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Irritable Bowel Syndrome 101: What You Need to Know About IBS

Last Updated May 24, 2021

Irritable Bowel Syndrome 101: What You Need to Know About IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that is characterised by abdominal pain, cramping, and changes in your bowel function, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.  To be diagnosed with IBS, you need to have had symptoms for at least twelve weeks over the preceding year.  However, if you have IBS, there is no need to live with it as there are natural therapies that can help.

Herbal Medicine for IBS

Peppermint oil is commonly used in the management of IBS.  It can help to reduce abdominal pain and bloating.  The best way to use peppermint oil is through enteric-coated capsules, so that the capsule dissolves in the stomach, thereby reducing the risk of heartburn.  It should not be used by children, or pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Other antispasmodic herbs that can be of help include chamomile and fennel.  Fenugreek is also soothing for the intestinal tract.

Read more about herbal medicine and irritable bowel syndrome.


Probiotics are “good” bacteria that naturally live in the digestive tract.  People with IBS may have an imbalance of bacteria in the digestive tract, with the good bacteria being overwhelmed by bad bacteria.  Taking a probiotic can help to address this imbalance and they work by suppressing the growth of bad bacteria, improving immune function, improving the protective barrier in the digestive tract, and helping the body to produce vitamin K.

Eliminate Food Intolerances

Some people are unable to tolerate certain foods, and this intolerance can cause inflammation of the digestive tract as well as causing the natural bacteria in the gut to become unbalanced.  People with IBS are most commonly intolerant to either dairy products or grains.  If you suspect that you are intolerant to a certain food, it is possible to go on an elimination diet.  These diets remove certain foods from the daily diet before re-introducing them to see what the offender is.  Once the offending food has been identified, it is simply a matter of avoiding all types of this food in the diet.

Substances that Irritate the Bowel

There are many substances that irritate the bowel and people that suffer from IBS need to avoid these.  Gas producing foods such as beans, cauliflower, onions, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage should be avoided as people with IBS are particularly sensitive to these.  Fatty foods can possibly stimulate muscle contractions in the bowel so these should be avoided.  Caffeine and nicotine can stimulate the bowels.  Some artificial sweeteners can cause digestive problems so you should look out for these.

Natural Treatments for IBS

There are many natural treatments that may assist with Irritable Bowel Syndrome including yoga, ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Find out about these and other effective natural treatments for IBS.

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Originally published on May 24, 2008

Related Topics

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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