Soothe Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diet, Lifestyle and Herbs
Soothe Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diet, Lifestyle and Herbs
What is IBS?
IBS affects around 3%-15% of the population in western counties1. In actuality, up to 75% of people with IBS are undiagnosed2. Unlike IBD (which includes Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis) or Celiac disease, there is not a specific pathology to IBS. IBS is diagnosed mainly by symptoms, and sometimes when other gastrointestinal diseases are ruled out. Some of the signs of IBS are diarrhea, constipation, cramping, abdominal pain, spasms, gas, bloating, and stress/anxiety3. There are three subgroups of IBS: IBS-A is alternating between constipation and diarrhea; IBS-C is when constipation is pre-dominant; and IBS-D is when diarrhea is pre-dominant1. There are many factors that can play a role in IBS: undiagnosed food allergies/intolerances, poor digestive functions (low HCL, enzyme function, and sluggish liver), gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, stress (brain-gut access), inflammation from toxins, microbes, medications, and other factors in the gut.
People who have IBS also have “stimulated serotonin receptors1”, that “promote excessive intestinal motility, secretion and sensation1.” 95% of serotonin is located in the GI tract1. This “serotonin mediated mechanism” is dysfunctional in those with IBS, altering the intestinal barrier’s function1. There is definitely a link between the gut-brain axis and stress. However, because the gut and brain are linked, it is hard to figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg. Was it brought on by a food stressor first and then stress, or did stress cause it initially? When we go about treating IBS, we must look at both diet and stress simultaneously. Diet, toxins, and stress can cause inflammation, so we must investigate all three categories.
Diet and IBS
There are some specific diets recommended for IBS, such as the elimination diet, or the Low-Fodmap diet. The Low-Fodmap diet consists of eating foods that are low in FODMAPS and avoiding foods that are high in FODMAPS. Since increased gut permeability (aka leaky gut), is present in 40% of IBS patients4, I would like to focus on a more holistic approach to healing the gut and IBS simultaneously, rather than a specific diet. A specific diet can help remove the stressors initially, but you also want heal the gut so that some foods can eventually be added back in. Many of the supplements involved in healing the gut are also beneficial for IBS!
The 5 R approach is a simple way to go about healing the gut and IBS symptoms.
These R’s stand for: Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair, and Rebalance5.
First, find out if there are parasites, fungus, bacterial overgrowth, heavy metals or other toxins overburdening the gut. You can work with a practitioner using herbs/supplements to help remove the “bad guys”. You also want to initially remove any food triggers that you think can be contributing to your IBS. You can keep a food diary to notice what foods tend to cause you discomfort. Wheat, dairy, and eggs4 can be some major food triggers, as well as fructose, and alcohol sugars, and possibly the High-fodmaps. I would start with eliminating processed foods, refined flour, sugar, GMO, pesticides and herbicides, and some of the major possible triggers, before eating a really restrictive diet. You also want to make sure you are drinking purified water and using healthier body products. You can also take a food allergy and intolerance test to help pin-point a trigger. If many different foods are triggering IBS symptoms or show up as sensitivities, this can also be a sign of leaky gut.
Improve your digestion with digestive enzymes. You can also take bitter herbs a half hour before your meals to help with bile production and increase stomach acid for digestion. Always work with a healthcare professional before adding herbs or supplements to your daily regime. There can be some interactions with medications and certain health conditions.
Bring in the good bacteria and prebiotics with probiotic and prebiotic rich foods. You can also take a probiotic supplement specifically for IBS. The bifido strains are good for constipation and lactobacillus GG and Sac B for diarrhea3.
You can repair the gut lining with the following supplements: L-glutamine, vitamin D, soothing herbs like DGL, aloe, slipper elm, and marshmallow root, EFA’s, zinc carnosine, vitamin A, and quercetin6.
Manage your stress. This part should definitely not be overlooked. Many times stress alone can trigger IBS symptoms. A study compared the Low-Fodmap to “gut-directed hypnotherapy” with IBS patients. There were similar results between just doing the hypnotherapy vs just following the Low-Fodmap diet. These results included relief of GI symptoms and better quality of life7. There was also more sustained decrease in anxiety and depression with gut-directed hypnotherpay7. This study found that hypnotherapy may be superior to the Low-Fodmap diet7.
Follow the 5 R’s for at least 12 weeks.
A couple foods that can be considered safe for IBS, are oatmeal and sweet potatoes. They are both gluten-free and high fiber, and on the Low-Fodmap list. According to the science of Ayurveda, the types of food that are recommended for IBS are soft, warm and wet foods that are easy to digest. This can help to warm up and smooth out the digestive tract. Oatmeal and sweet potato are both warm, wet and soft. You can add some ghee or coconut oil with a dash of cinnamon. Healthy oils also help to lubricate the digestive tract. Soups and kitchari are also easier to digest.
Comment on wheat: Not everyone is gluten-intolerant, however many people are sensitive to modern-day wheat which is hybridized. Instead of going gluten-free, I would try avoiding wheat and processed wheat first. You can try ancient wheat that has not been hybridized, such as spelt, farro, einkorn and emmerson. Sprouted or sourdough versions of these grains are more ideal.
Supplements for IBS:
Starwest Botanical Colon Cleanse- Psyllium + Soothing Herbs:
Fiber helps to modulate, “the gut microbiota and metabolite production, increases fecal bulk by increasing microbial biomass or via water retention, and regulates gut motility8”. A systematic review and meta-analyses of 22 RCTs found that soluble fiber improved IBS symptoms significantly8. 10g of Psyllium husk per day has shown to have improvements in IBS 8.
The Starwest Botanical Colon Cleanse blend includes: Organic psyllium husks, organic flax seed, organic licorice root, organic rhubarb root, and organic ginger root. If you have high blood pressure or edema, you may want to be careful of this product since it has licorice root.
You can take 1 tsp in 8 ounces of water 2-3X a day on an empty stomach (2 hrs after a meal and wait ½ hr to eat). You can take this for a month and then switch over to a leaky gut blend, such as Repairvite by Apex energetics.
Enteric coated peppermint oil.
In a meta-analysis that included 175 patients in five different trials, a significant benefit of peppermint oil was found in treating the symptoms of IBS9. Other studies have found the reduction in abdominal pain, less abdominal distension, reduced stool frequency, and less flatulence9. When taking peppermint oil, you want to make sure it is in an enteric coated capsule so that it doesn’t break down until it is in the intestinal tract. Peppermint has a relaxation effect, and those with GERD symptoms do not want the LES to relax more. The recommended dosage is 0.2 to 0.4 mL of peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsules taken 3X a day on an empty stomach9. You can also rub peppermint oil on your belly.
IBS cannot be detected through tests, rather it is detected by symptoms. IBS has a gut-brain connection that can be brought on by stress and triggered by certain foods. Many people with IBS may have undiagnosed food allergies/intolerances, especially to dairy, wheat, eggs, fructose and sorbitol (alcohol sugars). Leaky Gut is also present in 40% of IBS patients. 75% of IBS cases can go undiagnosed. It is important to get to the root cause of IBS which includes following the 5 R’s: Remove triggers (pathogens, toxins, food sensitivities, stress, etc), Replace enzyme deficiencies and low hydrochloric acid (with digestive enzymes, HCL or bitters), Reinoculate with probiotics and prebiotic rich food, Repair with L-glutamine and other soothing herbs, and Rebalancewith stress management. Two supplements you can start with are the Starwest botanical colon cleanse and enteric coated peppermint capsules. These supplements, combined with a healthy plant-based, whole food diet (devoid of wheat and dairy), can start to give you some relief from symptoms. Keep in mind that 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, so if you do add dairy back into your diet, organic lactose-free dairy would be ideal. Also, simple things like chewing your food thoroughly and eating in a relaxed state can also be beneficial. Don’t forget to hydrate with purified water!
- Escott-Stump S. Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 8th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2015:460-462.
- Sayuk GS, Wolf R, Chang L. Comparison of Symptoms, Healthcare Utilization, and Treatment in Diagnosed and Undiagnosed Individuals With Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. 2017;112(6):892-899. doi:10.1038/ajg.2016.574
- Ross, K. Lower GI Disorders. [Canvas]. Tempe, AZ: SCNM Masters in Clinical Nutrition Program; 2021.
- Rakel D. Integrative Medicine, fourth edition. Elsevier; 2018: 423-431, 855
- How to Heal Your Gut 101. Dr. Christine Maren. Published September 8, 2020. Accessed November 21, 2021. https://drchristinemaren.com/how-to-heal-your-gut-101/.
- Ruscio M. Leaky Gut Supplements: The top 3 supplements for healing leaky gut. Dr Ruscio Blog. Published April 6, 2020. Accessed November 21, 2021. https://drruscio.com/leaky-gut-supplements/
- Peters SL, Yao CK, Philpott H, Yelland GW, Muir JG, Gibson PR. Randomised clinical trial: the efficacy of gut-directed hypnotherapy is similar to that of the low FODMAP diet for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2016;44(5):447-459. doi:10.1111/apt.13706
- Dimidi E, Whelan K. Food supplements and diet as treatment options in irritable bowel syndrome. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2020 Aug;32(8):e13951. doi: 10.1111/nmo.13951. PMID: 32697018 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32697018/
- Kligler B, Chaudhary S. Peppermint oil. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(7):1027-1030.
Please consult your physician or other medical professional prior to beginning any diet, supplement, or exercise program. The information presented is for general information only and may not be suitable for your personal needs, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent disease. You understand you are choosing to participate or implement this information voluntarily, and Wholistic Wellness Works, LLC is not responsible nor liable should you sustain harm, injury, or death.