Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Diet
- Written by Louise Stevens
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic condition which upsets the bowel (with either diarrhoea or constipation or both at different times) causing discomfort and pain. when sever it can e very debilitating and can seriously interfere with one's work and social life. It is thought that to one degree or another it affects 20% of the UK population. Symptoms are often worse with upsetting emotional events or stress at work. The first episode often occurs after a period of stress or gastro-intestinal infection.
Conventional medicine relies mostly on dietary recommendations and anti-spasmodic medicines for the pain IBS is considered to be a 'functional' problem, i.e. one that does not need surgery or major drug treatment. The connection with emotional stress is recognised and that sometimes leads to the use of anti-depressants.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is very effective at treating 'functional' digestive problems, where conventional medicine may struggle. Chinese medicine treatment is tailored to you as an individual and so are the dietary recommendations.
The organs most often associated in IBS are the Liver (stress) and Spleen (digestion). The stress affects the hypertonicity of the large intestine and the spleen leads to a weakening of the digestive function. If the Liver is the main organ responsible then constipation may be more apparent with abdominal cramping. A diet that helps regulate the liver energy (qi) includes dispersing and pungent flavours like onions, garlic, turmeric, watercress, peppermint, dill, sour flavours including citrus and pickles. Plenty of fresh vegetables and be careful not to overeat. Avoid saturated fats and fast food. Care with chilli and avoid artificial and synthetic substances.
If the spleen is more involved, diarrhoea may be more apparent. A diet to strengthen the system will be helpful. Eating warm, cooked food and include foods like oats, barley, rice, root vegetables and chicken are all naturally warm and sweet. Careful not to drink too many fluids with meals and take time to eat and chew food properly. Avoid cold raw foods and drinks, including too much fruit. Avoid dairy, wheat and sugar!
If you would like more information please get in touch. Happy to chat!