Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The Approach of Naturopathy

Author: Henrik Aulbach



Lesezeit: 5 min

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most misunderstood health issues in the world. Millions of people suffer from its effects every day. Unfortunately, the causes of irritable bowel syndrome are still unknown, which is why usually only symptomatic treatment can be provided. More and more people are turning to naturopathic approaches to find relief. 

Defining Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that can affect human intestines. Typical symptoms include recurrent abdominal pain as well as problems with bowel movements. In IBS, no organic causes such as structural abnormalities and inflammations are found, leaving only symptomatic treatment as an approach. The causes can be diverse, and these are also not yet clarified.

Individuals with IBS often demonstrate increased sensitivity in their intestines, which is one of the main features. This was discovered in a groundbreaking study [1] where an empty balloon was inserted into the participants' rectums and slowly inflated. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome felt the balloon's inflation much earlier, indicating over-sensitivity of intestinal nerves.

Possible Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The causes are not yet clarified, but a combination of various factors is assumed. Food intolerances and allergies could be responsible for irritable bowel symptoms. Problems with the gut microbiome are also likely. When the balance of bacteria residing in the gut is disrupted, numerous symptoms can occur.

Lastly, a reizdarm caused by stress and other emotional factors seems possible as well. Accordingly, some doctors also recommend relaxation therapies or other calming daily routines. 

Lastly, inflammatory processes in the gut could be to blame for irritable bowel syndrome. However, no such inflammation is detected during the diagnosis of IBS, so there cannot be a major inflammation present. 

We can only hope that future research can provide more insight into the true causes of irritable bowel syndrome. This way, the causes can be specifically treated instead of just addressing the symptoms.

Diagnosis and Differentiation from Other Diseases

For the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, there are no specific tests or other procedures available because no structural tissue changes or other organic bases can be identified. Therefore, the principle of exclusion is followed: If other diseases can be ruled out for the complaints, the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome is made.

After the doctor's conversation, the abdomen is usually palpated. The following examinations can then be performed to completely rule out other diseases:

  • Ultrasound
  • Blood test
  • Stool test
  • Urine test
  • Colonoscopy
  • Lactose tolerance test
  • Sorbitol intolerance test

Occasionally, diseases like celiac disease (gluten intolerance) or the chronic inflammatory bowel disease Crohn's disease are confused with irritable bowel syndrome. An experienced internist will be able to skillfully rule out such confusions. 

The following irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can indicate the condition:

  • Recurrent abdominal pain and cramps
  • Changes in bowel movements (constipation-dominant IBS, diarrhea-dominant IBS)
  • Flatulence and bloating (after meals)
  • Mucus in stool
  • Sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation
  • Worsening irritable bowel symptoms after eating
  • Increased symptoms during stress

Naturopathic Approaches for Relieving Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, you should discuss treatment options with your doctor. They can prescribe medications that actively help with the symptoms. However, more and more people do not want to take chemical medications every day and therefore turn to naturopathy. It's important to note that the following naturopathic approaches lack scientific basis. There is either no or very weak research that could support a positive effect on irritable bowel syndrome. The following approaches are recommended in naturopathy:

  • Nutritional Therapy: An adapted diet can alleviate symptoms. A FODMAP diet, characterized by avoiding sugars and processed foods, could be helpful. However, individuals often have specific foods they react to sensitively.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are live intestinal bacteria taken in the form of capsules. The goal is for these bacteria to colonize the intestines. Whether this is helpful for IBS is not medically proven, but many affected individuals rely on it.
  • Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Various herbs are recommended in naturopathy to calm irritable bowel syndrome. Chamomile is said to have a calming effect on the digestive system according to naturopathy, Ginger may support digestion. Some naturopaths also recommend our BitterKraft!
  • Relaxation Techniques: Stress can worsen IBS, so relaxation techniques might have a soothing effect. Specific practices like Yoga, Meditation, or Autogenic Training could help.
  • IBS Programs: Some providers of naturopathic products recommend IBS programs. The effectiveness of these programs is not proven in any way.
  • Acupuncture and TCM: Increasingly, individuals turn to methods of Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can find out for yourself if TCM might also help you.
  • Homeopathy: Homeopathic remedies are used according to homeopathic human and nature understanding. Some swear by homeopathy as a remedy, while others find it ineffective due to the highly diluted substances.

Conclusion: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Remains a Problem

The problem with irritable bowel syndrome is that no organic basis is known. Therefore, it's unfortunate that the cause of IBS cannot be treated; only attempts can be made to alleviate the symptoms. This realization is consistently sobering for individuals affected by this condition. 

We recommend a healthy mix of conventional medicine combined with complementary medical approaches as needed. If nausea is a primary symptom, few want to take chemical anti-nausea medication every day. A plant-based alternative is often preferred despite its lower efficacy. Similarly, few can accept taking painkillers every day for abdominal pain.

Therefore, please discuss the optimal therapy with your doctor. A naturopath may complement treatment methods effectively.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Frequently Asked Questions

What to Do for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

If you suspect irritable bowel syndrome, you should first consult a doctor. They should rule out other causes to prevent their exacerbation. The diagnosis of IBS is made through the process of exclusion. Once diagnosed, you can work together with your doctor to develop a meaningful treatment plan. It may be worthwhile to incorporate naturopathy into the approach.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: How Long Does It Last?

This is highly individual. Some only experience irritable bowel syndrome symptoms periodically, while for others, it's a lifelong companion. If there are indications of irritable bowel syndrome, you should definitely consult a doctor and address symptom relief.

Can Irritable Bowel Syndrome Be Cured?

Irritable bowel syndrome, as a functional gastrointestinal disorder, cannot be fully cured. To achieve a complete cure, the organic cause would need to be identified, which unfortunately is not currently possible. Therefore, once diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, it's advisable to pursue a comprehensive symptom management to live well despite the condition. Once you've identified the methods that work for you, the irritable bowel syndrome won't cause any more problems.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Caused by Birth Control Pills: Is It Possible?

Whether irritable bowel syndrome can be caused by birth control pills is unlikely. There is actually evidence that symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome could be alleviated in women through the use of birth control pills. Therefore, a causal relationship between irritable bowel syndrome and the use of birth control pills is highly unlikely.

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