Alternative Treatments for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, is a condition, not a disease. It is the most common gastrointestinal disorder, and yet there is no exact cause for this ailment. It is a chronic and recurring condition requiring a comprehensive treatment regiment. There is no known cure for IBS.
IBS is a complex syndrome that can involve bowel movements through constipation or diarrhea; stomach pain or discomfort; bloating and gas. Variable symptoms can be brought on by the food you eat and stress or fatigue. Many IBS sufferers experience constipation with bouts of diarrhea, or vice versa. Usually accompanying altered bowel functions is pain in the lower abdomen. This pain can be intermittent or steady, sharp or dull, depending upon the pressures inside your gut from gas and wastes build-up inside your digestive tract.

Finding Help
The absolute first thing to do if you suffer from IBS (or think you do) is to see your physician. Your physician can rule out any other possible culprits of your discomfort, such as ulcerative colitis, plus he can offer suggestions for a comprehensive treatment protocol.

Medications
Commonly, once diagnosed with IBS, your physician will suggest treatment options. Since IBS is not caused by any one thing chances are recommendations regarding your diet, stress management and possible medications will be the first step.

IBS should not be treated consistently with over-the-counter medications, as these will not provide relief of all the symptoms, not to mention the dangerous side effects that can occur from overusing OTC’s. For example, things like Imodium, Maalox and Kaopectate may slow diarrhea, but they may cause stomach cramps, dry mouth, dizziness and constipation. Conversely, laxatives to assist constipation can be harmful if taken regularly and can become habit-forming.

Often, the use of an antidepressant is suggested. Prescription anti-depressants can be used to block pain symptoms to the brain, helping with the pain and discomfort. Side effects include dry mouth, blurred vision and constipation.

Antispasmodic medications, such as Bentyl and Levbid, can help relax the muscles within the stomach. Side effects include decrease sweating, constipation and dry mouth.

If constipation IBS is your problem, prescription Zelnorm may help. Side effects include diarrhea, significant fluid loss, lowered blood pressure and increased risks for syncope or passing out.

Diet
IBS can be triggered or exacerbated from the food you eat. Common food triggers include dairy, fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and carbonated drinks. IBS with diarrhea can also be exacerbated the sweetener sorbitol found in sugar-free gums and mints.

Fiber is an important dietary requirement and can reduce constipation by softening the stools. Fiber from whole-grain breads and cereals, vegetables and beans are recommended. However, when experiencing diarrhea, soluble fibers such as oat bran, barley and beans like lima, pinto or navy are best. These fibers require more time to leave the digestive system, thus decreasing your chances of exacerbating diarrhea.

Alternatives
Since IBS is complex, often people seek alternative methods to help them in their quest for relief. And while many alternative techniques are effective, results vary with each person. Always consult with your physician before attempting any alternative method.

Stress Relief. Stress is a known trigger for stomach pains, diarrhea or constipation. Therefore, stress-reducing techniques often play a positive role in IBS management. Taking active steps to decrease stress may help alleviate symptoms. Simple things, such as getting more exercise; participating in activities that give you pleasure; and treating yourself to a relaxation massage may reduce tensions and pressure. Massage can also be beneficial in promoting movement of the fecal matter and gas causing you pain.

Behavioral techniques are also being utilized to help cope with stress and pain.

Relaxation therapy, such as meditation, guided imagery and deep breathing, assists you in calming the mind and body.

Biofeedback is an electrical device, which helps you recognize stress responses while teaching you to control things like heart rate and muscle tension.

Hypnotherapy is the use of visual suggestions while you are in an altered state of consciousness to help you rid your body of the pain.

Psychotherapy provides assistance with understanding feelings and working out conflicts by a trained mental health professional.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy, which teaches you to analyze negative or distorted thoughts and replace them with positive, realistic ones.

Acupuncture has been used to help alleviate discomfort by altering the signals the brains translates into pain. This method has been successful in IBS conditions where pain is the biggest complaint.

Herbs can be beneficial in some cases. For example, peppermint may relax the colon muscles, but it may cause heartburn. Care must be taken to see a trained and registered herbalist, as some herbs may interfere with other medications. It is best to consult with your physician before attempting an herbal remedy!

Aromatherapy practitioners use essential oils in massage blends, teas and inhalants to provide relief from a number of symptoms. To promote the release of gas, for example, the use of fennel, lemon, peppermint or basil is recommended. Geranium, juniper and rosemary can help calm spasms and irritability of the bowels. Ginger, licorice and rhubarb root can help alleviate constipation, whereas clove, sage and nutmeg can combat diarrhea. A trained aromatherapist may be able to provide some relief, but as with all alternative methods, consult with your physician before attempting.

Reflexology is the application of touch to various parts of the body based on the theory these parts are a map of the body. Typically, reflexology is applied to the hands or feet, but it can also work effectively on the back, head or ears. This technique stimulates the body’s own healing forces through certain points correlating to the affected area.

Irritable bowel syndrome affects more people than you may realize. And, though there is hope in its management, patience and persistence is key. Each case is unique and may require an individualized program for success. Often the difficulty is in finding your personal triggers and changing your lifestyle accordingly. But this is no guarantee IBS symptoms will not strike you again.

The best defense against IBS is continuing care from qualified medical professionals. Self-treatment without medical consult may make your symptoms worse! Alternative techniques though often helpful, also require constant medical consult to assure these methods do not interfere with other health issues you may have.

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