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IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic condition characterised by abdominal pain, mucus in the stools, bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhoea also known as ‘spastic colon’ and ‘irritable colon’. Around one in five Australians experienced this disease at some time and is twice as common in women as in men.

IBS is not a serious health problem initially; however, it causes nutritional deficiencies and inflammation which can progress to serious diseases like bowel cancer or colitis and gives an indication that digestion is not normal in body and person must take it seriously.

Symptoms of IBS

  • Abdominal pain or cramping that is relieved by passing wind or going to the toilet
  • Recurring episodes of diarrhoea and constipation
  • A sensation that the bowels are not fully emptied after passing a motion
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Symptoms are more common in women and may be worse around menstruation or at times of stress.
  • Mucus present in the stools
  • Food intolerance, fatigue and nausea          

Causes of IBS

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, Factors that appear to play a role include:

  • Gastroenteritis (several bouts of diarrhoea) will often result in persistent bowel symptoms, long after the offending bacteria or virus has been eliminated. Change in good bacteria (Microflora) in the intestine plays a major role in digestion and in IBS. It might be associated with a surplus of bacteria in the intestine (bacterial overgrowth)
  • The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract as they move food through your digestive tract. Contractions that are stronger and last longer than normal can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. Weak intestinal contractions can slow food passage and lead to hard, dry stools.
  • Decreased absorption of the sugar lactose (found in dairy and many processed foods) is the most common dietary trigger for IBS. Low-fibre diets can aggravate the constipation of constipation-predominant IBS. Some people find spicy or sugary foods cause problems.
  • Deformities in the nerves in your digestive system may cause more than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines can cause your body to exaggerate to changes that normally occur in the digestive process, resulting in pain, diarrhoea or constipation
  • Women are twice as likely to have IBS and signs and symptoms are worse during or around their menstrual periods show that hormonal changes play a role in IBS.
  • Emotional stress – strong emotions, such as anxiety or stress, can affect the nerves of the bowel in vulnerable people.

Medication – certain types (such as antibiotics,antacids and painkillers) can lead to constipation or diarrhoea.

Stress and IBS

The connection between stress and IBS is now well documented. The mind and the gut are intimately connected via the enteric nervous system, so whatever is happening in one ultimately affects the other. They call this connection psychosomatic, meaning a psychological or emotional issue occurring in the mind has a corresponding manifestation in the body. Stress and anxiety are top contributors to psychosomatic disorders.We have all felt this connection like when we are nervous, we get the feeling of butterflies in our stomach or when we see something repulsive, we may feel nausea’s. This intimate link of the mind and body and abnormality of brain-bowel function is the main area of focus when treating IBS. Stress can arise from a perceived or actual event that disturbs the balance between mind and body. Stress can occur with or without conscious feelings of anxiety, distress and anger. Stress can be acute or chronic and range from daily hassles to life-threatening events. So, given this wide context of stress, there can be many triggers in life that are contributing to IBS – work demands, bills, relationship issues… just to name a few!

Ayurvedic Perspective

The Ayurvedic approach is a lot more hopeful. All illnesses are considered imbalances of the doshas (the three humours of the body) and most are treatable with balancing therapies. The symptoms of variable intestinal functions as seen in IBS are signs of an imbalance of the Vata dosha (air/ether elements). Vata resides primarily in the colon, and when out of balance it creates changeable bowel movements and erratic symptoms (think when too much air or wind collects in the colon and cause flatulence). Vata causes our digestive fire to be functioning like a candle blowing in the wind, causing churning, spasms and discomfort. Vata is also responsible for the functioning of our nervous system. Therefore, events that cause our nervous system to become overactive such as stress, worry, a chaotic lifestyle, and lack of routine are also causing an overactivity of our colon. Ayurvedic treatment is conducted according to your body constitution. It is necessary to consult an experienced Ayurvedic practioner who can diagnose your mind/body type and customise a program for your health needs.

Ayurveda believes it is best to treat the root cause rather than the symptoms of disease. A full ayurvedic detox is necessary for ridding toxins from the body and re-establishing colon health. Ayurvedic detox helps in managment for IBS emphasises medicated enema (basti), which is a colon cleansing therapy. Ayurvedic enemas provide herbal cleansing and nourishment directly into the intestine and colon, without having to pass through the stomach and upper gastro-intestinal tract. More treatments like-Abhyanga (ayurvedic therapeutic massage), Shirodhara (warm oil treatment on forehead), Chakra Vasti (warm oil treatment around the naval and associated marma points) and Customised Herbal support for IBS based on-Deepna, Pachana, Sangrahi :

Deepana – Deepana herbs use as carminative property, to improve digestive fire and reduce flatulence.

Pachana – Pachana herbs use to promote digestion

Sangrahi – Sangrahi herbs help in intestinal restorative, which increases the absorption capacity of the intestines

Ayurvedic management of IBS at Ayurveda Bliss – Let’s talk to know more……

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