Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common digestive disorders, affecting 1 in 5 Australians, and twice as many women as men.

The main symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, excessive flatulence, and either diarrhoea (IBS-D), constipation (IBS-C) or a mixture of the two (IBS-M).

IBS is characterised by hypersensitivity, inflammation and/or microflora imbalances in the digestive tract. There are several possible underlying causes or triggers including infection or changes in the normal bacterial population of the bowel, food intolerances, a poor or fibre-deficient diet, stress and anxiety, as well as certain medications such as antibiotics, antacids and painkillers. 

Due to the complex nature of the condition, naturopathic treatment is highly individualised to address the exact needs of the individual and their specific underlying causes. Important gut healing and soothing nutrients that may form part of the treatment protocol include strain-specific probiotics, psyllium, zinc, glutamine, peppermint and slippery elm.

Typically it is helpful to follow a low FODMAPs diet during the treatment period and to avoid common triggers such as alcohol, caffeine, fatty foods and gluten/wheat to aid gut healing and prevent further inflammation. FODMAP foods are fermentable short-chain carbohydrates that are prevalent in the diet, and include fermentable oligosaccharides (e.g. fructans in wheat and galactooligosaccharides in legumes), disaccharides (e.g. lactose in cow’s dairy), monosaccharides (e.g. fructose in fruits) and polyols (e.g. sorbitol and mannitol in sweeteners). 

Other basic tips to reduce symptoms of IBS include eating small regular meals, avoiding late night snacks, sitting down while eating, chewing food sufficiently, stress management, ensuring adequate hydration and mild physical activity.

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Article by Laura Thompson

Laura really values the importance of keeping up to date with new scientific developments, and has particular interests in digestive health, mood imbalances and women’s health.