Both large and small intestines are part of our digestive system. It helps in removing waste from the body. IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) affects our lower gastrointestinal tract consisting of both large and small intestines. As IBS is a chronic condition, it needs to be managed well for a longer relief. Here, we will be sharing all the relevant information regarding the causes, symptoms and herbal treatment of the disease.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is also known as spastic colitis or irritable colon. Sometimes, people tend to confuse it with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which is a different disease related with swelling and irritation in the digestive tract. IBS is one of the commonest disorders of our gastrointestinal tract and is a long-standing bowel dysfunction associated with pain in the abdomen without any known cause. Bowel condition is either disturbed by diarrhea or constipation or both. Some forms of IBS were also known as nervous diarrhea in the past. Patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome face downward pressure and feel balloons like inflammation in their rectum.
Types of IBS
IBS is further divided into three types: –
- Constipation Predominant: – Constipation which alternates with normal stools. Pain in the abdomen is normal at this stage.
- Diarrhea Predominant: – In this stage the patient faces diarrhea in the morning after meals.
- Mixed Constipation and Diarrhea: – Both alternates with each other.
- 9%-25% People are affected with IBS worldwide.
- Females are more likely to be affected than Males.
The clinical features / symptoms of IBS vary from person to person but the most commonly of them are:-
- Abdominal Pain
- Pain usually occurs in attacks and are relieved by passing stool
- Ribbon like stool with or without mucus
- Painless diarrhea which usually occurs in morning
- Urge to pass stool after eating every meal
- Sensation of Incomplete emptying of the rectum
Factors causing IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
The main cause for IBS is still not known but there are two main factors that are counted as responsible for its occurrence: –
- Unhealthy Diet: – Healthy diet plays an important role in maintaining our digestive system. It ensures healthy digestion and bowel movements as well. Eating foods that contain high amounts of Fat causes disturbance in the digestive system as they are heavy to digest as compared to nutritious and healthy food.
- Disturbed Mental Health: – Brain-gut axis plays an important role in life. Both mental and physical abuse is associated with the development of IBS. Stress leads to disturbance of nerves which makes the digestive system very overactive. Responding to stress involves the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, and both of them are disturbed in IBS. Two third of the IBS cases are mainly caused due to the mental stress.
Others triggering factors may be any or some of the following: –
- GIT infection
- Bacterial growth
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Hereditary or genetic mutation
Stress + Poor diet + Illness — weak digestion Irregular Bowel Function + No or Improper digestion of Food — Constipation + Diarrhea + Nausea + Bloating = IBS.
Diagnosis of IBS
There are various types of test done in IBS such as
- Blood Test: – CBC (Complete blood count) is done to know whether the patient is anaemic or not, other blood tests are also included to find the inflammation.
- Stool Test: – It is done to know if there is any bacterial growth in the stomach which is causing the Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Colonoscopy: – It is done for examining the rectum and to know about the presence of any lesions.
- Psychology: – As earlier discussed, mental health plays an important role in causing IBS. So, it is equally important to know the mental state of the patient or he or she is suffering from anxiety, depression, etc.
- Barium Enema: – After coating a large bowel with barium the x-ray is performed to know the cause. Barium enema should not be done in pregnant women.
- Lactose Test: – People with lactose intolerance or who are not able to eat or drink milk products tend to have IBS much more than others. The lactose test is done to confirm if the patient is tolerant or not.
Management of IBS As Per the Modern Point of View
According to modern science, IBS is just due to a sedentary lifestyle and they treat the patient on the basis of symptoms and not the cause. It is important for them to know what kind of IBS it is. If it is constipation predominant then they give laxatives to pass the stool or if it is diarrhea predominant, they give anticholinergic drugs for pain and diarrhea to suppress the symptoms. They give probiotics, antibiotics or anti-depressants based on the symptoms. Thus, it recurs. So, to eliminate the disease for a long term or forever, it is very important to treat the root causes.
Ayurvedic Point of View for Treating IBS
Ayurveda is the way of healing naturally and maintaining good health. According to Ayurveda, good digestive health is very vital for an entire healthy body. IBS is related to Grahani in Ayurveda as the symptoms are similar in both. Grahani is the room for Agni, the digestive fire. Agni helps in proper digestion of food and if Agni is affected in any manner, it causes the Agni mandya which is decreased metabolic fire. Agni mandya can be caused due to both physical and mental factors. Therefore, Ayurveda stresses on the holistic health of the person, including mental, emotional, and physical. Ayurveda is a treasure of such potent and effective Herbs that act naturally on the systems inside the body and treat symptoms without suppressing them and giving side effects. Herbal medicines are considered as the best and safest alternative to treat IBS.
Herbs That Helps In Treating IBS
1. Kutaj (Holarrhena antidysenterica)
It is a very famous medicinal herb whose all parts (root, flower, stem) are used in the herbal formulations. A single herb formulation prepared with this herb is famously known as Kutajghan Vati (Tablets made up of pure extract of Kutaj). It has anti-diarrhea and anti-dysenteric properties proving it helpful in treating IBS. It also helps in balancing the Pitta dosha, which is deformed in IBS. It helps in managing Grahani referred to as mal-absorption which is similar to IBS. So, by taking Kutaj one can treat their IBS safely. This herb is useful in boosting the immune system as well.
2. Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia)
Giloy, also known as Guduchi & Amrita in India, is effectively used in Ayurveda for treating IBS, enhancing immunity and preventing viral infections. It is bitter in taste and is easily available in places like Bihar, West Bengal and Karnataka. Giloy has excellent antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory properties, acts as a blood purifier and is good for digestion. It helps the digestive system to remove ama (toxins) and balances Kapha dosha. Taking Giloy also helps in reducing stress and anxiety which ultimately improves mental health. Not only IBS, it is also helpful in treating chronic fever, gout, skin problems, anemia, etc. Giloy is an amazing herb full of medicinal properties and safe to be used by any age group. it shows only positive effects on health due to which its name is Amrita.
3. Curcumin (Curcuma longa)
Curcumin is a very well-known herb used in every Indian home as a spice and commonly known as Turmeric or Haridra. Turmeric belongs to the family of ginger which is also a very useful herb. Curcumin has numerous medicinal properties and is used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Due to its anti-inflammatory actions, it is used in the treatment of any kind of inflammatory diseases, especially in case of digestive system. One should consider taking it in their daily diet for people with IBS or any other digestive problem.
4. Amla (Emblica officinalis)
Amla is one of the most famous herbs used globally and known as Indian gooseberry. It is especially recommended to people who have digestion or skin problems. Amla should be taken in an empty stomach, every morning as it has proven to be very efficacious in problems like flatulence, gas or acidity as also seen in IBS patients. People who are not fond of taking sour things in raw form, they can grind Amla then take its juice mixed with water. Also, Amalaki Rasayan capsules prepared with the standardized extract of the herb can be a better, more beneficial and convenient choice.
5. Saunf / Fennel (Foeniculum sativum)
Saunf is also known as Fennel and is full of Nutrients, Vitamins and Minerals. It possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-flatulence and antimicrobial properties. Due to its medicinal properties, it is very helpful in digestive problems like Bloating, flatulence, Nausea and vomiting, pain in abdomen, etc. It pacifies Tridoshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha). You can boil it in Water and drink with it or after straining or can eat it as well.
Useful Tips to keep in mind to Avoid IBS
- Take Healthy foods Rich in Fibre
- Exercise or be physically active to have good digestion
- Have Smaller meals
- Avoid foods with too much spices, sugar or sour taste
- Citrus fruits
- Avoid Carbonated or caffeinated drinks like coffee or tea.
- Avoid dairy products, especially people with lactose intolerance.
Treating IBS with herbal remedies or medicines can have successful and good results, provided that the physician is well-experienced and an expert of herbs along with the diet and lifestyle to be followed. Herbs help to treat the disease naturally and treat the person holistically only when they are well-utilized. In ayurveda, it is believed that herbs mainly help in balancing our Agni (metabolic fire) and tridoshas and reduces Ama (toxins) from the body. These three are almost the most basic causes of all the sickness. One must consider using Ayurvedic medicine for IBS after consulting with Ayurveda experts.