Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic disorder that affects the large intestine. It can cause a number of painful and uncomfortable gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms that can reduce the quality of life, including diarrhea, constipation, cramping, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.
Approximately 5-7% of American adults have been diagnosed with IBS, but it is estimated that closer to 10-15% of the population suffers from IBS symptoms.
Underlying Causes, Triggers, and Risk Factors of IBS
While the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, research suggests a combination of factors may be at play, including:
- Strong and long-lasting muscle contractions in the intestines
- Abnormalities in the nerves in the digestive system
- Intestinal inflammation
- Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines
- Changes in gut bacteria
People under the age of 50, particularly women, with mental health problems or a history of IBS may be at a higher risk for developing IBS.
Research also suggests that the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may be triggered by certain foods and situations:
- Foods (dairy, citrus fruit, wheat, cabbage, beans, and carbonated drinks)
- Periods of increased stress
- Hormonal changes during and around menstrual periods for women
Natural Remedies for the Symptoms of IBS
There is no cure for IBS, but in mild and moderate cases, symptoms can be adequately managed with a combination of lifestyle changes and natural remedies. In severe cases, medication may be used as well.
1. Using Medical Cannabis May Reduce Symptoms of IBS
IBS is a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in many states, and it might make you feel better if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Heally can help you connect with a doctor in your state to get your medical marijuana card as an IBS natural treatment.
The endocannabinoid system is involved in the regulation of many GI functions. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with CB1 receptors in the part of the nervous system that directly controls the GI system, as well as CB1 receptors in the brain. As a result, medical cannabis may be used to reduce many symptoms related to IBS, including slowing down muscle contractions, reducing the secretion of liquid into the intestines that’s associated with diarrhea, and controlling muscle spasms. It also seems to work well to reduce inflammation in the bowel, increase appetite, and decrease nausea. Some patients also anecdotally claim that medical cannabis helps improve bowel movement regularity and reduce abdominal pain and cramping.
Strains higher in THC tend to bind better to CB1 receptors in the gut and brain, while CBD helps synergize the effects of the THC. Further Indica strains tend to be more effective in treating IBS symptoms due to their muscle-relaxing effects. Purple Kush, OG Kush, Blue Fruit, G13, Auntie Em, Black Domino, Aurora, Super Skunk, Sour Tsunami, and Super Silver Haze are all good strains to try.
2. A Healthy Diet For IBS Natural Treatment
A healthy whole-food, plant-based diet and healthier eating habits can do wonders to prevent triggers and reduce IBS symptoms. There are many ways you can adjust your diet as a natural IBS treatment for the prevention and management of symptoms, including:
- Reducing gas-producing foods and drinks like fructose, lactose, onions, broccoli, beans, cabbage, and carbonated drinks
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption
- Limiting gluten and dairy products if they cause GI upset
- Avoiding foods that you have found aggravate your symptoms
- Avoiding overeating
- Practicing intuitive eating, eating at regular times, and slowing down how fast you eat
- Avoiding chewing gum, which can lead to more air being swallowed
- Avoiding sugar substitutes like mannitol and sorbitol
- Eliminating foods high in saturated and trans fat, such as fatty meats, frozen pizzas, and margarine
- Adding more dietary fiber in small amounts to decrease symptoms
- Eating more produce and whole grains, including quinoa, oats, and wild rice
- Some research suggests peppermint oil and psyllium may help control symptoms
Stress has been known to exacerbate IBS symptoms. Reducing your stress levels can help calm down the gut nerves that are misfiring. Calming the autonomic nervous system can help with IBS.
Practicing relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises, or taking part in relaxing hobbies such as yoga and meditation, may have a positive impact. Further, psychotherapy may have some benefits.
4. Probiotic Supplements
A probiotic supplement can help you maintain healthy gut bacteria and correct abnormalities of the microbiome. It can be a particularly helpful step to try if you’re following a healthy diet and still experiencing IBS symptoms, especially diarrhea and constipation. A 2015 review concluded that probiotics can help reduce both the severity and the pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome. The review recommends a coated probiotic supplement with a minimum of 10 billion colony-forming units per capsules.
5. Exercise Regularly
A little bit of exercise every day can go a long way to helping you manage IBS symptoms. Exercise helps to relieve stress, which is a known trigger for IBS symptoms. Further, exercise also stimulates the normal contractions of the intestines, which can improve symptoms. When it comes to starting a new exercise program, it’s a good idea to discuss the program with your physician and start slow.