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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or spastic colon, is the name given to a group of symptoms characterised by abdominal cramps and pain, bloating, flatulance and irregularity of bowel habits. The irregularity may involve bouts of diarrhoea, or alternating constipation and normal stools, and there may be some anal bleeding*.

Other symptoms may include chronic loose or floating stools, or particularly sticky and foul smelling stools. In extreme cases weight loss and/or anaemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency may result, and sometimes depression and general illness due to absorbtion of bacterial toxins can be experienced.

* IMPORTANT: Changes in bowel habits and anal bleeding may also be symtoms of bowel cancer. If you experience the onset of these symptoms it is essential to visit your medical practioner without delay in order to eliminate this possibility. Also see the box at the bottom of this text.

IBS may develop slowly, or have an acute onset associated with an infectious illness which affects the bowel, such as viral gastroenteritis. IBS may also appear following a stressful experience such as job loss or breavement. The condition may be temporary, lasting for a few weeks or months, or may become chronic.

Chronic IBS affects roughly twice as many women as as it does men. It can occur at any age but commonly begins in the twenties or thirties. It has been estimated that 10 to 20% of the adult population of most Western countries may suffer from some of the symptoms associated with this disorder.


Posible causes of IBS

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may arise from a number of unrelated causes, and it is important to determine the group you probably belong to before beginning any treatment. Your doctor should be able to carry out tests to help in this, and a visit to the surgery should be your first 'port of call'.

There seems to be at least three 'groups', all of which are likely to be diagnosed as having IBS, but which differ in their requirements according to the cause(s) of their condition:

Food sensitivity

Particular foods can trigger symptoms, but individuals vary in which foods they are sensitive to. There seems to be a neurological component to chronic IBS, which may be the reason the condition seems to be aggravated by stress, though whether it plays a directly causative role is controversial.


IBS symptoms may begin following a bout of gastroenteritis, particularly viral GE caused by agents such as norovirus. These infections may move through a population, or center on a specific source such as a particular restaurant. Although the initial infection subsides after a week or so, some of those infected may be left with IBS-like symptoms for a considerable time, perhaps indefinitely. 

An unfortunate symptom experienced by some sufferers may be the sudden urgent need to find a toilet, often not long after a 'normal' but incomplete elimination. This can happen daily or more than once in a day, and can be very restricting in extreme cases.

The cause is uncertain, but this symptom (sudden diarrhoea) may result from damage to the gastro-intestinal tract or associated organs, or from the destruction of intestinal flora, either of which will take time to repair naturally. In the latter case a course of 'probiotics' such as natural yoghurt will frequently resolve the matter within a relatively short period.


Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition in which bacteria normally found in the colon invade the small intestine, where they do not belong. Causes include decreased motility in the small intestine, in turn due to excess dietary sugar, chronic stress or other causes, or hypochlorhydria, meaning weak stomach acid production which is often accociated with old age. Another very common cause of hypochlorhydria is excessive use of antacids. Because stomach acid helps to kill bacteria in the small intestine, a reduction in strength reduces this protection.

Other causes of SIBO may include structural abnormalities in the small intestine, gastric bypass surgery, pancreatic enzyme deficiency, intestinal obstructions, Crohn's disease, or medications such as steroids, antibiotics, and birth control pills.

The unwanted bacteria can cause poor fat absorption and can prevent carbohydrates from being absorbed properly. These 'leftover' food groups then ferment in the intestines, resulting in gas, bloating, pain, mucus in stools, foul-smelling gas and stools, diarrhoea and general 'unwellness' due to the presence of absorbed toxins in the blood. If eating high carbohydrate foods quickly brings on IBS symptoms, this may indicate SIBO. Other symptoms resulting from this condition can include leaky gut syndrome, vitamin and mineral deficiency, non-alcoholic fatty liver (steatohepatitis - NASH) or chronic fatigue syndrome.


Stress definitely aggravates IBS symptoms, and may be a major causal agent. The mechanism is not known but may involve reduction of blood flow to the intestine due to chronic elevated adrenaline levels (adrenaline constricts some blood vessels in order to shunt blood preferentially to muscles, while depriving other functions such as digestion).

Heavy metal toxicity

It has been suggested, but is not proven, that mercury amalgam dental fillings may cause chronic IBS in some cases. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and has absolutely no place in the body. If you have such dental fillings it may be a good idea to consider having them replaced anyway, although the procedure itself is apt to release mercury vapour and may result in ingestion of particles containing mercury if not carried out skilfully.


How to manage IBS

Conventional medicine can offer only limited intervention, including anti-spasmodics (generally ineffective) and anti-diarrhoea (seratonin 5HT antagonist) drugs for ‘emergency’ use! Other treatments may include prescription of anti-depressants, which are supposed to suppress nerve endings in the abdomen, to doling out advice about eating more fibre in order to alleviate constipation.

Natural treatment will depend on the probable cause of IBS symptoms and may include any or all of the following:-

Food management

If food intolerance is considered to be a possible cause of irritable bowel syndrome, then cutting out wheat (gluten), eggs, dairy products and nuts can be tried for a period to see if the symptoms alleviate. Certain insoluble fibres such as bran have also been associated with irritable bowel syndrome when consumed in excess (contrary to the frequent advice to ingest more fibre!). The simplest method is to cut out all of the above for a few days rather than testing each in turn, then re-introduce them one by one if the result is positive, at a rate of one food class every two days. Recurrence of IBS symptoms would obviously mean cutting out the causative food type permanently.

Natural anti-bacterials

If small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is suspected, natural anti-bacterial extracts can be used to try to eliminate the bacteria from the small intestine, without also destroying the flora of the large intestine. Any of these treatments should be taken in conjuction with probiotics (see below) to assist in replacing the natural gut flora.

The most well established natural treatment for SIBO is enteric coated peppermint oil. This is peppermint oil encased in an edible hard shell that allows it to pass through the stomach and reach the small intestine. A typical dose of enteric-coated peppermint oil is one to two capsules three times a day, taken between meals with a glass of water. The treatment is slow, and typically will take between 1 and 6 months to eliminate all symptoms. Side effects can include heartburn, rectal burning, and minty burping.

Olive leaf extract has also proved effective, and has the advantage of acting much more rapidly than peppermint. Up to two capsules standardised to 75 micrograms of oleuropein (or equivalent) are taken daily with meals. Treatment should be maintained for a week or so, then paused, but resumed if symptoms have not been eliminated.

Other herbal antimicrobials used to treat bacterial overgrowth include grapefruit seed extract, oregano oil capsules, garlic 'pearls' (capsules), berberine (goldenseal), oregon grape and pau d'arco.


Probiotics including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been found to be helpful in reducing IBS where this is associated with changes in gut flora, for example following antibiotic treatment or a bout of gastrointestinal infection. Probiotic capsules containing dried bacteria are available, but a more pleasant alternative is to take natural yoghurt on a daily basis. You can make your own using a commercial product as a 'starter' and adding part of a probiotic capsule to ensure that the necessary bacteria are present.


Interestingly, one of the most effective techniques for controlling IBS includes hypnotherapy, and this may be available from some health services. For some reason hypnotherapy appears to be more effective for women (c.70% success) than for men (c.50% success). Tests carried out in controlled conditions show that actual physiological changes can result from hypnotherapy, and there is evidence to indicate that the gut actually comes under partial conscious control.

Unfortunately, hypnotherapy is not available from the majority of health services, and it may be necessary to seek private treatment. As an alternative, a recorded IBS hypnotherapy session from a reputable practitioner may be used, and a reasonable rate of success can be expected.

Important general note about intestinal complaints

If any of the following apply, you should consult your doctor without delay: (1) there is blood in your bowel motions, (2) you are over the age of 40 and your first symptoms have come on recently and for no apparent reason, (3) you’ve recently lost weight for no obvious reason, (4) your symptoms are accompanied by paleness of skin or loss of energy or muscular strength, or (5) you have a family history of bowel cancer.


Recommended Products

Recommended Book: 'Goodbye IBS' by Rachit Dayal

In the real world, IBS patients don’t get many breaks. Doctors have no cures, there are precious few sources of information and most conventional advice doesn’t help one bit.

But if you follow this holistic, drug-free system, and focus on healing the root cause of the problem (instead of throwing drugs at the symptoms) ... you’ll start seeing relief in the next 8 hours, notice enormous changes in the next 72 hours, and be permanently healed in the next few weeks.


goodbye ibs

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Recommended Product: Digestive Science IBS Relief System

Most IBS solutions are little more than "band-aid" treatments to reduce symptoms rather than address the cause. Digestive Science IBS Relief System is a revolutionary three-step relief system, to treat the causes of IBS and make life manageable for people whose lives will benefit from an effective solution to this common problem.


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Recommended Product: Cure Irritable Bowel Syndrome Healing Package (Hypnosis)

Here is a safe, drug-free system for dealing with stress induced IBS that is completely effective. This package includes eight books, a hypnosis recording and a full 56-day money back guarantee.

You'll enjoy falling asleep listening to a gentle, soothing voice guiding you through the healing process.


IBS Hypnosis

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