Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects 60 million Americans and its specific cause is unknown.
In some cases, there is a physiological cause such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, gastroenteritis, allergies, or an abnormality in the gastrointestinal tract.
In others, problems within the digestive system are induced by diet and lifestyle.
With symptoms that include cramps, gas, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain, the condition can be triggered by a multitude of circumstances.
Fortunately, IBS is considered a condition rather than a disease.
The symptoms of IBS are unlikely to cause permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract—unlike colitis, cancer, or Crohn’s disease (2).
Recognizing the precursors of IBS episodes in your own body will help you to identify your personal triggers so you can avoid them.
To prevent flare-ups, care must be taken to stay well hydrated, alleviate stress, and get good quality sleep. If the condition becomes chronic, it’s a good idea to get tested for allergies.
There are things you can do on a regular basis to restore intestinal balance and lessen the severity of IBS episodes when they do occur.
Apple cider vinegar does wonders for the digestion. Its probiotic nature facilitates the proliferation of healthy bacteria. It is also an antioxidant that has been shown to protect the liver and kidneys (3). Just make sure the vinegar is raw (unpasteurized), unfiltered, and organic.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and yogurt are very effective in regulating digestion because they are probiotic. Probiotics have been shown to be safe and effective in treating IBS, reducing the number of harmful bacteria in the gut (4).
Additionally, limiting or cutting out inflammatory foods like dairy, red meat, and wheat from your diet will help keep your gut under control.
Herbs like dill and ginger can also help relieve the symptoms of IBS as well as ease digestion and reduce inflammation.
IBS Relief Tea
The recipe for IBS tea below combines fennel and peppermint for lasting results.
Fennel alleviates gas and bloating that result from IBS:
“Fennel seed is one of the most effective digestive aids, having carminative, antispasmodic, and stomachic properties. It is highly beneficial to reduce digestive cramping, gas, and bloating. The volatile oils contained in the seed stimulate the mucus membranes in the digestive tract, encouraging motility and peristalsis. The aromatic oils also exert smooth muscle antispasmodic and carminative actions. The seed tincture or tea is effective for treating intestinal spasms that result from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, Celiac’s disease, and intestinal candidiasis.”(5).
The phytonutrient anethole, found in fennel, blocks muscle inflammation and carcinogenesis of the intestinal tract (6). Use the leaves and seeds for tea and the rest of the vegetable to eat—it’s delicious, aromatic, and good for you.
Peppermint activates an anti-pain reaction in the colon and reduces inflammation (7). One study published in the journal Phytomedicine went so far as to say “PO [peppermint oil]…may be the drug of choice in IBS patients with non-serious constipation or diarrhea to alleviate general symptoms and to improve the quality of life.”(8)
Easy to grow yourself, you can always have some peppermint on hand for tea or use in recipes or salads.
Fennel and Mint IBS Tea
- 4-6 cups purified or distilled water
- Fresh fennel leaves
- Fresh peppermint leaves
- Raw organic honey (optional)
- Chop the herb stalks and leaves to encourage the release of oils.
- Add the herbs to a large glass measuring cup or bowl.
- Pour boiling water over the herbs and steep (covered) for about 20 minutes. The longer you steep it, the stronger it gets. Covering the tea while steeping prevents the evaporation of medicinal oils.
- Strain the herbs from the tea and add honey to taste, if desired.
- Drink 1–3 cups daily to relieve your IBS symptoms.