This page describes the symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), some of the foods that can make the symptoms worse, and how homeopathy can help. It will be useful to anybody who suffers from IBS or any unexplained, long-term problems with diarrhoea, constipation, or too much gas in the abdomen.
What is IBS?
IBS is a disorder that affects your digestion. It can cause any or all of these symptoms:
- Bloating – when your abdomen swells. This makes your clothes seem tighter and can cause pain near or below your waist.
- Cramps – sharp pains in the abdomen
- Gas – burping or farting frequently or having foul-smelling farts
- Diarrhoea – needing to pass stools (poop) too frequently. The stools are usually very soft or even liquid.
- Constipation – finding it difficult to produce stools. When you eventually do poop, the stools are usually dry and hard.
It’s probably true to say that everybody gets some of these symptoms now and again. Most of us have eaten something that “disagreed with us” and made us throw up, rush to the toilet for a poop, or both. Many of us will have caught a virus that had us running to the toilet too often for several days. And most will have felt the discomfort of constipation, perhaps because of a change in our diet or because we haven’t been drinking enough water. But if these problems happen often, you might be suffering from IBS. (Other reasons for these frequent symptoms include Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.)
IBS And Food Intolerance
It’s possible that your symptoms will be less severe if you cut down on some types of food. Even if you are not allergic to some foods, you could have a food intolerance. A food intolerance is not as serious as an allergy but it can still make you uncomfortable and upset your digestion.
The most common foods that cause intolerance are:
- those that contain lactose, such as milk and cream, butter, yoghurt, cheese and buttermilk
- those that contain wheat, such as bread, pastries, cakes, biscuits and crackers, crumpets and couscous
Some people with IBS find that their symptoms are worse if they eat cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts), beans, onions or dried fruit. Try cutting down on some of the foods I have mentioned and see whether it helps. If you know what food or drink upsets you, this can help to work out which homeopathic remedies are best for you.
Top 7 Homeopathic Remedies for IBS
In my opinion, homeopathy is one of the best natural ways to treat IBS. It can often work very quickly to ease symptoms and relieve discomfort and pain. Here are some of the top homeopathic remedies for dealing with IBS symptoms.
If you find yourself running to the toilet several times before appointments, you could need Argentum nitricum (Arg nit). This is a remedy for nervous diarrhoea, when the thought of having to perform a task, or deal with a situation, goes straight to your stomach. Of course it’s natural to feel nervous when you are about to do something new. But if you need Arg nit you can suffer from a nervous tummy because of everyday events, such as when getting ready for work, waiting for a visitor to arrive, or preparing to make an important phone call. And of course, the more you worry about the the diarrhoea, the worse it gets! Most likely you have a sweet tooth, but sweet foods can upset your digestion. If you also like salty foods, as many Arg Nit people do, have a salty or savoury snack instead.
Are you a very organised and tidy person? Do you get stressed when your family (or house mates) don’t put things back where they are supposed to go? When you suffer from IBS do you feel very restless and unsettled? If so, and if you tend to get thin, watery diarrhoea that seems to burn as it comes out, you should find that Arsenicum album (Ars alb) settles your stomach. You might find that your symptoms seem to get worse during the early hours of the morning, perhaps even forcing you out of bed to use the toilet around 2.00 or 3.00 a.m. Cold food and drinks are likely to upset your digestion, but warming drinks and hot (but not too heavy) meals may comfort you and help to settle your stomach.
Asafoetida could be the best remedy for you if you feel full of gas but nothing seems to come out. You seem to be so bloated, but either you can’t let the gas out either end or you force yourself to burp and it brings no relief. It’s likely that your gut feels as if it is squeezing tightly, but it moves any swallowed food in the wrong direction- upwards rather than down. If you have the sensation of a lump moving upwards into your throat, and perhaps even bring up a small amount of your food, Asafoetida should help calm things down.
So your tummy troubles are worst when you are feeling angry and upset. You have strong ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong, and it upsets you when people disagree. It sounds like you need Colocynthus to settle your digestive problems. People who need this remedy get cramping or cutting pains in the lower part of the abdomen, near their belly buttons. The pains are usually worse just before the diarrhoea begins. If this matches your symptoms, and you find that bending over forward or pressing on your belly helps a little, it’s definitely worth trying Colocynthus. Avoid eating fruit, as this can make your IBS worse. Surprisingly, although drinks can also aggravate your condition, you may find that coffee actually helps.
Lycopodium could suit you if your abdomen seems to be swollen and full of gas, but you feel some relief after either burping or farting. You probably feel hungry a lot of the time. You might even find yourself sneaking out of bed at night to eat. But the annoying thing is that it only takes a few mouthfuls to fill you up. That’s because almost as soon as the food gets into your stomach it creates gas. There’s lots of loud rumblings from your tummy, and you’re sure everybody’s noticed. Rubbing your tummy moves the gas around, makes you burp and eases some of the pain. When you go to the toilet, the first stools are hard, but the rest come out soft or even as liquid. Regarding foods, you should avoid cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, etc) onions and oysters.
Like Colocynthus, Nux vomica works well for those whose IBS symptoms are worse when they are feeling angry or irritable. If you need Nux vomica you are probably an ambitious and driven person and you just don’t have time to be ill. You are really fed up of the way your IBS is interfering in your life. The sharp or cramping pains in your stomach seem to get worse after eating or when you are feeling cold. You’re often constipated, or tend to swing between constipation and diarrhoea. When constipated, you work hard just to squeeze out a small amount of stool. It makes you feel better for a few moments, but then the urging is back. If this sounds like you, and particularly if you love spicy food, alcohol and coffee, Nux vomica should help. And needless to say, you need to cut down on those naughty foods that you crave.
The word that springs to mind when mentioning Podophyllum is “explosive”! If you get bouts of diarrhoea that are so sudden, and so dramatic, that you’re not sure if you’ll make it to the loo in time, this is probably for you. When your stools are so liquid that they seem to gush out, or spirt in a spray that seems to cover the whole toilet bowl, Podophyllum is needed. You could find yourself doubled up with pain (and bending forward seems to ease it slightly) or feeling unsure if you are going to pass a stool or be sick. But the Podophyllum diarrhoea is not always painful; sometimes it seems to happen with no warning at all. This remedy can also useful if the diarrhoea seems to alternate with other symptoms, for example constipation or headaches, or if you suffer from IBS and rheumatism together.