Irritable Bowel Syndrome ---Causes
and Top 10 Natural Remedies

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Last updated July 31, 2016 (originally published May 27, 2012)

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

When irritable bowel syndrome strikes it can be crippling. For
some people irritable bowel syndrome, also called "IBS",  can
cause discomfort and distress but for others it can stop them
working, traveling or socializing. Irritable bowel syndrome is a
disorder affecting the normal working of the colon. Up to 20
percent of all Americans (one in five of us) suffer from the
condition, according to the National Digestive Diseases
Information Clearinghouse (National Institutes of Health). No
one is sure why, but irritable bowel syndrome affects more
women than men and it often strikes before the age of 35.

Many people can control the disorder by lifestyle changes. For
others, medication alongside natural remedies can help. Which
are the best ways to beat irritable bowel syndrome? Are there
any foods or other natural remedies for irritable bowel
syndrome (IBS)? Do any herbs or supplements improve the

What are the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are bloating,
abdominal pain and discomfort in the stomach and abdomen.
However, not all attacks of irritable bowel syndrome are the
same. You may have
constipation or diarrhea (often alternating
both), explosive diarrhea, gas, or mucus in the stool. Some
people have severe symptoms, others milder. Some people’s
symptoms pass while others stick around.  Irritable bowel
syndrome can also worsen, or cause,
depression – the
syndrome can really strike from all angles.

What Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Unfortunately we still don’t really know why some people
suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Experts have many

One theory says IBS sufferers have a sensitive colon that
reacts badly to stress and certain foods. Other experts believe
that our immune system may impact on the chances of our
suffering irritable bowel disease.

The colon is the key to understanding irritable bowel
syndrome. Experts believe that in some people the content of
the colon moves too quickly resulting in too much fluid in your
stool. In other cases, the content of the colon moves too
slowly, resulting in extra fluid absorbed and therefore in
constipation. (Read about the 3
things you need to do for
normal bowel movements.)


One thing is clear. With irritable bowel syndrome, the normal
bacterial environment of your intestines has been altered.  Your
intestines contain a massive amount of bacteria. It has been
estimated that bacterial equal to 10 followed by 14 zeros
(that's a billion billion) of different bacteria live in your
intestines, according to a 2014 study from Department of
Medicine, Stord Hospital in Norway.

Compared to healthy people, IBS sufferers have less of certain
bacteria (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) and more of others (
Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Clostridium). ]

Scientists also state that irritable bowel syndrome may be
caused by a bacterial infection in the digestive system. For
example, if you develop gastroenteritis you may also develop
irritable bowel syndrome. Hormonal changes may also play a

Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Linked to Serious Health

If you have irritable bowels, you may be wondering if having
IBS increases your risk for colon cancer? The answer,
thankfully, is "no". While the condition is distressing and can be
disabling, irritable bowel syndrome has not been linked with
health conditions such as
colon cancer, Crohn’s disease or
ulcerative colitis. If you have fever,
weight loss, bleeding or
severe pain see a doctor quickly. These problems are not linked
with irritable bowel syndrome and could be as sign of another
serious health condition.

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, can you stop the
pain and discomfort caused by the condition?

How can you remedy the side effects of irritable bowel
syndrome like gas and bloating? We’ve checked out the latest
scientific research to give you the low-down on how to treat
this distressing condition.

Top 10 Natural Remedies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

1. Change Your Diet to Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Without a doubt, your diet can be crucial to how you deal with
irritable bowel syndrome and how you feel when you have the
condition. How do changes in your diet help irritable bowel

You need to find out which foods are triggers for you –
everyone can react differently to different foods, but there are
certain products that are reported to be worse than others
when it comes to causing an attack of irritable bowel syndrome.

What are the usual culprits? Foods and drink shown which
often produce irritable bowel syndrome symptoms include milk
and dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, fruit and fruit juices,
spices, diet foods and drinks, fried food, bagels, multigrain
bread, salad dressings, red meat, cakes, certain vegetables and
cookies, according to a 2007 study from the Inflammatory
Bowel Diseases Center, Albany Medical College, New York.

Foods better-tolerated include plain pasta, noodles and rice,
baked potatoes, fish, chicken, ham, turkey, soy products,
watermelon, white bread and peanut butter.

Keep a food diary and see which foods are associated with
flare-ups, then consult a health professional to draw up a diet
that avoids irritable bowel syndrome-causing foods without
depriving you of nutrients.

Eat small meals rather than big meals, and drink plenty of water.

Get More Fiber to Clear Up Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you suffer from constipation with irritable bowel syndrome,
increase your intake of fiber.

Be careful though.  Fiber may make gas and cramping worse so
increase fiber
gradually over weeks, not hours.  Increasing
your intake by two to three grams a day is ideal, according to
the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.

One of the best ways to add fiber to your diet is to sprinkle
flaxseed over foods you like, such as cereal, yogurt or even
some soups. Flax seeds have 2.8 grams of fiber per tablespoon.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that men get 38 grams
of fiber each day of they are under 50 and 30 grams if they are
over 50. Women should get 25 grams of fiber a day if they are
under 50 and 21 grams if they are over 50.

Thus, sprinkling a few tea spoons of flaxseed a day over your
foods could provide 25% of a woman's daily fiber needs and
almost 20% of what a man needs in fiber each day.

A 2006 study from Texas Tech University Health Sciences
Center, El Paso also states that a high-fiber diet is a good
approach to treating irritable bowel syndrome but that patients
should start with a low dose and increase slowly it slowly, not
giving up if
bloating and gas occur in the first few weeks.
(Read more about
causes of and remedies for bloating.)

Probiotics for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Gas and bloating are uncomfortable symptoms of irritable
bowel syndrome. Reduce these embarrassing occurrences by
taking probiotics.

Probiotics – good bacteria that normally live in your digestive
tract – are found in dietary supplements and yogurts. Results
from studies are mixed, but people who take probiotics are less
likely to suffer discomfort caused by gas according to a 2000
study from the Lund University Hospital, Sweden.

And a probiotic supplement containing Bifidobacterium animalis
reduced abdominal discomfort and constipation according to a
six-week trial involving 274 people by Danone Research,
Palaiseau, France.

Charcoal Can Help Relieve Bloating from Irritable Bowel

It may not be the first thing you think of taking to relieve
irritable bowel syndrome, but charcoal can help according to a
study in 1981 by Hall RG Jr, Thompson H, and Strother A called
“Effects of orally administered activated charcoal on intestinal
gas.” In this study activated charcoal helped reduce flatulence
and gas.

However, not all follow-up studies have seen a similar result so
it may be best to try the diet and exercise approach first before
ingesting charcoal (and always consult a physician before
taking this type of supplement.)

Peppermint for Reducing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Looking for something tastier and less strange than charcoal
for treating irritable bowel syndrome? How about peppermint?
Peppermint helps smooth the muscles in your intestines and
may help provide relief from
bloating, gas and abdominal pain.

Peppermint reduced these symptoms in people suffering from
the condition, according to a 1997 study from Taichung
Veterans General Hospital, Taiwan. Take enteric-coated
capsules and watch out because peppermint may make
heartburn worse.


The effectiveness of peppermint oil in treating IBS has been
confirmed by later studies, including a 2007 study from G
d'Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy. The Italian study
found that patients who took two enteric-coated capsules of
peppermint oil twice a day for 4 weeks experienced a reduction
of 50% of their IBS symptoms.

Exercise to Beat Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Exercise regularly if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome
because it can help you in many ways. Exercise helps stimulate
your intestines to normal contractions, and it relieves
depression, stress and low self esteem associated with the
condition. Increased physical activity improves symptoms in
irritable bowel syndrome according to a 2011 study from the
Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of
Gothenburg, Sweden. The study looked at 102 people who
maintained a sedentary or physically active lifestyle.

Cut Your Stress Down to Size to Help Heal Irritable Bowel

How does stress affect irritable bowel syndrome? Research has
shown that feeling overwhelmed, tense, angry, anxious or
depressed can make the colon spasm, causing abdominal
distress and discomfort. If you suffer from irritable bowel
syndrome your colon may be more than usually sensitive to
stressful triggers and you will be more aware of the unpleasant
abdominal sensations.

Try meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, exercise, or
changing your stressful lifestyle. A 2011 study from The
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North
Carolina showed mindfulness meditation therapy resulted in
improvements in symptoms. Hypnosis may also help – a 1991
study from the University Hospital of South Manchester, West
Didsbury, UK showed its promise for treating irritable bowel
syndrome, when a professional teacher guides you into a
relaxed state where you focus on relaxing your abdominal

Acupuncture: An Irritable Bowel Syndrome Cure?

Acupuncture may help reduce symptoms of irritable bowel
syndrome although research results are mixed. Some people
swear by the remedy to control muscle spasms and improve the
function of their bowels, but according to studies such as 2002
research from St Mark's Hospital, UK acupuncture is not
effective at treating irritable bowel syndrome.

Eat Flaxseed to Improve Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Flaxseed and psyllium seeds have both been touted as
constipation treatments. One study by Tarpila S and Kivinen A
in 1997 (“Ground flaxseed is an effective hypolipidemic bulk
laxative”) found that people taking flaxseed every day for three
months had significantly fewer problems with constipation,
bloating and abdominal pain than those taking the psyllium
seeds. Those that continued taking the flaxseed after three
months showed even further improvements.

Melatonin for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Some experts suggest that the hormone melatonin could have
some effect on the nervous system as it, in turn, affects the
digestive tract. Two studies in 2005 by the National University
of Singapore showed how the supplement melatonin improved
abdominal pain and bowel symptoms in people who suffered
irritable bowel syndrome.

Cilantro Helps Fight Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Cilantro has shown promise as a natural remedy against
irritable bowel syndrome. Cilantro has anti-fungal properties
and helps to remove heavy metals from your blood stream, all
of which can irritate your intestinal tract. (Read more about
cilantro's health benefits.)

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Exercises That Increase Bowel Movements






















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