I deliberately titled this article how to “cure” irritable bowel syndrome, because in the vast majority of cases this is truly possible. So often, women are caught in the spiral of “managing” this condition by avoiding an increasing list of trigger-foods: caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, gassy vegetables, beans, raw foods, etc. It is important to note that this is not a cure, and the management of this condition will become life-long if we don’t get the the root of the issue.
First of all, irritable bowel syndrome is extremely common. Symptoms include: bloating, gassiness, cramping digestive pains, constipation or diarrhea (or both). Typically symptoms are worse with certain foods and with stress, but in some cases it is simply a daily struggle.
As a Naturopathic doctor, the aim is to find the root cause of a health condition, because when you address it here, there is possibility for cure. In the case of irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”), there are three causal layers to examine:
1) Food intolerance or early celiac disease
2) Imbalance in intestinal flora (usually too much yeast)
Looking at the time when symptoms started is helpful in determining the cause. In almost every case it began after frequent rounds of antibiotics: for chronic ear infections or tonsil problems as a child; for frequent urinary tract infections; and most commonly antibiotics taken for months at a time for acne and other skin conditions. What the antibiotics have done is killed off the healthy intestinal bacteria, and provided an opening for yeast to take over.
Too much yeast in the intestinal tract creates gas and bloating because yeast ferment sugars and carbohydrate foods creating gas. This can also lead to strong sugar and carbohydrate cravings, and in many cases is also associated with chronic vaginal yeast infections. If you suspect that this might explain your digestive issues, a quick test is to check your tongue: if there is a thick white coating on the tongue (pasty / sticky), it often indicates there is yeast throughout the digestive tract. A normal tongue has a thin, white coating on it.
The good news is that we can treat this with the following steps:
(1)Test for food intolerance or celiac markers
(blood test for food intolerance is available at the clinic). In many cases a food intolerance is what created an immune imbalance or acne, leading to the high need for antibiotics in the first place.
(2) Rebalance intestinal flora with a ‘yeast cleanse’.
If there is evidence of yeast, three steps are needed to rebalance the intestinal flora: a diet that doesn’t feed yeast (restricting sugar and white carbs), supplements to kill off yeast or other organisms that don’t belong, and probiotics to replenish health bacteria.
(3)Repair the intestinal lining.
Irritable bowel syndrome does truly irritate the intestinal lining, and after years of irritation some repair is necessary. The good news is that there are lots of nutrients that provide building blocks for repair, ranging from: l-glutamine, aloe vera, lemonbalm, slippery elm, licorice extract, among others.
Once all of these layers have been corrected (it usually takes about 3-4 months), the sensitivities to raw vegetables, beans, spicy foods and caffeine are usually no longer present. The daily worry about bloating and gassiness is gone too!
Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most rewarding conditions to treat as a Naturopathic doctor, because the cure rate is very high. So before you skip the broccoli and salad at your next meal out of fear of terrible bloating, consider actually getting to the root of this condition for good!
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