Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is relatively easy to manage with homeopathic medicine. When combined with the non-invasive naturopathic lifestyle advice given at this Perth naturopathic clinic, it frequently leads to a complete alleviation of symptons
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a “functional disturbance” of the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT). This means that the way the digestive system functions is altered, although clinical investigation shows no disease or inflammation. Symptoms include diarrhoea or constipation, or an alternation of both. With constipation there is often an incomplete evacuation of stool. Abdominal pain and wind and bloating are common. Women are two to three times more frequently affected than men, and hormonal factors often play a part in aggravating symptoms, as do certain foods.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is diagnosed by exclusion of coeliac disease and more serious pathologies of the GIT, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Infection with clostridium difficile and parasites like entamoeba histolytica and cryptosporidium also need to be discounted.
No one cause is acknowledged for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but naturopathy understands this problem is contributed to by a number of factors. Food intolerances (not necessarily allergies) may be responsible for some symptoms; mental and emotional factors and “stress” may be triggers if not the main cause; and previous infections of the GIT and antibiotic and other drug treatment that have disturbed the bowel flora and caused an oversensitivity of the bowel wall appear increasingly suspect.
In this clinic we suspect that history of prior infection is one of the key causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We find that one of our most useful homeopathic protocols was developed by Drs Bach and Paterson in the 1920’s and 30’s.
These protocols identified by Bach and Paterson, in hospital studies were found to restore harmony to the bowel flora adhering to the wall of the large intestine and therefore positively influence chronic diseases, especially disturbances of the gastro-intestinal tract. These bacteria are so important for overall health, as about 80% of the immune system is moderated through the intestines.
Just trying to replace beneficial bacteria with probiotics such as acidophilus will have only a moderate effect here, as they merely influence the free ranging bacteria, without affecting those adhering to the bowel wall. Many of these protocols cover most of the symptoms of IBS when individually prescribed to the exact picture in the individual patient. And when they are combined with constitutional treatment covering the full spectrum of the patient’s complaints, mentally, emotionally and physically, dramatic and lasting improvement may result.
In IBS, as always in homeopathy, the focus is not just on trying to treat the symptoms. While there are many good remedies for constipation, diarrhoea, wind and abdominal pain, the focus is on finding the remedy that covers the whole patient: not only the bowel and abdominal symptoms, but the full spectrum of their health, including their personality and temperament, the personal history and their family medical history.
In homeopathy, we find there are typical patterns on the three levels of the mind, body and emotions, which may indicate different treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. One type may be irritable anxious and easily stressed, with sugar cravings, wind and bloating, and experiencing energy dips in the afternoon. Another is idealistic, easily upset and disappointed, with crampy abdominal pains and a difficult stool even if soft. Another, the irritable, driven workaholic, craves coffee during the day to keep going and alcohol at night to relax, resulting in poor sleep, together with abdominal pains, discomfort, nausea and incomplete bowel motions.
Literally hundreds of remedies could be indicated in IBS. A skilled homeopath needs to prescribe the precise potency and repetition for a successful and lasting result; and in most cases a sequence of remedies need to be prescribed accurately over many months, depending on the gradual changes in the system. In most cases of IBS we find it necessary prescribe complementary nosodes with the constitutional treatment.
We also believe it is important, from a naturopathic viewpoint, to look at the patient’s lifestyle and diet. Poor diet and inadequate stress management are definite trigger factors for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Dietary fibre needs to be adequate, with an emphasis on water soluble fibre. Many are sensitive to fatty foods, chocolate, additives and preservatives, alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods.
While these may need to be avoided for a while, after a period of treatment food sensitivities and intolerances can usually be improved and the occasional indiscretion tolerated.
The constitutional homeopathic remedy should improve the patient’s response to stress, but it is equally important to have adequate rest and recreation, exercise and other stress moderators such as meditation. Importantly, with the combination of naturopathic management and homeopathic medicine, this clinic aims to help resolve the patient’s problem with Irritable Bowel Syndrome for good.