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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the Western world. It is also sometimes referred to as mucous colitis or spastic colon, and is thought to affect one person in every ten - most commonly women between 20 and 45. The rippling, wave-like motions of the intestinal walls, which normally propels the contents at a steady rate, becomes jerky and erratic, with the muscles going into spasm. This leads to general symptoms of abdominal bloating and pain, fatigue, flatulance and alternating bouts of constipation and explosive diarrhoea. Symptoms sometimes worsen in women just before or during menstruation.As yet there is no known cause of IBS, although there is one school of thought which claims that it is often the aftermath of an intestinal infection, or a course of antibiotics. Stress seems to be a contributory factor, and certainly aggravates symptoms. There appears to be no inflammation or infection present to cause the symptoms. Some people are troubled by IBS for a relatively short period of time, while in others it comes and goes as a chronic condition for much of their lives.While it is not life threatening, the symptoms can be distressing, painful and sometimes difficult to control. However, many cases do respond to treatment - particularly dietary and stress management treatments.If you think you may be suffering from IBS, please do consult a physician. There are other, more serious ailments, which the symptoms may be masking, which could be easily eliminated by some tests and investigations which your doctor could arrange to carry out. If there is blood in your stools when emptying the bowels, you must consult your doctor. This is NOT a normal symptom of IBS.Natural Remedies (IBS)Here is a summary of various treatments which can help in the management of IBS. Like many natural remedies, they are best used in support of each other, rather than any one treatment used in isolation. Some are long-term, preventative, "lifestyle" type treatments, others are more topical, for the immediate relief of the symptoms. View this as a reference list, and pick out any suggestions which you are interested in trying:Increasing the intake of dietary fibre is one of the most consistently successful treatments for IBS. Try to ensure that as much of this fibre as possible is in the form of fruits and vegetable, rather than wheat grains, as a wheat intolerance may well be present. Many nutritionists believe that food allergies or intolerances aggravate IBS (some believe that they are actually the cause). As a result, it is a good idea to avoid, for a period, the most common dietary allergens - dairy products, wheat products, eggs, coffee, alcohol, spices and highly refined foods (such as white sugar and fried foods). A good, whole-food, allergen free diet (often called an "elimination" diet) should be followed for a week or two. This would comprise a simple diet of lightly cooked vegetables, fish, non-gluten grains (rice, millet, corn), perhaps lentils and beans, plus seeds for the essential fat content. If symptoms have reduced, introduce the potential allergens back into the diet one at a time, at the rate of one every 2 or 3 days. Monitor symptoms for a reaction and worsening after each food is re-introduced. If an allergen or intolerance is found, avoid it for about a month. You might then wish to re-introduce it, but only once or twice a week at most to avoid the intolerance building up again. You may find that there are some items which will always cause a reaction and should always be avoided, but others can be successfully re-introduced on a small scale. There may be an imbalance in the kind of bacteria in the intestines, so it is a good idea to try to re-colonise the gut with "friendly" bacteria, by eating natural yoghurt twice a day, or taking Lactobacillus supplements. Gentle exercise has been shown to bring a dramatic improvement in symptoms - try to take a 20 minute walk each day. As stress and anxiety do seem to play a major part in aggravating the symptoms of IBS, stress management is an important tool. Try listening to relaxing music for 20 minutes each morning or evening, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation - you may even wish to try counselling if you feel that stress and anxiety are currently big issues for you. Food Combining has been shown to help those with IBS, because of the way in which it allows the digestive system to concentrate on digesting one type of food at a time, removing some of the strain on the system. It is also a natural, easy way of increasing the fibre intake. For more details, take a look at the Featured Book or the other Food Combining books recommended in the Reading Room A herbalist would of course want to make a full assessment, and would tailor their treatment to individual requirements, but a common treatment might be soothing slippery elm, or a tea of camomile, peppermint and fennel. Aluminium can be picked up by foods cooked in aluminium pans, and can aggravate IBS. Avoid cooking in aluminium containers. Hypnotherapy is one of the most successful treatments for IBS, quite possibly because of the strong link with stress and anxiety. Ask your GP for a referral, or follow a personal recommendation from someone you trust. Massage can help to relax and sooth. Your therapist might also show you how to gently massage your abdomen (always in a clockwise direction, as this is the natural flow of the intestines) which can help to regulate bowel functions and ease discomfort Acupuncture has been known to help in the control of symptoms Coated peppermint oil capsules can be soothing to an irritated gut (you should be able to buy them at health food stores). Aromatherapy - make a massage oil from relaxing and soothing essential oils, such as chamomile, peppermint and lavender (3 or 4 drops of each in about 5 teaspoons of base oil eg. sweet almond oil), and massage the abdomen slowly and gently in a clockwise direction. A facecloth or flannel soaked in hot water containing a few drops of these oils is comforting when held against the abdomen as a compress, and can help to reduce pain. (This is also very good for period pains.) Alternatively, regularly add a few drops of the oils (not peppermint oil) to your bathwater. If you suffer from IBS we hope you find some of the above suggestions helpful in the management of your symptoms. Thank you for reading these pages. We would love to hear from readers who try any of the treatments. Let us know how you get on, by e-mailing us with your thoughts.Above all, do take care of yourselves. We are all very good at running around trying to help others, but it is vitally important to give some time and care to ourselves... something most of us neglect to dohere is the site http://freespace.virgin.net/lynn.miles/treatment.html
 
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