Between 25 and 45 million people in the United States are burdened with a disorder called Irritable Bowl Syndrome or IBS. Some of the symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain or discomfort, altered bowel habit (chronic or recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or both), bloating, gas, cramping and sudden urges to use the bathroom. IBS can come on at the best and very worst of times, often accompanied by higher levels of anxiety and stress. Although there is no known cure for IBS, there are several home remedies that can provide some relief.
Working out has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression while contributing to a healthier lifestyle. Although stress does not cause IBS, it can add to its flare-ups. Exercise can also help keep things moving along and assist with constipation.
Try peppermint oil
Peppermint oil has a long history of traditional use as an herbal remedy. It has recently been endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Studies have provided evidence to support its efficacy for this condition, making it an attractive option for those seeking a natural approach to managing IBS flare-ups.
Peppermint oil contains menthol as its active ingredient, which has a cooling effect on the body. Menthol is a powerful analgesic that can reduce pain by blocking pain receptors and relaxing the colon muscles. In addition, peppermint oil has been studied for its potential to reduce pain, bloating, and constipation. It has even been more effective than antispasmodics in treating related symptoms.
Peppermint oil is readily available in capsule form without a prescription and is generally well tolerated. However, in some cases, it may cause gastric reflux or other side effects. If you are uncomfortable taking peppermint oil, a pleasant alternative is to drink peppermint tea.
Heat therapy is an age-old home remedy used to alleviate pain and offers a more conservative approach to managing symptoms than taking medications when the stomach is upset.
Heat therapy has been demonstrated to be more effective than ibuprofen for certain types of back pain, as it reduces the blood flow to the abdominal muscles, resulting in their relaxation. Therefore, this is a viable option for managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) pain.
Applying a warm compress, such as a Sacksythyme mondo sack or hot water bottle, to your abdomen can provide relief. Place a towel between your skin and the heat source to prevent being burned.
Many people who suffer with IBS have found relief by limiting their dairy intake. Ironically, the majority of those who have sensitivities to lactose also have bouts of IBS immediately after eating dairy. It might be worth removing dairy from your diet to determine if there is any correlation for your specific IBS situation.
Reduce caffeine intake
Consumption of caffeine, such as coffee, may aggravate symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) during a flare-up. Furthermore, even without IBS, it is well known that caffeine can have a laxative effect on the body, which can lead to diarrhea when taken in excessive amounts. A study published in 2019 found that coffee drinkers were 50% more likely to develop IBS than those who did not.
To reduce the severity of a flare-up, it is recommended to abstain from consuming caffeine. This includes tea and coffee, soft drinks, and chocolate. When adopting this lifestyle change, pay close attention to any changes in your symptoms.
Changing your diet may improve symptoms dramatically. Keep a journal of foods you eat throughout the day. See which foods seem to make your symptoms worse. After you discover your particular trigger foods, eliminate them from your diet. Some common IBS trigger foods include:
- Cabbage, broccoli, kale, legumes and other gas-producing foods
- Dairy products
- Fatty foods, including whole milk, cream, cheese, butter, oils, meats and avocados
- Raw fruits
- Foods, gums and beverages that contain sorbitol, an artificial sweetener
Eating large meals can cause cramping and diarrhea, so eating smaller meals more often may help. Eating quickly can cause you to swallow air, which can cause belching or gas, so don't forget to slow down at the dinner table.
Adding fiber to your diet, especially if constipation is one of your main symptoms, often helps to regulate your bowel movements and reduce abdominal discomfort. At first, fiber will increase the amount of gas in your system, so add fiber gradually. Over time, the body adjusts to the effects of fiber and the gassiness will decrease. Fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals are good food sources of fiber.
Most people find that herbal heating pads provide immense relief from cramping, bloating and IBS symptoms in general. Since most people suffering with IBS symptoms tend to have anxiety about their IBS, a vicious cycle is born making things a lot worse. Anxiety about having IBS can lead to IBS symptoms, and vice versa. Applying direct moist heat to the stomach area provides relief by sending signals through the nervous system to the brain, tricking it into focusing on something other than "nervous" stomach, meanwhile relaxing the stomach muscles and settling things down a bit. We recommend Sacksy Thyme's Ultra Premium Herbal heating pads with Cherry pit and flaxseed filler, which provide another level of relief, by using healing herbs and essential oils, such as lavender, to promote an overall feeling of well-being.
Take a Probiotic
Take a probiotic, such VSL3 (available on the Dr. Hyman Store) or other high potency probiotic twice a day for one to two months. This probiotic has over 450 billion organisms per packet. This will help repopulate the good bacteria in your digestive track.
This information is not intended to replace your physician's recommendation. See your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment plans that work for you.