Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also called spastic colon and mucous colitis, is a functional gastrointestinal disorder caused by irritability and irregularity in the movement of both the small and large intestines.
Some of the most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal cramping or pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, mucus in the stool, nausea, headache, depression, and fatigue.
One in five Americans suffer from IBS. In fact, IBS is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders. Women are more prone to IBS than men and it usually begins around age 20.
The exact causes of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown, but it has been found that feelings of nervousness, frustration, or anger may contribute to it. Drinking too much coffee and eating raw fruits, cruciferous vegetables or dairy products can aggravate the problem.
If you are having a hard time dealing with IBS, you may find relief using some easy and natural home remedies.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for irritable bowel syndrome.
Yogurt that contains ‘live cultures’ is a popular remedy for IBS-related diarrhea. Live cultures are friendly bacteria that provide a layer of protection in the intestines and help generate lactic acid to flush out bacterial toxins from the body.
- You can eat yogurt as it is or make a smoothie. Have some several times a day until you notice improvement in your condition.
- Alternatively, mix one-half teaspoon of psyllium husks or Isabgol (available at drug stores) and one cup of yogurt. Eat it one hour after your lunch and dinner. Repeat daily until there is improvement.
Flaxseed is a good source of dietary fiber required for the swift and comprehensive passage of waste products. Plus, flaxseed is a good supplier of omega-3 essential fatty acids that are known to support the immune and digestive systems. Both constipation and diarrhea can be treated with flaxseed.
- Take one tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed with water, once daily.
- Alternatively, add one teaspoon of flaxseed to one cup of boiling water. Steep for five to 10 minutes and then drink this herbal tea before going to bed. Drink daily to keep your stomach clean and free from gas.
- You can also mix one tablespoon of flaxseed in a glass of water and allow it to rest for two to three hours. Drink the water daily before going to bed to promote smooth bowel movements.
Peppermint can reduce IBS symptoms like cramping, bloating and diarrhea. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that fiber, antispasmodics and peppermint oil are all effective in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Peppermint contains menthol oil, which has an antispasmodic effect on the smooth muscles of the digestive tract. This helps relieve bloating, gas pain and intestinal spasms. Plus, peppermint can help food pass through the stomach easily.
- Add two or three drops of peppermint oil to one-fourth cup of warm water. Drink it three or four times a day. Continue until there is improvement in your condition.
- Also, you can add one teaspoon of dried peppermint to a cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes. Drink this tea two or three times a day.
Note: If taken in excess amounts, peppermint may cause nausea, loss of appetite, heart problems and nervous system disorders.
4. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds can relieve the intestinal spasms and bloating commonly associated with IBS. Plus, fennel seeds play a key role in eliminating fats from the digestive system, thus inhibiting the over-production of mucus in the intestine that contributes to IBS.
- Add one-half or one teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds to one cup of boiling water. Steep it for 10 minutes, strain and enjoy your herbal tea. You can have this herbal tea two or three times daily to prevent as well as reduce IBS symptoms.
- Alternatively, you can take one-half teaspoon of dry roasted fennel seeds powder twice daily with warm water.
Ginger can reduce gas and bloating, hence it is often recommended for treating IBS. Also, ginger can reduce inflammation in the intestines and relax the intestinal muscles.
- Add one-half teaspoon of freshly grated ginger to a cup of hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes, strain out the ginger, add some honey and then drink the tea. You can drink ginger tea two or three times a day to ease cramps and abdominal pain.
- Alternatively, you can grate a small piece of ginger and add one teaspoon of honey to it. Eat this mixture before having your lunch and dinner to get rid of diarrhea as well as improve your digestive process.
Note: Those suffering from high blood pressure should not use ginger remedies for IBS.
6. Cabbage Juice
Cabbage juice is another very effective remedy for IBS sufferers who experience constipation.
Raw cabbage juice has sulfur and chlorine that help to deeply cleanse the mucus membranes of the stomach and intestinal tract. The mild laxative effect of cabbage juice makes bowel movements softer and easier to pass as well as help keep the body hydrated.
- Wash a fresh cabbage and cut it into small pieces.
- Put the pieces through a juicer or blender to make fresh cabbage juice.
- Drink one-half glass of this juice at a time, three to four times in a day.
- You must drink cabbage juice as soon as you start having constipation.
Note: In some people, cabbage juice may cause bloating and flatulence.
7. Oat Bran
Eating oat bran on a daily basis will give your body the much-needed fiber and help reduce the symptoms of IBS to a great extent. When you eat oat bran, the stools become soft and get passed down painlessly and easily. Plus, it has antioxidants, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, phosphorus, riboflavin, magnesium, and zinc.
- Add one tablespoon of oat bran to your breakfast cereal daily.
- Also, you can mix one part oat bran with two parts water and cook it for a few minutes. Then eat it like oatmeal.
- You can also add one tablespoon of oat bran to yogurt, a smoothie or a salad.
Note: When you first start eating oat bran you may have gas and bloating, but these symptoms will decrease as the body adjusts to it.
The antispasmodic property as well as the high amount of tannins present in chamomile can provide great relief from IBS symptoms like diarrhea. Also, chamomile can reduce inflammation in the intestines and relieve abdominal spasms.
- Put two to three teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers in a cup of boiling water.
- Let it steep for about 15 minutes.
- Strain it and add a little lemon juice.
- Drink this herbal tea about three times a day.
Fresh, ripe bananas are a nutritious fruit that also help relieve IBS symptoms. You can eat bananas to treat diarrhea because the soluble fiber in bananas help absorb liquid in the intestines. Also, the potassium presents in bananas helps relieve bloating and gas.
- Eat one or two ripe bananas daily to maintain a healthy digestive system and prevent IBS.
- If you are having diarrhea, mash one ripe banana and mix in one teaspoon of tamarind pulp and a pinch of salt. Eat it twice daily until the diarrhea stops.
Carrots are a good source of pectin that can help prevent IBS symptoms as well as treat diarrhea and constipation.
- Put a few fresh carrots in a juicer to extract the juice. Add a few drops of lemon juice and a little bit of honey to the juice. Drink it several times a day until you notice improvement.
- You can also blend soft, cooked carrots in a blender with a little water to make puree. Add a little salt and eat one-half cup of carrot puree several times a day.
Note: Avoid eating raw carrots if it causes stomach pain.
If you suffer from other health problems, it is essential to speak with your doctor before trying any of these home remedies. Also, you need to follow a strict diet and healthy lifestyle on a daily basis to keep IBS symptoms under control.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Julien Fahed, MD (Gastroenterologist)
Which foods can trigger an IBS flare-up?
Many food items are only partially digested in the small intestines. When they reach the colon (large intestine), further digestion takes place, which may lead to gas and cramps. Eliminating these foods temporarily is reasonable if gas or bloating is bothersome.
The most common gas-producing foods are legumes (such as beans) and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli). In addition, some people have trouble with onions, celery, carrots, raisins, bananas, apricots, prunes, sprouts, and wheat.
What foods should be preferred when you have an IBS attack?
The good news is that many foods and drinks are known to be well tolerated in IBS. Some of the examples are: water, ginger ale, Gatorade, Sprite, soy milk, rice milk, plain pasta, plain white rice, baked or boiled potatoes (not French fries), white bread, plain fish, plain chicken, plain turkey, plain ham, soft boiled or poached eggs, plain cornflakes, Rice Krispies, lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, oil, vinegar dressing, cooked carrots (not raw), peanut butter, jellies and jams.
How long does a bout of IBS last?
Symptoms usually get worse after a meal and may get better after a bowel movement. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
Is IBS curable in the long run?
If all aspects of IBS are evaluated and managed, symptoms of IBS can be completely controlled and even become nonexistent.
Can IBS worsen with age?
As our body ages and our situation changes, IBS can worsen or improve with age. However, if symptoms are not controlled, they will usually continue.
Can IBS affect your menstrual cycle?
It depends on the severity and the triggers for IBS. Both IBS and menstrual cycle irregularities share similar triggers such as stress and anxiety.
Are probiotics good for IBS patients?
Probiotics can lower the pH in the bowel, which is known to assist with peristalsis (the wave-like motion that pushes feces through the intestinal tract). Unsweetened high-fat regular or Greek yogurt, pickles and sauerkraut are good sources. Don’t forget to take probiotic “holidays.”
What are the best ways to calm IBS pain?
The goal is to prevent the pain, there are medications that can be prescribed by your doctor to alleviate those symptoms. When it comes to home remedies, peppermint oil and probiotics based on bifidobacteria taken before the meals have helped many patients in reducing their pain.
Please provide some additional tips or inputs regarding IBS for the benefit of our readers.
The first step in treating IBS is usually to monitor the symptoms, daily bowel habits, and any other factors that may affect the bowels. This can help to identify factors that worsen symptoms in some people with IBS, such as lactose or other food intolerances and stress. Keeping a daily diary to track the diet and bowel symptoms can be helpful at least in the beginning.
About Dr. Julien Fahed, MD: Dr. Fahed attended the medical school at Saint Joseph University in Lebanon, and completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He also completed a fellowship in Gastroenterology at Aurora Health Care, the largest healthcare system in Wisconsin.
Dr. Fahed specializes in all aspects of Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, including management of obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases, biliary diseases, esophageal diseases, hepatitis C and colon cancer screening.