is constipation then increasing the fibre in the diet may be effective, while in those whose main problem is abdominal distension and pain and bloating increasing the fibre may worsen the problem, and a low fibre diet will help. Some patients find that some foods make their symptoms worse, and experience may lead to improvement in symptoms. Exclusion diets to ascertain any food sensitivities are sometimes helpful.

What you need to know:

This condition seems to have grown to almost epidemic proportions in recent years. It’s another example, demonstrated by Workman, Jones and Hunter at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, in which naturopathic nutrition is a more effective treatment than conventional medication.

Dietary changes that may be beneficial:

IBS is frequently caused by intolerances to various foods, wheat and Dairy being the most common culprits. It is possible to track down problem foods by following an exclusion diet, but before eliminating any major food groups, it’s essential to see a qualified health care professional to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk of nutritional deficiencies.  

It may be useful to avoid or reduce your intake of sugar, tea, coffee, alcohol and carbonated beverages. 

IBS frequently begins after a bout of food poisoning, or diarrhoea following a course of antibiotics. In both instances, replacing the natural gut bacteria by eating bio yoghurt and taking a combined pre- and probiotic preparation is your best chance of preventing the onset of IBS.

But although soluble fibre, as in Oats, is essential, never add spoons full of insoluble fibre to your food or use bran-enriched products - wheat bran11-13 can be extremely irritant if taken in large quantities.

It is essential to drink plenty of water as it works with dietary fibre to regulate bowel movement. Keeping well hydrated also ensures that the digestive system can produce sufficient levels of digestive juices which are needed for the breakdown of food.

Constipation and diarrhoea are common symptoms of IBS.

Constipation  What you need to know:

Any sudden, constant change in bowel habits should be investigated by your doctor. Most of us, however, will suffer the occasional bout of Constipation and it’s particularly common when people are away from home. It could be that they’re not used to the food - or it could be for psychological reasons linked to fear of embarrassment at going to the loo when somebody they don’t know might hear them.

Unfortunately, chronic Constipation is common, but the use of long-term laxatives1 isn’t healthy as they can cause irritation and inflammation of the bowel, poor nutrient absorption and - in severe cases - dependence.

The only way to combat this condition long-term is to re-educate the bowel to function in a regular way and there are several natural herbs, remedies, supplements and therapies that could help.


Diarrhoea  What you need to know

Severe diarrhoea which continues for more than 48 hours - 24 in children - should be investigated as it may be a symptom of various underlying conditions which need conventional treatment. We also wouldn’t advise using over-the-counter medicines to stop diarrhoea as they could mask the reasons for the condition and prolong the symptoms when the medication is stopped. Reserve them only for occasions when it may be difficult to use a lavatory frequently, such as while travelling or while taking an examination.

Minor bouts, however - including those caused by stress and, in many women, during the lead-up to their periods - can be successfully treated by natural remedies.

The essential thing to remember is that you must replace the lost fluid regularly - and this is particularly important in children and the elderly.

Dietary changes that may be beneficial:

Replacing lost fluids is particularly important. You can buy commercially produced rehydration drinks, but it’s easy to make your own by adding 8 tspns of sugar or honey and 1 tspn of salt to a litre of boiled water and drinking a small glassful every half an hour. Children should be given a dessertspoonful every 10 minutes.

At first you probably won’t feel like eating - which won’t do any harm for a day or two. When you do feel hungry, avoid all Dairy products for at least 48 hours and give your system a slow introduction to food by sticking to foods like ripe Bananas, boiled Rice, Apples and dry wholemeal toast.

Try blueberries - fresh, frozen or juice, but not dried.

Traditional remedies

Most people have a useful remedy for diarrhoea sitting in their kitchen cupboard - tea. Drink a cup of it, without milk or sugar, every hour - the tannins have an astringent effect and soothe sore tissues. It’s also important to avoid Dairy products for at least 48 hours.

Paw-paw, or Papaya is also an effective, nutritious - and far more delicious - natural cure. But if you’re abroad, make sure you wash it thoroughly in bottled water before you tuck in.

Garlic 3can also help enormously when you’ve got a bout of diarrhoea. This might sound disgusting, but it does work. Crush four cloves of Garlic and stir them into a 450g jar of honey. Three times a day, dissolve 1 tspn in a large glass of hot water and sip slowly.

Acidophilus (Lactobacillus Acidophilus) is a beneficial lactic bacteria (known as a Probiotic) found in the digestive system, skin and vaginal mucosa of the human body. Lactic bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid, which keeps the system slightly acidic. Pathogenic bacteria (eg those that cause food poisoning) do not thrive in acidic environments. It is found naturally in ‘live’ or ‘bio’ yoghurts.


Other probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus plantarum are not found naturally in the body in great numbers, but have the ability to temporarily colonise the human intestine and act beneficially. Lactobacillus plantarum can be found in most naturally fermented foods including cheese, yoghurt and sauerkraut, and can also be bought as a supplement. Supplemental use of Lactobacillus plantarum has been shown to decrease IBS symptoms by up to 95%. Lactobacillus plantarum has also been shown to help boost the immune system, maintain the health of the heart and reduce the incidence of non-IBS related diarrhoea.

Probiotics are important for:

  1. Healthy digestion and bacterial balance
  2. Immune function
  3. Control of harmful bacteria and candida yeast
  4. Production of B-vitamins, fatty acids and certain amino acids.

Nature’s Bounty have an extensive range of probiotics, digestive support and stress relief products that can help improve gut function and relieve the symptoms associated with IBS.

The majority of our products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Get in touch with our dedicated and professional team to naturally relieve your symptoms today.

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