IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, does not have one, distinct cause. Having IBS with constipation gradually weakens the walls of the intestines, leading to a tendency to spasm. Symptoms may follow a bad infection or heavy antibiotic use. However, IBS is mainly caused by diet and lifestyle. The diet that leads to this type of bowel pattern produces deficiencies in minerals, which further exacerbate the problem. Individuals with IBS are a subset of the population particularly sensitive to muscle contractions in their colon and feel them more painfully than people without IBS.
One of the main causes of IBS with constipation is abnormal gut flora. In fact, the health of your bowel ecosystem is the key to the health of your whole body. When you don’t have enough beneficial bacteria in your colon, bad bacteria and fungus proliferate, contributing to digestive problems. The good bacteria in our bowels thrive on fat and are poisoned by simple sugars. Bad bacteria are fed primarily with flour and sugar. Eliminating these items from the diet will go a long way in healing your IBS. You must also replenish your colony of beneficial bacteria by taking probiotics and eating fermented foods, which contain trillions of good bacteria. For more information, read my blog post Probiotics–The Foundation of Health. An amazing book to read on this subject is Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Campbell-McBride. This book will change your life.
The diet for IBS should include high amounts of fermented foods (which contribute to beneficial flora in the intestines), use of bitter vegetables and herbs (which stimulate the bile and therefore aid in the digestion of fats) and liberal consumption of foods rich in vitamin D such as butter, meats and fish, and getting ten minutes of direct sunshine every day (vitamin D is very important for the health of the colon).
As an IBS sufferer, you are likely gluten intolerant. It is best to avoid gluten (barley, rye, oats, wheat) and may be advised to avoid all grains for a period of time until the gut heals. Note there are some gluten free oats. At the very least, eliminate gluten and/or all grains for two months, and then reintroduce them to see if they cause symptoms. If you do eat grains, they must be properly prepared with soaking and fermenting. High fiber foods that have not been prepared correctly can be very irritating and can actually damage the villi in the small intestine, leading to poor absorption. It seems, therefore, that the key is not solely the fiber content (which is why adding Metamucil, a source of insoluble fiber to the normal American diet is a poor solution) but the whole diet, including preparation methods. Unfermented grains contain chemicals that irritate and inflame the bowel wall, and can even cause it to spasm. Oats, rice and other grains should be soaked overnight for 24 hours to release acids like phytic acid. Phytic acid is problematic to the colon and is an anti-nutrient, leaching other nutrients from the body, especially zinc.
IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, does not have one, distinct cause. Since symptoms vary, it’s likely that several factors below play a role in the development of this condition.
- Abnormal Gut Flora
- Food Sensitivities
- Lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking alcohol
- Drinking too much coffee or other caffeinated drinks
- Hormonal changes
- Heavy metal and chemical toxicity
- Feelings such as anger, fear, depression, and anxiety
- Changes in nerves that control bowel
- Person can be more sensitive to changes in stretching of colon caused by gas and digestion
- Primary cause of aging & disease
- Reduce omega 6:3 ratio. Reduce omega 6’s like conventional meat, conventional dairy, vegetable oils, seeds, and nuts. Ratio should be 2:1. Organic meat and dairy are higher in omega 3’s.
- Reduce in 30 days by taking cod liver oil, turmeric, bromelain and drinking green tea
Use trial and error to find your IBS triggers. Common triggers include:
- Some fruits and veggies
- Greasy food
- Carbonated drinks
- Sugar free gums and candy (sorbitol)
- Drink WATER. This is the best healing elixir in the universe. You need to drink three liters a day. Many times I have clients with IBS who are drinking coffee or soda all day long. Caffeine causes you to lose the water you drank in the beverage, plus a little more. This will cause you to be dehydrated and not have enough water to go to the bathroom! Not surprising. Learn why I only recommend drinking pure spring water in my article What Kind of Water Should I Drink?
- Eat a more traditional diet as outlined in my Modern Paleo Diet.
- Eat and chew more slowly to aid digestion. Try to chew each bite at least 25 times. Allow the digestive enzymes in your mouth to do their job and begin the job of breaking down food.
- Whole, natural foods are easier to digest than processed foods. Processed foods absolutely contribute to IBS.
- Every morning, grind one tablespoon flax seeds in a mini grinder and add to 4-8 ounces Beet Kvass, kombucha, or yogurt if you tolerate dairy. Soak five minutes and drink. This is an excellent source of fiber, enzymes and special fatty acids.
- Coffee enemas are a must for anyone with constipation. For information and instructions see my article Coffee Enemas.
- Eat bone, fish, and meat broths. These provide the building blocks for the cells of the gut lining and have a soothing effect on inflammation in the gut. The specific amino acids in soup broth act as a kind of tonic for the bowel wall, by providing compounds that function like antidepressants. Do not use commercial stocks or bullion cubes. They do not heal the gut, are highly processed, and full of harmful additives. Just throw your bones, joints, meat, celery, carrots, turnips, onion, leeks, whatever vegetables you like, herbs like parsley, dill, and thyme, head of garlic, sea salt and pepper in a pot for two to four hours. So easy! For directions, see my recipe and video on how to make Bone Broth.
- Add more green, leafy and sweet root veggies.
- All foods should be cooked when healing yourself from IBS. Raw foods are harder to digest. When you are healed, you can integrate raw foods.
- Eat a light dinner. Dinner is slower to digest. Think veggie soup (soup is a digestive aid) or smaller portions.
- Healing foods for IBS: almonds, persimmon, flaxseed, cilantro.
- Get bowels moving by eating foods high in magnesium: eat prunes, prune juice, figs, coconut water, spinach, pumpkin seeds, halibut, black beans, okra.
- Eat fermented foods and live cultures for probiotics. Eat sauerkraut, the juice of sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables, kefir, kvass, kombucha, yogurt, kim chee, etc.
- Keep insulin steady. Avoid big meals and desserts without meals, which skyrocket blood sugar. White foods spike blood sugar, too. High blood sugar will aggravate IBS.
- Drink plenty of water. Consume two quarts (eight cups) of water a day, three quarts (12 cups) if you’re running a fever. It is best to always have a water bottle with you and only drink water with meals. It is boring, but healthy!
- Drink hot water every 10 minutes for two weeks. This will clear your lymphatic system and allow it drain properly. It must be plain hot water. Repeat as needed. The lymphatic system aids the immune system in removing and destroying waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, toxins, and cancer cells. The first place the lymph system becomes clogged is the drain from the intestines. It must be kept clear to do its job.
- Every morning, drink warm water with lemon. This aids in detoxification.
- Before bed, use 1/2-1 teaspoon Swedish Bitters in warm water. This will help stimulate bile and aid in digestion.
- Drink tea.Chamomile (antispasmodic properties), mint, orange peel, ginger, or herbal tea is good for treating intestinal inflammation. Use packaged tea bags or brew it fresh. Buy chamomile flowers and steep 1 teaspoon of them and 1 teaspoon of peppermint leaves in a cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Make ginger tea by grating a teaspoon of fresh or frozen ginger root into your teapot of boiling water and leave for 3-5 minutes. The tannins in ordinary black tea have an anti-diarrheal effect. Green tea is also very calming. All tea must be fresh brewed to retain antioxidant properties.
- Do an elimination diet as outlined in my article Food Sensitivities. You need to find foods to which you are allergic and have sensitivities that are causing symptoms. This usually involves stopping a food for a month or more and then reintroducing it to see if it is triggering symptoms.
- Keep a diet and symptom record to target problematic foods.
- Exercise also brings heat to body and relieves IBS. Yoga!!
- Do relaxation daily. Try meditation, yoga, infrared saunas, and deep breathing. Anxiety plays a huge role in IBS. A simple meditation can be found on Drlwilson.com
- Engage in some moderate, enjoyable exercise such as walking or swimming, at least 20 to 30 minutes per day. This will stimulate elimination.
- Eat food to which you are sensitive. This is one of the main causes of IBS. The only way to find foods to which you have a sensitivity is to do an elimination diet. For more information, see my article Food Sensitivities.
- Caffeine strips the lining of the intestines.
- White flour strips the lining of the intestines. You should remove gluten from your diet. Many books recommend removing ALL grains.
- Sugar, including the sugar in fruit, feeds pathogenetic bacteria in the intestines. While you are healing I would avoid all fruit and sugar to starve any intestinal bacterial overgrowth that is likely contributing to the problem.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, and Sweet n Low. These are also carcinogenic and neurotoxins (kill brain cells). They cause hundreds of side effects, including migraines. Learn more in my article Deadly Artificial Sweeteners.
- Dairy may be troublesome to some people with IBS. People with constipation tend to do well with high FAT dairy products like sour cream, ghee, and butter, but not with high PROTEIN dairy, like yogurt, whey, kefir, and cheese. High protein dairy can aggravate constipation. Everyone is individual. Experiment. If you do eat diary, it should be organic and preferably raw (found at small health food stores and farmer’s markets). Raw milk products can be completely sterilized with the addition of 1 drop of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide per gallon. Learn if dairy is for you in my article Are you the half that should avoid Dairy?
- Avoid greasy, fried foods. These cause inflammation.
- Avoid trans fats. A product contains trans fats if it has shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, fractionated oil, or interesterified fats (worse than trans fats) in the ingredient list. They are in baked goods like bread, cookies, tortillas, crackers, chips, cereals, candy bars, and many processed foods. Avoid bakeries, especially grocery store bakeries, unless they are very high end. Trans fats are in 70% of boxed, processed foods you find in most major grocery stores. Read labels!
- You may have trouble with beans. Beans are very hard to digest, so it may be wise to avoid them while you are healing .Hummus is made from beans. Experiment. Learn more in my article Think Beans are good for you? Think Again!
- Avoid soy. Soy should be avoided or eaten on rare occasions. If consumed, eat only non-GMO whole soybeans and tofu or fermented soy products like soy sauce, miso, and tempeh. Most people unwittingly eat soy protein isolate or textured soy protein in the form of protein powders, veggie burgers, fake meats, etc. How is soy protein isolate made? After removing the fiber, the beans are put in an aluminum pot with an acid wash. They absorb the aluminum (linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s) and then are treated with many chemicals including nitrates (linked to cancer). This soy protein isolate powder is in up to 60% of processed foods, including soymilk and infant formula. Soy also impairs iodine absorption and reduces thyroid function, which impairs one’s ability to lose weight. It interferes with estrogen receptor sites causing premature menstruation in girls and promoting cancer (many cancers grow when there is an abundance of estrogen or estrogenic substances). Soy can also damage your nervous system by killing brain cells, specifically in the hypothalamus, the area responsible for memory and learning. Additionally, 90% of the world’s soy production is genetically modified. So, if you don’t buy organic, you’re almost certainly consuming soy that is proven to lower immunity, cause infertility, and damage organs in animals. For more information, see my article Little Known Dangers of Soy.
- Avoid MSG. It will stimulate all the glutamate receptors in the intestines causing symptoms. Glutamate receptor sensitivity is increased if you are low in magnesium. This means avoiding fast food, soy products, etc. For more information on how food manufacturers put MSG in all their products and a list of ingredients that contain MSG, see my article Hidden MSG.
- Avoid carbonated drinks to lessen bloating.
- Decrease binding foods: bananas, white rice, white breads, white pasta
- Avoid carrageenan found in many nut milks. It can cause intestinal distress and damage and is carcinogenic. It is also found in conventional and organic milks. Read labels. For more information on carrageenan and how to avoid it in products, see Cornucopia Institute’s Guide to Avoiding Carrageenan.
A Word on Constipation
Constipation lays the ground for all sorts of digestive disorders, including colon cancer, and produces a huge amount of various toxins, which poison the whole body. Constipation is always a sign of deficient gut flora in the intestines. The beneficial bacteria that normally populate the bowel play a crucial role in proper stool formation and elimination. The most numerous species of friendly bacteria in a healthy bowel are bifidobacteria and physiological strains of E.coli (a different kind than the E. coli that causes deadly infections). These microbes produce a host of enzymes and other active substances, whose action is essential in proper stool formation. They stimulate the wall of the bowel to produce mucus for lubricating the stool and passing it out as soon as it is ready. A healthy person should have 1-2 stools a day. Populating your bowel with beneficial bacteria is the most important thing to do in treating constipation. Bifidus can be implanted directly into the rectum after performing a coffee enema to repopulate the intestines and treat chronic constipation. Daily coffee enemas, even several per day, do not affect the flora in the colon in any significant way. It does not wash out the flora because the enema does not involve that much water.
Tips to relieve constipation:
- Coffee enemas are an incredibly effective tool to relieve constipation. They have so many health benefits, including evacuating your colon. I urge you to read my blog post on Coffee Enemas or this Podcast about Coffee Enemas. They could save your life.
- A person with persistent constipation should have a daily enema every night before bed, followed by a warm bath with Epsom salt, seaweed powder, cider vinegar, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), or sea salt.
- After a bath, rub some Udo’s oil, hemp oil, cold pressed sunflower oil, castor oil, or cold pressed olive oil on the skin of the abdominal area. These oils absorb quite well through the skin and relieve constipation in the long run.
- If you’re not able to take a bath, you can cover the oil with a piece of cloth like flannel and then cover this with a hot water bottle. Hot water bottles work better than a heating pad, but a heating pad will suffice.
- I do not recommend the use of laxatives, drug or herbal, to relieve constipation. They are designed to work on fairly healthy digestive systems. If used too often, the body will become dependent on them and not empty properly without them.
- Digestive Aid. GB-3 is the best digestive aid I have ever found. It contains ox bile, which helps one to digest fats. For many of my clients with constipation, it finally helps them to start digesting fats and their bowels get moving nicely. GB-3 also contains black radish, which kills parasites, yeast and aids to resolve gut dysbiosis. Most people today have some degree of intestinal dysbiosis. This means they harbor intestinal infections, yeasts, parasites and other flora or micro-organisms in the intestines that are contributing to IBS. GB-3 will help kill many of these and aid a restoration of proper gut flora. I regularly have clients report they expel worms after taking this supplement.
- Digestive Enzymes. Digestive Enzymes are key in aiding nutrient absorption, which you are losing if you have chronic diarrhea. I take enzymes before every meal. My favorite is Transformation Carbo-G.
- HCL with pepsin. If your digestive system is off, you may need to supplement with Hydrochloric acid to improve break down of food in the stomach so it doesn’t cause problems down below. Undigested food can cause IBS, food allergies, feeds pathogenic bacteria in the gut contributing to yeast overgrowth, and contribute to leaky gut syndrome. I really like Designs for Health Betain HCL with Pepsin.
- Inflamma GI. Innate Response Inflamma GI is a food-based organic product that contains many different ingredients to calm inflammation in the gut. We need to cool inflammation in the gut.
- Dysbio GI. Innate Response Dysbio GI is an amazing organic food-based formula that is key in eliminating any gut infection you may harbor that is contributing to IBS. This is a great product to take for a couple months to address potential infections. Innate Response Dysbio-GI contains Oregon Grape Extract and Oregano Oil – considered two of the most potent ingredients used to support GI health. Oregon Grape contains the alkaloid berberine‚ widely known to support an already healthy inflammatory response as well as promoting a healthy internal environment for the GI system. The oregano oil‚ standardized to contain 30% carvacrol‚ adds superior support and aids in keeping the highest level of vitality and health throughout the GI tract.
- Manuka Honey. This miracle honey kills foreign pathogens and bad bacteria in the intestines. Take 1-3 teaspoons per day. See my blog on Medicinal Manuka Honey for more information. My favorite Manuka Honey is Manuka Health 400 or 550 MGO strength.
- Turmeric. Turmeric is amazing for inflammation. Curcumin is the extract of turmeric that holds the key to its anti-inflammatory effects. I take Integrative Therapeutics Theracurmin. It utilizes a patented‚ natural colloidal dispersion technology to enhance curcumin’s bioavailability by 27 times the typical preparation of turmeric.
- Bromelain. This enzyme is key for calming Inflammation. Innate Response Proteolytic Enzymes mainly contains Bromelain as well as other systematic enzymes that cool inflammation (and thus pain).
- Vitamin C. Start at 800 mg of my favorite Innate Response Food-based Vitamin C. You can increase up to 2000 mg of vitamin C.
- Magnesium. Most people with IBS (and everyone, really) are low in this mineral. You need to take five times your body weight in pounds in mg. So, if you weight 200lbs. You need 1000mg daily of magnesium. Here are the forms I love:
- I take Jigsaw Magnesium every day. It contains the cofactors, B6 and B12 needed to absorb magnesium.
- Magnesium Malate Chelate. Designs for health contains magnesium malate and glycinate.
- Magnesium Glycinate. This form is good for those who get digestive upset when taking magnesium.
- Fish oil. Everyone needs to increase their EPA-DHA, omega-3 fats found in fish. These fats can lubricate your intestines, making for better flow of stool. A fantastic EPA-DHA formula. I personally prefer cod liver oil. I love Green Pastures Cod Liver oil, but I personally take the Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil Blend.
There are a lot of good probiotics, but some are superior. Don’t waste your money on a probiotic that’s less than 10 billion CFU. Many brands do not possess the potency that’s on the label. It’s good to switch to different brands after you’ve finished a bottle to obtain as many different strains of probiotics as possible. You have over 400 different bacteria in your intestines. Diversity is key. For more information, read my blog post Probiotics–The Foundation of Health. I take probiotics every day in different forms and have used all the probiotics I recommend. I rotate all of these probiotic supplements:
- HLC Intensive. HLC Intensive Capsules by Pharmax contain the highest-potency probiotics available in a capsule. This probiotic is ideal to take after a course of antibiotics to replenish lost beneficial bacteria. You want your probiotics to have a number after the name of the priobiotic strain. This demonstrates a clinically proven strain. This product only contains clinically proven strains of probiotics.
- Cytoflora. CytoFlora, a probiotic lysate, contains beneficial bacteria of which the cell wall has been decimated. This decimation releases vital substances and nutrients from the cell wall and cytoplasm. It’s one of the only probiotics that’s in a liquid delivery method. Perfect for giving to kids. It’s shown to dramatically improve the functioning of autistic children.
- Jigsaw Probiotics. This probiotic utilizes five of the most effective human strains, including the proven L. acidophilus La-14. Each capsule contains 25 billion live, friendly, active bacteria.
- Innate Response Flora 50-14. This is a good source of 14 bacterial strains that are extremely important in the gut.
- Syntol AMD. This probiotic is specifically formulated to fight candida and yeast infections. This supplement does not need refrigeration because it uses a spore delivery method. It’s great for traveling. It contains a spore germinating probiotic blend, a yeast digesting blend of enzymes, and a prebiotic blend to feed your gut flora.
- PrescriptAssist is specifically formulated to repopulate your gut after a round of antibiotics. In a recent study, Prescript-Assist was associated with significant reductions in symptoms of IBS.
- Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics. He uses a special 3-5 year aging process (depending on the formula) to ferment his probiotic brew. The probiotics are encapsulated with their culture medium of nutritious fermented vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, and seaweed. Yum!
You don’t need to take probiotics on an empty stomach. This was always the recommendation for weaker old generation probiotics. With today’s probiotics, you can take them anyway you want, with or without food, on a full or empty stomach, with milk, juice, or water.
Healing Leaky Gut Syndrome
Healing a leaky gut is essential to healing IBS. Leaky Gut Syndrome can be thought of as tiny holes in your intestines that allow food and bacteria to leak into your blood stream. Hundreds of yeast and bacteria are released from a leaky gut into the bloodstream where they set up infection anywhere, including muscles, joints, bones, teeth roots, coronary arteries, or even the brain. Addressing this problem is essential to health. Even if you don’t have leaky gut, these steps will kill bad bugs in your intestines and set you on the path to vibrant health.
- Infrared Saunas. Opportunistic infections like Candida, other yeasts, parasites and bacteria are a major contributor to IBS. In small quantities, many types of yeast are harmless. Under the right conditions, some of them, such as Candida Albicans, overgrow and become pathogenic. They secrete extremely poisonous chemicals in our bodies such as alcohol and acetaldehyde, and can cause or contribute to a wide range of health conditions. These infections tolerate heat poorly, making saunas ideal to keep them under control. Many of these infections are caused and exacerbated by mercury and copper toxicity, problems that resolve with sauna use. Learn more about Near Infrared Saunas. The Myers Detox Store has many different types of near infrared saunas to fit any budget.
- Garlic. Not only is it an antibiotic for Candida, H.pylori, and other bad bugs, but it also improves your immunity. Eat one raw or aged (fermented) garlic clove a day or take aged garlic supplements. Kyolic aged garlic extract is proven in hundreds of studies. Take 2 capsules 2-3 times a day.
- L-Glutamine. This amino acid is one of the best remedies for diarrhea and it works very quickly (within 2-3 days). I like Thorne L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine directly nourishes and heals the mucosal lining of the intestine and causes the bowel to reabsorb the water in your stool, thus reducing the number and frequency of bowel movements. Start with 1/4 teaspoon per day mixed in cold or room temperature water and drink on an empty stomach. If not working, increase to 1/4 teaspoon two or three times a day. Increase the dosage gradually (if you need it) to 1/2 tsp, then 3/4 tsp, even up to 1 tsp two or three times a day.
- Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is healing and cleansing to the gut. You get some whenever you eat green vegetables. Do wheatgrass shots twice a week. And take Innate Response Renewal Greens to tank up on chlorophyll.
- Avoid NSAIDS. Anti-inflammatories like Advil or Aleve or narcotic pain medications damage the gut lining and cause leaky gut syndrome.
- Avoid Antibiotics. Avoid them unless you have a life threatening infection. Seek out natural antibiotics like garlic, oil of oregano, etc. You will back to square one after a round of antibiotics. They kill your infection but also kill all the good probiotics in your intestines, allowing the proliferation of yeast and pathogenic bacteria.
The following things can be done to relieve an IBS attack:
- Lie down and relax
- Breath to relieve tension
- Drink water
- Eat plain foods, no spices
- Massage your stomach area
- No alcohol
- Do sit ups to relieve gas pockets
- Hot water bottle
IBS can be triggered by stress and anxiety. For some, anxiety plays a huge role in IBS. You must find ways to relax and control anxiety.
- I love Innate Response Calm Response to reduce anxiety. It has several effective herbs to reduce anxiety-like ashwagandha, holy basil and l-theanine.
- Try meditation, yoga, infrared saunas, and breathing exercises. A simple meditation can be found on Drlwilson.com.
- Green tea has calming effects, though the caffeine can strip lining of the intestines.
- Group or individual therapy is always effective.
- Try Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.
- Why this Single Organ Powerfully Dictates Whether You’re Healthy or Sick
- Help for IBS.com
- About IBS.org
- No More Heartburn by Sherry Rogers. This book is about how to heal the entire digestive system.
- Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Campbell-McBride
- I Healed Myself from IBS and You Can Too by Randi Cestaro
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
- The Clean Diet by Alejandro Junger
- IBS: Free at Last! Change Your Carbs, Change Your Life with the FODMAP Elimination Diet by Patsy Catsos
Click here for References+
1. Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Campbell-McBride
2. I Healed Myself from IBS and You Can Too by Randi Cestaro
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome by Dr. Thomas Cowen http://www.westonprice.org
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/digestive/irritable-bowel-syndrome.htm
5. Ten Home Remedies for Diarrhea
6. Irritable Bowel Syndrome http://www.aboutIBS.org
7. IBS Diet http://www.helpforibs.com/diet/?gclid=CJypzun7lbECFQxshwodwDU0fA
8. Natural Remedies That Work: Irritable Bowel Syndrome by Jini Patel Thompson http://www.healingwell.com/library/ibs/article.asp?author=thompson&id=2