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Must Read: IBS Medications and Help

Updated on January 30, 2011

Irritable Bowel Syndrome? A right pain in the backside!

Many of us have it, so lets see what we can do about it. This article looks at some of the best tips for dealing with, something we well know, is more than just an irritation.

Affirmation: Today, we accept our IBS, and we decide to find our solution, so we can get on with the life we want. We try to show you how. You bring courage, determination, and patience, to what we present here and your life will be yours once again. Go take back what is yours - start now!

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a catch-all term, used to describe a functional digestive disorder, that can be characterized by diarrhea, constipation, alternating periods of both, gas, pain or bloating. Twice as many women suffer from IBS than men, and it usually affects people between the ages of 25 and 45.

The normal rhythmic muscular contractions of the digestive tract become irregular and uncoordinated. This interferes with the normal movement of food and waste material, and leads to the accumulation of mucous and toxins in the intestine. The accumulated material sets up an obstruction trapping gas and stools, which causes bloating and constipation.

Colitis Symptoms?

In its most common form, it is known as Ulcerative colitis. It is not a type of IBS, but instead an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), where it is thought, the body’s own immune system attacks the large intestine (the colon and rectum) and causes inflammation.

Crohn’s Disease is also a type of IBD, where chronic inflammation occurs in any part of the digestive tract, from mouth to anus.

Symptoms include, rectal bleeding and pain, diarrhea with blood in it, abdominal cramps and pain, weight loss, tiredness, fever, increased urge to go to the toilet, and constipation. These symptoms may vary widely, and in some cases are similar to other problems - such as IBS. Hence, in the next section, we highlight the need for correct diagnosis.

Get the Right Diagnosis and Give the Medical Advice a chance!

The gastroenterologists is very important for getting the correct diagnosis; it has been widely suggested to push your GP to see the specialist …… don’t be afraid to stand firm on this point - it is your body, and it is you that has to deal with these symptoms.

Know what you are dealing with. Even the diagnosis itself can start to relieve symptoms; by reducing anxiety and stress caused by worry; allowing acceptance by yourself and others; and re-focusing your management of the symptoms.

Although you may see it recommended by some to avoid the prescription drugs (mostly because they can mask the symptoms rather than cure the cause, may have side-effects, or otherwise be ineffective), we feel a combined approach of traditional and alternative approaches works best with IBS.

In summary.

A. Get the right diagnosis.

B. Follow the advice of the specialist; try the treatments prescribed.

C. For a few, this approach can relieve symptoms enough to lead a ‘normal‘ life.

OK, that got rid of the lucky few!

IBS Medications

No magic cure for IBS so far! Sorry to disappoint. But - there are many IBS medication options for treating the symptoms.

Here, (as with our ‘3-step Internal, Balance, and Support approach’ below) try it; watch it; observe it; and feel how your body reacts - pay close attention. It often helps to try one thing at a time, to isolate the effect. We recommend keeping a diary; note what works for you and your personal symptoms, and keep doing it. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Be aware, your symptoms can and will change over time.

For chronic constipation - You might get fibre supplements; look for water-soluble fibre, such as brands Fybogel or Isogel (ispaghula) for IBS constipation. In addition, laxatives can be advised for short periods if needed.

For diarrhoea - The usual suspects are Loperamide (the brand is Imodium) or Lomotil. Although available over-the-counter, it can be cheaper to get on prescription, if used frequently.

To control colon muscle spasms and reduce abdominal pain - Anti-spasmodic drugs can help some, by relaxing the wall of your bowels, relieving spasm-type pains. Again, some are available over-the-counter at your pharmacy, such brands as Colofac IBS and Buscopan IBS, or get them on prescription. They work in different ways; so try a few - see what works best for you. Other brands to try are Spasmonal or Merbentyl; and don’t forget the natural alternative of peppermint oil (if it works for you, that‘s great!).

For persistent pain and diarrhoea - The doctor may prescribe a lower-dose daily course of antidepressants, such as the brands, Sinepin, Allegron, or Surmontil (the older tricyclic antidepressants). It may take a few weeks to feel the effects. Antidepressants can relieve nerve pain in some cases, so it may reduce IBS pain for some.

Don’t work alone!

Build the team of experts around you …. and make them work hard for you. This can include your GP and gastric-specialist, the pharmacy, local/online health shop, online research, and just as important, family and friends (to support those lifestyle improvements!).

Yes, we’ve heard it! Too embarrassed to enlist the help of family and friends! Well, you will be less affective without them ….. and suffer more? Two things - one, many of these people love you, and really want to see you feel better - and, two, since IBS effects 1 in 5 of us, you might be surprised to find a great “support buddy” among your friends (who has been suffering in silence for years!).

Help For IBS

For the rest of us? Try to focus on the long-term solution. Our tips to provide help for IBS?

We call it our “3-step Internal, Balance, and Support approach“.Get it! The ‘3-step IBS approach‘ - clever ah! And easy to remember:

1. Internal: Watch what you eat;

2. Balance: Exercise & reduce stress;

3. Support: Your body with herbal remedies & treatments.

Our bodies are incredible; they will constantly try to re-balance, maintain and repair, if, and this is the most important if, if they are not obstructed. Such obstructions are, eating and drinking things that do not agree with our bodily systems, regularly over-consuming food that is not required by our body, tension and stress held in the body, a mind not able to relax, and a lack of activity or exercise.

Worth mentioning again. Symptoms vary for different people, also over time and in severity; so - try it; observe it; feel how it works for you. Keep your diary to refer back to; it will also help when working with other members of your team (for example, your doctor or pharmacy).

1. Internal: Watch what you eat:

  • Restrict (or eliminate) both regular and decaffeinated coffee, other caffeine sources, tobacco, and all other stimulants.
  • Restricting (or eliminating) milk and milk products can be a big help for many people.
  • Avoid products sweetened with sorbitol (such as sugarless chewing gum).
  • Symptoms may be caused by vitamin C supplements or lactose intolerance.
  • Identify trigger foods by keeping a symptom diary, you should be able to pinpoint the foods that lead to your IBS symptoms. For example, some foods that may increase gas and bloating, are beans. raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Increase your fibre intake by eating whole grains, cooked vegetables and fruits, to help with constipation and ibs. Use a fibre supplement if you can't sufficiently increase your consumption of dietary fibre.
  • Sprinkle a tablespoon of freshly ground flax seeds on cereals, soups, and/or salads daily.
  • Try not to eat too much food in a single meal - this can set off IBS symptoms; opt for small, frequent meals when possible.
  • Take probiotics with meals which contain "friendly" bacteria that can stabilize the digestive tract; you can find milk-free brands in health-food stores.
  • Try drinking six to eight glasses of water each day (especially if you have diarrhea).
  • You could experiment with carob powder for diarrhoea: Used occasionally, a tablespoonful of carob powder (mixed with applesauce and honey) can sooth irritated intestines.
  • A short period of fasting can provide a break for your digestive system, and give it a chance to re-balance itself. Check with your doctor; try half-a-day, then a day. Pick a time when you can be relaxed to get the most benefit.

2. Balance: Exercise & reduce stress:

  • Learn to relax with breath exercises and meditation/concentration techniques. It can be done almost anywhere, anytime and you will be surprised how good you feel after just closing your eyes, relaxing the body and concentrating on your breath for a few minute.
  • Are you sitting comfortably? OK, try to breath calmly from your abdomen and count 25 breaths. If your mind wanders, and you lose count …… start again.
  • In the office, feeling stressed? Our favourite tip, wander off to a quiet bathroom and breath as above.
  • You may think us crazy with this one; try it and be wowed! Anywhere and anytime, for a moment, bring your attention to your breath going in and out. Either through the nose, or by feeling the chest rise and fall. Doing that? Feel better already? Good, OK, here’s the killer ……. now smile! We are very serious. Breathe and smile - instant relief, anywhere, anytime. You heard it here! Make it a habit, a regular event, at least every few hours, or as needed. Warning, there can be side-effects. Others may be effected by your calmness, and smiling can be infectious.
  • Physical activity and exercise helps to maintain bowel regularity and reduce stress. For example, regular walking, a gentle yoga or tai chi class. What! “No energy”, I hear you say; try it now and you will find over time, these activities will provide greater relaxation benefits and a positive alternative, to sitting on the sofa watching TV.

3. Support: Your body with herbal remedies & treatments:

  • A natural approach which seems to be getting good results is Traditional Chinese Medicine. Try a herbal blend that provides your intestinal tract with the reinforcements it needs to counter bacteria, and with ingredients to soothe and support these vital organs. This combination will fortify the protective inner membranes of the stomach and intestines while it cleanses them, and the antiseptic qualities will reduce pain and swelling in inflamed areas. See below for a list of the herbs to look out for, along with their active properties.
  • Peppermint oil is known for aiding the digestion, with a few drops in hot tea or cold water, it is simple and very refreshing. It has a natural anti-spasmodic effect.
  • Slippery elm powder, obtained from the inner bark of the red elm tree (Ulmus rubra), can heal irritated digestive tract tissues. Slippery Elm capsules taken with your meal, can help relieve digestive discomfort and provides mucilage to sooth the digestive tract.

Some interesting downloads, for instant IBS relief:

Herbs with properties that can help, when dealing with IBS

  • Astragalus root – Enhances white blood cell and immune function, promotes production of digestive fluids and bile and fights urinary tract infections.
  • Cardamon fruit – Stimulates circulation and the production of digestive fluids, enhances elimination, and acts as an astringent.
  • Chaenomeles fruit – Improves digestion, relaxes muscle cramps and spasms, relieves pain and increases urine flow.
  • Citrus peel – Relaxes muscle spasms, increases circulation, stimulates the production of digestive and mucosal fluids, alleviates pain, acts as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
  • Dioscorea root – Stimulates production of digestive and mucosal fluids, soothes inflammation, enhances and tones the kidneys and lungs.
  • Dolichos seed – Strengthens spleen function, reduces inflammation and fever and increases the blood’s ability to clot.
  • Dang gui root – Promotes oxygen absorption by the liver. Raises metabolism and enhances the liver’s ability to regulate glycogen production to normalise blood sugar levels.
  • Hoelen plant – Tones the bladder/kidneys and promotes urination, regulates fluid balance/production, relieves congestion, strengthens spleen function, improves digestion and acts as a natural sedative to calm the nerves.
  • Licorice root – Increases the production of digestive fluids and bile, soothes mucus membranes (especially in the stomach) relieves pain and inflammation and relaxes muscles spasms. Exhibits antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
  • Lotus seed – Cools heart energy, lowers blood pressure and fever, controls bleeding, strengthens spleen function and acts as an astringent and kidney tonic.
  • Magnolia bark – Improves digestion, reduces blood pressure, exhibits antibacterial and antifungal activity, and acts as a sedative
  • Panax ginseng root – Stimulates liver cell regeneration by increasing oxygen absorption and usage on the cellular level. Contains substances that stimulate liver enzyme production.
  • Saussurea root – Stimulates blood flow, reduces blood pressure, increases the production of digestive fluids, regulates spleen function, alleviates pain, relaxes smooth muscle spasms, and exhibits antibacterial activity.


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