What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is a generic term for any intestinal issues including abdominal distension, diarrhoea and/or constipation, colicky lower abdominal pain, etc. It may ultimately lead to, or be diagnosed as ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, Crohn''s disease or other diseases of the large intestine.

Commonly Western medicine finds diagnosis elusive; it is a symptom that responds well to different forms of alternative medicine.


What causes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Stress: in my experience IBS is commonly triggered by stress.
  • Food sensitivities may be to blame.  Common problem foods: wheat, yeast, sugar, chocolate, caffeine - tea and coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks, processed snacks eg. crisps, biscuits, fried food, fatty foods.
  • Travel: aeroplane travel tends to play havoc with digestion, but a disruption to most people's routine, including any form of travel, can impact upon the bowels.
  • Food poisoning - can trigger on-going bowel problems.

Conventional treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

The GP may do a blood test for parasites or other pathogens, they may also test for gluten intolerance (indicates coeliac disease).  Commonly, they will do a physical examination.

The condition will be treated as serious if you are passing blood, have unexplained weight loss, have a swelling or lump in your abdomen or back passage.

Further tests may include a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscoopy where a camera is used to examine your back passage or your bowel.

Often you will be advised:

  •  To change your diet - with diarrhoea, cutting down on insoluble fibre; with constipation increasing soluble fibre
  • Cut out problem foods
  • Reduce stress
  • Take exercise

You may be prescribed medication:

  • Antispasmodic - to reduce pain and cramping eg. mebeverine and therapeutic peppermint oil
  • Laxatives (if constipated)
  • Antimotility (if diarrhoea) eg. Loperamide
  • Antidepressants - can sometimes reduce abdominal pain and cramping - generally tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

If your IBS is still a problem after 12 months you may be offered psychological treatment, including: hypnotherapy, psychodynamic interpersonal therapy (PIT) or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).


How do I treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Kinesiology

Identifies food, drink or other triggers.  You will be given a list of what has been tested, highlighting those to avoid.

I will also test for pathogens - candida is a common problem for those with gut problems, there may also be bacteria, virus, post virus or some other parasite.

If any pathogens are found, I will treat using frequency therapy to destroy the pathogen.  You can detect the change through the muscle test before treatment and after treatment - it goes from positive to negative.  The pathogen can come back, it depends on the strength of your immune system - further treatment will try to strengthen this to ultimately lead to longer-term resolution of symptoms.

Acupuncture

Generally Damp-Heat and Heat needs to be cleared, often where there is stress there is stagnation of energy - this is moved, and any underlying deficiency is nourished.

EFT

  • Specifically on the symptoms - bloating and or pain
  • To address any on-going stress
  • To address any emotional issues you connect with your symptoms

Effectiveness of treatment:

Generally you will leave without candida - if this was present at the beginning.  You will notice a reduction to the bloating, and commonly pain will be diminished, if not totally disappeared.  However, all can come back over the next few days.  On-going treatment strengthens the immune system to keep the pathogens at bay, clearing the stress is of key importance, helped by EFT and by the acupuncture, then strengthening the underlying energy of the Stomach, Spleen and Large Intestine - identified through Chinese Medicine to be important with IBS complaints.

Evidence

The British Acupuncture has research lists research into acupuncture for IBS, this includes:

"Pragmatic randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for IBS involving 30 patients. Compared 10 sessions of acupuncture plus usual GP care with usual GP care alone. At 3 months, a statistically and clinically significant difference between groups of 138 points in favour of acupuncture was observed on the IBS Symptom Severity Score."

Renolds JA et al. Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome an exploratory randomised controlled trial. Acupunct Med 2008 Mar; 26(1):8-16.

Each case is slightly different, so to discuss your symptoms further call 020 7370 4693 or email.


A case study from my clinic

IBS in a younger person

Grace, 20 years, came to see me for a really bloated belly, very poor energy (2/10), abdominal pain with cramps and nausea - but not generally sick.  She was in her second year at uni, doing a course she hated and wanted to drop out, end of year exams were happening in 6 weeks.

I tested foods, drink and environmental sensitivities, those identified were: beef, corn, pork, wheat, yeast, barley, lamb, prawns, MSG, blackberries, coconut, kiwi, mango, broadbean, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  Alcohol: beer, gin, lager, red wine, white wine and whiskey were all problems.   Environmentally: gas fumes, diesel, nylon, petrol.

Candida tested positive, as present - this was cleared using frequency therapy.

Acupuncture was used to nourish Yin and the Stomach and Spleen.

EFT was used for the anxiety around the university course, and the fear of the exams, as well as on the pain and bloating itself.

By the end of treatment Grace was tired, but pain free, and the tension in the stomach had gone.

I saw her again three weeks later, she felt "hugely better" but she'd had a big family lunch at the weekend, and there were foods that didn't agree with her - she felt lousy for 24 hours, and then really bloated.

I tested again for foods (these can change over time) - there were not so many to avoid: cow's milk, oranges, sugar, yeast, potatoes.  The candida had returned, so this was treated again with frequency therapy, acupuncture was used again to treat the Stomach and Spleen, and EFT was used for points of tenderness in the tummy.

With these two treatments she went back to uni, and was able to complete the year end exams - I didn't see her again for another year - till exam season again, although I heard from her mother (who I started to treat for menopause) that she was really well.

Young people respond very quickly to treatment, often one or two sessions is all that's required.

 

Severe IBS

Holly, 38 years came with symptoms including bleeding from the bowel, cramps and pain, loose stools, swelling joints, very poor energy.  She was obviously seeing her doctor, had had a colonoscopy and gastrooscopy and was on medication: mesalazine 800mg and colofax 135mg.  Holly worked in the hospitality world, and her job was very stressful with very long hours and lots of entertaining.

I tested foods and identified sensitivity to: chocolate, goats milk, coffee, sugar, yeast, mussels, sardines, beetroot, leek, sprouts, turnip, apples, blackberry, mango, red and white wine and tartrazine.

Kinesiology also indicated candida, leaky gut and an essential fatty acid deficiency.  I recommended a supplement of essential fatty acids (MorEPA), a very good multivitamin, and used frequency therapy to resolve the candida.

Acupuncture was used to clear the Heat, move Liver Qi Stagnation, and nourish Blood and the underlying deficiency.

EFT was used to resolve pain and bloating during the treatment.

A week later bowels were improved (they had been 10/10 bad, they had improved to 4/10 straight after treatment, the bleeding had stopped and not returned, today they were 6/10.  Energy "better but still 5-6/10.  Sleep was till erratic, but not being woken so much and needing to get up for a bowel movement.

Holly came weekly, when her schedule allowed, for the next 10 weeks, the bleeding remained at bay, the pain was resolved and the number of bowel movements was much reduced.  However, if work pressures mounted, or the entertainment schedule was heavy, there was adifficulty to stay off foods and wine - the symptoms were worse.

I now see Holly when her symptoms get bad - and bring her back to balance.  She views my treatments as stress and symptom management, within her very demanding life.  She didn't want to change her job or her lifestyle, although over time she was starting to question what she does want.


Lifestyle advice for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Keep a diary of the pattern of your IBS, and notice any patterns: food, stress or emotional, dehydration, cycle related - or any other factors.  Knowing your pattern can be helpful to finding a way to manage and hopefully resolve your symptoms.

Diet

Drink lots of water - at least 2 litres a day.  Avoid processed food.

Specific IBS triggers can include:

  • Wheat
  • Gluten (found in rye, barley and oats)
  • Yeast
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine - tea, coffee, coca-cola
  • Alcohol
  • Processed food eg. crisps, biscuits, ready meals
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Spicy food
  • Fatty and fried food

Although, anything food you "over consume" could be a problem.

For those with extreme diarrhoea with pain there will be certain foods you know cause symptoms, commonly fibrous: leaks, onions, pulses, wholegrain bread, bran.

For those with constipation adding fibre: fresh fruit and vegetables, brown rice, oats, etc can be helpful.  Additionally, try soaking a tablespoon of linseed in a glass of water over night, and drink in the morning.

Stress reducing tips

If you think stress is contributing to your IBS:

  • Get good rest, at least 8 hours a night, the more before midnight the better
  • Take a walk in nature: the countryside or a park
  • Try yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi
  • Engage your creativity: painting, playing an instrument, taking pictures, creative writing (start with a journal)
  • Avoid over obsessing about emails, texts and the internet
  • Anything to provide balance to counteract a busy life

Ask yourself, what do I do to relax?  I hope you have an answer!  If so, make time for it.  If not - play and find out.