Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a very common debilitating gastrointestinal disorder that affects people in different ways. It is estimated that between 8% and 20% of the adult population are affected, mainly women between the ages of 30 and 60 years, and typical symptoms include chronic abdominal pain, bloating, and varying bouts of constipation and diarrhoea.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is termed a ‘functional disorder’. A functional disorder is a medical condition that impairs the normal function of the body where every part of the body looks completely normal under examination. We do not fully understand IBS since it is a very complex condition, but sufferers can exhibit a combination of different symptoms and signs such as abdominal bloating, constipation (IBS-C), diarrhoea (IBS-D) or alternating between both (IBS-A).
What causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a multi-factorial concern however there are some factors that we understand may be responsible for IBS or may exacerbate the symptoms and these include:
Inflammation in the GI tract: This is the single biggest factor for IBS. What occurs is that the cells lining the GI tract get inflamed resulting in the functional disorder of the colon. Sufferers can end up with diarrhoea, constipation or alternating bouts of both. Since the cells lining the intestines are inflamed, nutrient uptake is greatly diminished often resulting in vitamin and mineral deficiencies within the body. Additionally, many people end up with skin allergies because inflammation of the cells results in seepage of toxins from the gut into the bloodstream since these cells are not functioning correctly.
The single most important herb to alleviate soft tissue inflammation is turmeric. The health benefits of turmeric are primarily due to its curcumin content. Curcumin is the group of compounds that confer multiple benefits including having potent anti-inflammatory properties on all the soft tissues within the body including the gut and skin, which explains its frequent use in gastrointestinal concerns as well as skin eruptions such as acne, rosacea and eczema.
Additionally, curcumin extracts help to enhance the production of digestive enzymes. Our bodies require sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes to break down food as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. When production is insufficient, as occurs due to age, stress and other factors, food stagnates in the gut causing the building up of toxins which inflame the gut. Additionally, since food is not moving quickly, constipation can be a problem.
To summarise, curcumin will help to calm down the inflammation in the gut, ensure that food is broken down efficiently so that it prevents constipation as well as the build up of toxins that are responsible for the cycle of bouts associated with IBS.
The supplement that I tend to recommend is Super Bio-Curcumin by Life Extension, a supplement that contains a patent pending extract of turmeric containing 95 percent curcuminoids in a base containing oils derived from turmeric root for greater absorption. This specific patent pending extract has been shown to absorb seven times better than conventional curcumin or turmeric supplements and remain in the bloodstream twice as long ensuring maximum protection.
Other causal factors involved in IBS include:
A lack of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes: As mentioned above, digestive enzyme production declines with age, stress and certain medications, which leads to insufficient breakdown of food causing toxin build up which inflame the intestinal tract. This can also lead to bouts of diarrhoea and constipation.
Stress: Stress has an impact of nearly every single process within our bodies. Stress exacerbates the symptoms of IBS since cortisol, the stress hormone, is responsible for causing inflammation in the entire body. In effect, stress disturbs the digestive balance.
Pathogenic bacteria: There are good and bad bacteria in the gut and the bad bacteria are kept in check by the good bacteria, which release lactic acid as a by-product of metabolism. In the case of sufferers of IBS, it is thought that 25 percent of these sufferers may have idiopathic bacteria that may cause inflammation in the gut.
Natural remedies to help ease IBS
As mentioned above, the most important supplement to address IBS is Super Bio-Curcumin which helps to ensure that the inflammation of the cells lining the intestines is addressed. Super Bio-Curcumin will also help to address any digestive enzyme insufficiency.
Another remedy that I believe to be important is the use of good probiotic supplements. As mentioned above, one in four IBS sufferers are thought to have idiopathic bacteria that cause inflammation and the idea of using a good quality probiotic would be to ensure that these pathogens cannot flourish and with time diminish in number. I always recommend using a probiotic that supplies eight strains of acid resistant beneficial bacteria, which can colonise and flourish in the gut. My recommendation is Mega Probiotic ND by Food Science of Vermont.
Constipation: If you suffer from this type of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-C), the primary cause of this is inefficient peristalsis within the gut. Peristalsis is the contraction of the muscles lining the gut. Backed up faecal matter causes discomfort, bloating and pain. In these individuals, any movement is considered a ‘good event’. The problem is that many of these individuals cannot use fibre based supplements. In several studies on sufferers with slow transit times, the use of fibre and laxatives only modestly improved frequency. Clearly fibre is not the solution for every chronic constipation sufferer of IBS where evacuating the bowels is of paramount importance both physically and psychologically.
Fortunately there is help at hand for chronic constipation which works very quickly. By taking a nutritional powder containing vitamin C and magnesium on an empty stomach, the result of evacuation is usually within an hour or two. It is important to drink lots of water after taking the powder since these nutrients draw water from the surrounding tissues into the colon in order to soften the stools, stimulate muscle movement and thus prompt bowel evacuation. The powder is called Effervescent Vitamin C – Magnesium Crystals. I believe that it is far better to use nutrients that actually are of benefit to the body rather than using laxatives. We know that magnesium is involved in hundreds of bio-chemical reactions within the body and that deficiencies are very widespread. Likewise vitamin C is an antioxidant that is required for protecting the body against free radicals and is required for collagen production with very poor availability to the body since it is excreted out of the body rapidly after its ingestion. The use of Effervescent Vitamin C-Magnesium Crystals will ease chronic constipation but potentially this could also be used for occasional constipation too.
Diarrhoea: If you suffer from this type of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D), then this may be due to your diet, stress or the inability to hold up bowel movements due to the excited nerves. Certain proteins found from the breakdown of microorganisms in the gut confuse the body into thinking that it has to attack these pathogens. The result is ongoing inflammation in the gut leading to bouts of diarrhoea. Whatever the cause, it would be prudent to use Saccharomyces Boulardii, a specific probiotic yeast cell species that has been studied extensively for its benefits in numerous types of gastrointestinal concerns. This specific beneficial yeast strain has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and works to ensure that the immune system does not get “over-excited” since this leads to inflammation in the gut.
Stress: We all realise that stress disturbs the digestive system in a very direct way. Nearly all of us have at some point experienced nausea or getting an upset stomach when we are nervous or anxious. Whilst research into why stress disturbs the digestive system is not fully understood, but it would appear that chemical changes in the brain brought on by stressful situations can affect the way food moves through the digestive system.
If stress is predominant in your life then it would be prudent to address this. The adrenals are the body’s main glands responsible for the production of stress and energising hormones. At times of stress, whether physical, emotive or hormonal, they produce the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked with hundreds of concerns in the body. Cortisol is an inflammatory hormone and this effect on the gut makes the symptoms of IBS worse. You may be surprised to learn that 95% of the serotonin receptors are located in the intestines and that many sufferers of IBS may have a concern associated with stress. It is for this reason that I think it prudent to use Magnolia Rhodiola Complex. Magnolia extracts work to reduce elevated inflammatory cortisol whilst rhodiola extracts work to elevate serotonin uptake in the body. Serotonin is the mood elevating and nerve calming chemical in the brain.