Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS), is commonly characterized by lower abdominal pain and altered bowel function. Your colon motility- it’s ability to move waste through the digestive tract- has been compromised and tends to spasm by either moving food too fast through your digestive tract (diarrhea) or too slowly (constipation).
There are a few different types of IBS. IBS-C refers to cases where your main symptom is constipation, IBS-D refers to those whose main symptom is diarrhea and IBS-A is for those who alternate between constipation and diarrhea.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can range from mild to disabling and types of symptoms will vary from person to person. Some of them include-
- diarrhea and/or constipation (chronic or alternating)
- lower abdominal pain or spasms
- mucus in stool
- bowel urgency or incontinence
- lower abdominal pain relieved by defecation
- a sensation of the bowel not emptying completely
You always need to rule out underlying issues (infections, parasites, bacteria, etc) that could be the cause for your IBS but there are some simple changes that you can make to your diet to help calm the colon and get it working properly again.
- get a food allergy test- there are many common food allergens that can be a source of inflammation and irritation to the colon. Dairy, grains (primarily wheat and corn), citrus, soy and eggs are just a few foods that could be contributing to your IBS. Once you eliminate these foods from your diet, it gives your colon a chance to reduce inflammation and start to heal so it can process waste more efficiently. Plus you may notice an immediate difference in bloating, gas and other symptoms when you remove allergens from your diet.
- avoid processed foods- chemicals, food additives, and preservatives are all things that disrupt the delicate digestive environment. My rule of thumb is to always stick to the most natural form of the food you can. The way nature gave it to us is how it should be consumed. Eat an apple, not apple by-product that was processed with twenty other ingredients into a snack bar, eat a potato, not a potato turned into a chip that’s been fried and processed with oil.
- eat more fiber- fiber helps absorb and remove toxins and increases stool volume. Most of us already know to take fiber for constipation, but most fiber products on the market contain psyllium as their main ingredient. Psyllium is highly water-soluble which means it absorbs water. That is an issue because your colon is already dehydrated and that will cause further dehydration making you more constipated. The best option is to get a 50%-50% mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. My favorite fiber is this one– it contains a great blend of fiber and also includes soothing herbs to help inflammation of the colon. It is a gentle, non-laxative formula but will encourage natural elimination without the nasty side effects of regular laxatives and fiber.
- drink plenty of water- dehydration is a the number one cause of constipation. You may think you’re drinking enough but it may not be enough to move waste through your system. Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces and when detoxing, you can drink even more than that. If diarrhea is your main concern, make sure you are still staying hydrated, but add electrolytes or minerals to your water so you will replenish the minerals you’re losing when using the restroom.
- avoid stress- I know this isn’t really a diet change, but a lifestyle change is just as important. Stress has been directly linked to IBS. The more stress your body is under, the less efficient your body’s systems will work.
For all the times that I needed some “extra help” to get myself going again, I would use CleanseMORE by Renew Life. My mom always had a bottle of this sitting on our kitchen counter. It hydrates the colon and stimulates peristalsis without the harsh side effects of stimulant laxatives. It’s non-habit forming and can be used long term. I would take one every night before bed and by morning, I was able to go to the bathroom. It uses gentle cleansing herbs and magnesium. You don’t get the nasty bloating or urgency to go like you do with regular stimulant laxatives.
Probiotics are a must no matter if you suffer from digestive issues or not. It’s best to use one that is targeted for colon care. This one by Renew Life does the trick. It has a high amount of various strains of bacteria plus it has the bacteria you need specifically for your large and small intestine. If you have a favorite brand of probiotics, continue to use that, just make sure you take it daily and that you use one that has a potency in the billions with multiple strains.
There are also some herbs and spices that will help hydrate, soothe and repair the colon. Turmeric is a huge inflammation fighter, you can see my post on it here to read about all its benefits. Marshmallow root is something I keep on hand at all times for its soothing properties. L-Glutamine is also great for repairing the lining of the intestines and healing leaky gut.
Healing is all about making lifestyle changes and good choices. It can be achieved if we just take the time to take care of ourselves.