Struggling with IBS

Posted on: 29 August 2019 by 50connect editorial

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is estimated to affect up to 20 per cent of the UK population with its often debilitating (and potentially embarrassing) symptoms. A range of experts explain how it can be soothed and improved to help live daily life more comfortably.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Ditch the caffeine

Alison Cullen nutrition therapist at A Vogel advises:  ‘Switch from caffeine to ginger and fennel tea. This has a number of benefits for IBS (symptoms of which include bloating, flatulence, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and constipation - or both) in that it can help prevent indigestion, gas and bloating. Ginger also acts as an anti-spasmodic and it relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract. It is also known to reduce anxiety which for some people can worsen gastrointestinal symptoms. Either make your own tea by seeping slices of raw ginger or use shop-bought ginger teabags.’

Let technology guide you

Dr Anthony Hobson from London’s The Functional Gut Clinic says, 'The first line of treatment for IBS should be a diet known as the low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo, Di and Mono-saccharides and Polyols) diet – which categorises foods according to the amount of fermentable carbs they contain (the higher the content the more likely they are to aggravate the condition). The Monash University Low FODMAP app (Google Play) will steer you in the direction of IBS-friendly foods and there’s also FoodMaestro App developed with King’s College and Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Trust'. 

Mind over matter

Dr Megan Arroll, chartered psychologist and co- author of IBS: Navigating Your Way to Recovery says, ‘Our brain controls and governs our digestive system but the gut and the brain have two-way communication via the “brain-gut axis (BGA)”. Drawing on this communication channel we can use mind techniques to help control the digestive system.

Try imagining your gut is a river, sometimes rushing too quickly and at other times blocked by debris (depending on your symptoms). Slowly, while breathing deeply, see the river calming to a steady place. See the twigs and leaves clearing and the water moving in a controlled way.

Another technique is to place your hand on your stomach. Imagine a transfer of warmth (say, from the sun or a hot water bottle) and channel this “heat” to your hand to soothe symptoms.’

Peppermint

Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan Medical Director  says, There are a number of natural and effective remedies to support IBS. 'One of the most effective treatments for IBS is peppermint oil which has an anti-spasmodic effect on the gut, relieving abdominal pain and muscle cramps. In one study three out of four people who took peppermint oil for IBS experienced more than a 50 per cent improvement in their symptoms compared to 38 per cent who were given an inactive placebo.'   A 100mg capsule taken after each meal is recommended. Try Healthspan Peppermint Oil, £12.95 for 180 capsules (www.healthspan.co.uk).

Regular use of probiotics can also help and a single tablespoonful of a product called Silicolgel, taken up to three times a day, has been shown to normalise the function of the stomach and bowel quickly. It treats diarrhoea, nausea, stomach ache and flatulence and has no known side effects. Available via www.avogel.co.uk £8.29 200ml. 

The marshmallow method

Dr Marilyn Glenville, Nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar says: ‘If you do fancy something sweet I suggest a couple of marshmallows – these contain mucilage which can reduce irritation in the digestive system and can form a protective coating over irritated and inflamed intestinal mucosal membranes, making them beneficial for the symptoms associated with IBS.’  Do check the ingredients as some marshmallows contain wheat and may aggravate symptoms in some sufferers.

Eat smaller and stay hydrated

Healthspan Head of Nutrition Rob Hobson says, ‘Particular foods and drinks appear to aggravate IBS and the only way to identify if these are a problem for you is by keeping a food and symptom diary. Common trigger foods include those containing wheat and dairy and refined sugar, alcohol, some fibre-rich foods like bran and certain fruits and vegetables (including onions, broccoli, cabbage and sprouts). Those containing artificial sweeteners can also aggravate the condition. Foods that should help include omega-3 rich foods like salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout and walnuts, sourdough bread and chia and flax seeds. As with other digestive problems, it helps to eat smaller meals and don’t eat too quickly to avoid bloating. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.’

Complementary therapies

Yantra Yoga teacher and massage therapist John Renshaw from London’s Kailash Centre a holistic and complementary therapy centre says ‘Massaging the belly gently in a clockwise direction whilst breathing deeply from the diaphragm (the large muscle at the base of the lungs) can help soothe the gut. Take slow, low, deep breaths from the abdomen and exhale slowly and steadily for three counts –  this will help to both de-stress you and calm your stomach. Do this for around five minutes’.

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