Herbal Health Information for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The symptoms vary, with, constipation, diarrhoea, especially in the morning, wind, pain and abdominal bloating. The diarrhoea may be accompanied with the passing of mucous and blood.

With any bowel condition diet must be top of the list to have a look at.

The digestive system is the point of entry for all our food and drink but unfortunately many foods and drinks are irritants and can upset the fine balance of the digestive enzymes and the secretions within the gut.

Modern day diets have changed dramatically within the past 20 years and our digestive systems have not had a chance to adapt.

The gut becomes irritated and inflamed (like an open wound) and eventually any food going in will just aggravate it.

Your diet must be sensible with your fair share of fruit and vegetables and not too much of the same foods so the gut has a rest from different foods on a daily basis.

If you think of us as hunter gatherers then in ancient times humans would have had a varying diet depending on what was in season and what groups of animals were available. With modern intensive farming methods, we have the same foods available to us all year around which means we tend to eat too much of certain foods which does not give the digestive system a break from digesting that particular food.

Rule of thumb is to vary the foods you are eating and give yourself a break from foods you eat regularly.

The other thing to avoid with IBS, despite accepted advice, is high fibre cereal foods such as whole wheat.  This is because the Fibre in cereals is dagger shaped and not broken down by the gut and if the gut is inflamed then it digs in to the gut lining and irritates it. Fibre in fruit and veg is spiral shaped and softer on the gut wall.

Dairy foods have been implicated in IBS, but I think it is not so much the dairy as the volume of dairy people eat, as it is an easy food to eat or snack on.

For example

Breakfast…………..Cereal with milk and tea or coffee with milk

Lunch………………cheese sandwich and yogurt

Dinner……………..main meal and ice cream

Tea and coffee during the day with milk.

This applies to wheat as well, as a diet like this could mean an intake of wheat and dairy three times a day.

So it is a good idea to cut down on dairy and wheat intake and vary your food intake with other foods such as rice and corn and fruit and veg as well as some meat, fish and eggs.

Now I know some people can’t eat certain things or they don’t like certain foods so be sensible and vary the things you like to and can eat.

Tea and coffee are a major gut stimulant due to the caffeine in them so can aggravate an already irritated gut, on top of which tannin in both of them, reacts with protein in food and the gut lining to prevent good absorption of the foods we do eat. Definitely cut out if you can or cut down on your intake of tea and coffee and I know to many people this is an abhorrent thought but drink WATER., at  least two pints a day.

PHEW it sounds like a mine field but easy to follow when you get used to it.

Herb wise it is a bit difficult to advise what to take as it will depend on how the bowel is behaving,  but Marshmallow, as I mentioned in the Video, is high in mucilage and coats and protects the lining of the gut. This gives it a chance to heal and stops it being further aggravated by food. Both Chamomile and Fennel, which we looked at on the beach walk, are calming and soothing to the bowel and help to break up and disperse wind. There is a possibility that a digestive stimulant may be needed to improve food digestion and any of the bitter herbs we have looked at will do that, Dandelion, Burdock, Yellow dock.

It is not expensive to visit a Qualified Medical Herbalist so if in doubt always consult the professional. I have excellent results in my clinic helping people with IBS which can be cleared up or managed with the herbs.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist,

Herbal Health Information.

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