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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is all too common these days and results in a range of distressing symptoms including cramping pain, bloating, flatulence and either diarrhoea or constipation, or both alternating. Other symptoms such as headaches and anxiety can also be present.

The aetiology for IBS is complex and varied, and although stress does play a big part it is really only one factor and others such as food intolerances, possible parasite infection and allopathic drugs can be implicated. IBS symptoms tend to come on after a trigger is experienced. With IBS the colon becomes much more sensitive and reacts to stimuli that would not be a problem to someone without IBS. This can result in a very urgent need to have a bowel movement, and not knowing when this could occur can be very stressful and limiting to someone suffering from IBS.

The good news is that herbal medicine has a good track record in helping people suffering from this condition. The first stage is to take a full case, finding out the factors which have led up to the current condition and starting to get some idea of the likely triggers. It can be depressing and confusing to try and figure out what is causing flare ups on your own, but together we will be able to implement a supervised food elimination programme to find out more about what you will need to avoid in the short term.
Meanwhile there are a great many herbs which can be used to help reduce the inflammation in the bowel and reduce its sensitivity. For example demulcent herbs such as Althaea officinalis (Marshmallow) and Ulmus fulva (Slippery Elm) are very soothing and healing, and Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet) is an excellent anti-inflammatory. Other herbs such as Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s Claw) can help to reduce the motility of the bowel where there is uncontrolled diarrhoea.


Painful spasms and gas can be eased by carminatives such as Mentha piperita (Peppermint) or Matricaria recutita (Chamomile). In fact peppermint oil has been found to be so effective for reducing spasm it is now used by allopathic practitioners during colonoscopy. (Kingham JGC Commentary: Peppermint Oil and Colon Spasm. The Lancet 1995 Oct 14 346:986).
Background stress and anxiety can be treated with nervine herbs such as Valeriana officinalis (Valerian).


IBS is a complex condition and it can be confusing and depressing to try and self medicate. Here at the clinic I can go through your individual circumstances thoroughly and find out exactly what is going on before formulating a unique treatment programme especially for you. There is a relaxed atmosphere and it is no problem if you have to nip out to the loo a few times during the consultation!

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