You and Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What is it?

Irritable Bowel syndrome is sometimes called 'spastic colon'. It is a group of symptoms affecting the large bowel, which include at least 12 weeks (which need not be consecutive) in the preceding 12 months of abdominal pain and bloating, with two out of three of these features:

1. Relieved with defecation; and/or

2. Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool; and/or

3. Onset associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool, i.e. either constipation or diarrhoea.There may be a feeling of incomplete evacuation [‘tenesmus’], and there may be mucous in the stool.

There should not be ‘red flag’ symptoms and signs such as weight loss, blood in the stool or systemic illness.

What is it not?

It does not lead to bowel damage or any other health problems.

It is not due to excessive consumption of fungus or yeast.

Who gets it?

It is commonest in young women, but may affect anyone. It often begins in the mid 30’s.

What are the causes?

It appears to be a result of the nerves and muscles of the bowel being extra sensitive to bloating.

It may also be associated with bowel infection and an imbalance of the normal organisms occupying the bowel .

Many sufferers find that it is made worse by wheat containing foods.

It is often worsened by stress.

What is the usual treatment?

Most people are given a high fibre diet with fibre supplements if needed.

Antispasmodics and antidepressants are also used.

Use of probiotics such as REUTERI has been shown to help.

Avoidance of wheat products is often helpful.

Some patients are given a ‘Candida diet’ which excludes many fruits, yeast containing foods, and fungi such as mushrooms. These diets are nutritionally unbalanced and should not be followed for more than 2 weeks. The reasoning behind them is questionable.

What other treatments are available?

Avoid all wheat products, e. g. bread, biscuits, cakes, pastry, until your bowel has settled. Oats and oat bran are healthy forms of cereal and roughage. Quinoa is a useful substitute for breakfast and as a vegetable. You may eat rice or corn cakes, 100% rye bread, or unsweetened oat cakes e.g. Nairns, and gluten free breads e.g. Buckwheat.

Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruit, cooked if raw food results in more cramps. Limit consumption of gas-producing foods such as broccoli, beans and cabbage.

Rice is very soothing to the bowel, and brown rice will supply roughage.

For extra fibre, start with ½ tablespoon flax seed [linseed] soaked overnight in water, and increase the amount if needed. Flax seed oil is also very beneficial. Quinoa bran may also be used, or a proprietary brand such as Solal’s invisible fibre, which regulates bowel movements, should be used daily.

Limit dairy products, but try to eat live yoghurt at least 3 times weekly, and take a probiotic [such as REUTERI] daily.

Slippery elm is soothing to an inflamed bowel, especially if there are loose stools.

Take Digestive enzymes before each meal.

The amino acid L-Glutamine helps to heal the bowel. Take 500mg 3x/day [available from Bioharmony].

Drink 6 - 8 glasses of water daily.

A tea of chamomile or peppermint with ginger is soothing and relaxing.

Homeopathic rememdies are tailored to the individual, and a registered practitioner should be consulted.

Tissue salt mag phos may help for cramps, and the constipation combin if needed.

Avoid all carbonated beverages [‘gas cool drink’], coffee and all other substances containing caffeine.

Tobacco and alcohol irritate the lining of the stomach, so should be avoided.

Chew your food well.  Do not eat in a hurry.

Recognise that stress will cause a flare up of symptoms, so take appropriate dietary steps when you see stress approaching!


If you pass blood in your stool.

If you are having excessive diarrhea.

If you are extremely constipated despite taking laxatives on an occasional basis.

If you are losing weight without trying.

If you continue to have excessive pain , cramps or bowel upset.

If your symptoms have worsened recently for no obvious reason.

If you are over age 50 and having symptoms for the first time.

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