For the 7 to 21% of people struggling with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a flare up can have a huge impact on quality of life. Pain, diarrhea or constipation and bloating can mean missed days at work and skipping social events, causing a sufferer to feel isolated and depressed. Most often, patients are prescribed medications to relieve pain and regulate bowel movements, and encouraged to make diet and lifestyle changes.
While there is no cure for IBS, which seems to be caused by a gap in communication between the brain and the digestive system, researchers are studying ways to help ease symptoms, including spices, teas and supplements.
Dr. Gaston urges you to read the warnings below carefully and to always consult with him or your primary care physician before taking any spices, teas, herbs, supplements or holistic therapies. While these substances are natural, they are also powerful chemicals and may interfere with medications you are currently taking.
This Asian spice has been used to treat digestive issues and other health problems, such as depression, for centuries. Containing the anti-inflammatory curcumin, turmeric is now drawing attention as a tool to relieve IBS symptoms. An initial study found participants reported reductions in pain and bowel movement irregularities after taking 2 tablets of turmeric supplements each day for 8 weeks.
Sprinkle turmeric from your grocer’s spice selection on your soup and use it in place of salt and pepper when seasoning your food to get a boost of anti-inflammatory compounds.
Warning: Long term consumption of tablet supplements has not been studied for any toxicity issues. Pregnant women should consult with their doctors before taking. Diabetics and those on blood thinners should not take turmeric supplements.
This tea has been found to reduce the severity of IBS pain, reduce bowel spasms and give your liver a boost in functioning.
Warning: Heartburn is a potential side effect. Peppermint tea is not recommended if you have GERD, a hiatal hernia or gallbladder issues.
Fennel relaxes the muscles in your intestines and helps to relieve gas, reducing bloating and cramping.
Warning: Pregnant women should not use fennel or fennel tea. Fennel may interact with medications, so ask your doctor before you take any supplements.
While ginger is well known for soothing upset stomachs, there is little evidence that it is effective for IBS symptoms.
Like ginger, chamomile is often used to treat digestive issues. It’s also effective in easing stress, which can contribute to IBS symptoms.
Research has found that IBS patients have low levels of vitamin D, and those with the lowest levels have the most severe IBS symptoms. Moreover, vitamin D is a vital nutrient for nerve cell communication and immune system functioning, which also indicates that supplements could improve IBS symptoms.
Warning: Ask your doctor to check your levels of vitamin D and prescribe the appropriate amount of supplement to avoid hypervitaminosis D, a rare condition that occurs when there is too much vitamin D in your body.
If other health issues prevent you from treating your IBS symptoms with the spice, tea and supplements above, control your symptoms with these recommended directives:
- Track foods that trigger your symptoms and avoid those items
- Drink plenty of water
- Get 8-9 hours of sleep each night, especially important in relieving stress
- Exercise regularly
If you have any questions about IBS, just call 773-238-1126. Dr. Gaston is always happy to help you stay healthy and well!