There’s nothing worse than feeling pain every time you eat. For many people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, eating can be a daily challenge.
Because the condition isn’t straightforward, IBS treatment isn’t either. IBS medications do exist but they don’t tackle the condition, only the symptoms. In fact, they can only temporarily treat diarrhea, depression, pain, constipation, and bowel spasms (1). Each symptom requires a different medicine.
But medication doesn’t work alone: it always goes along with changes in your diet and lifestyle. Essentially, it’s best to start your treatment with home remedies to manage your symptoms naturally.
What Is IBS?
Your bowels are a large tube that extends from your stomach to your rectum. It’s divided into two parts: the small intestine and the large intestine.
Your large intestine is roughly 6 feet long while your small intestine is about 22 feet long, albeit much thinner in width (2). The small intestine absorbs nutrients from the food you eat while the large intestine absorbs liquid and salt. It then pushes out the waste and nonessential bacteria along to the end of your digestive tract (3).
IBS is a common chronic digestive disorder that is characterized by multiple digestive problems.
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Mucus in the stool
Up to 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with IBS each year.
Unlike colitis, cancer, or Crohn’s disease, IBS doesn’t typically cause permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract.
However, experiencing weight loss, rectal bleeding, dark stool, or abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night can mean that your IBS is out of control. If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor immediately.
Modern science has yet to find a cause for irritable bowel syndrome, but the medical community does agree that the condition has its triggers. These vary from person to person.
Common triggers include (6):
- Food: allergies, insensitivities, and fiber content can all come into play
- Stress: stress can worsen the symptoms of IBS
- Hormones: symptoms worsen around your menstrual period.
- Illness: bacterial overgrowth and gastroenteritis can both trigger IBS.
Additionally, IBS doesn’t affect everyone equally. In fact, it tends to occur in people under 45 years of age, particularly women. It also mostly affects people with a family history of IBS or people who suffer from mental health problems.
15 Home Remedies For IBS Treatment
For most people, IBS can be a long and difficult journey. Here are a few tips to manage your symptoms naturally.
1. Cannabis Gum
Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have begun testing a cannabinoid-infused chewing gum that can reduce IBS symptoms. CBD, if you didn’t know, is a non-psychoactive beneficial cannabinoid.
The gum is produced by AXIM Biotechnologies. The company already manufactures CBD oil as well as another version of the gum called Canchew, which is already available to the public.
The new gum, called CanChew Plus is meant to reduce painful stomach cramps, control bloating, and normalize the stool of IBS patients. It works because CBD interacts with the endogenous cannabinoid receptors to loosen tension in the bowels.
It also has an economic value: the syndrome is linked to $21 billion in medical expenses, work absenteeism, and loss of productivity.
“We are excited to see that AXIM has reached another milestone in its clinical development program,” said Dr. Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc (7).
“This is the first advancement in cannabinoid research for treatment of IBS in medical history and gives a clear example of how far ahead AXIM is in its clinical development programs.”
In the trial, the gum will contain 50mg of CBD per serving and patients will be given up to 6 gums a day. The company hopes to make the product available to patients suffering from ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease too.
2. Mint And Fennel
Fennel, taken as a tea or tincture, has carminative, antispasmodic, and stomachic properties. In fact, it helps reduce digestive cramping, spasms, gas, and bloating. Plus, it’s safe to use if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, Celiac’s disease, and intestinal candidiasis (8).
Peppermint, on the other hand, fights pain and inflammation (9). A study published in published in the journal Phytomedicine found that peppermint oil is effective at treating non-serious constipation or diarrhea as well other IBS symptoms (10).
Here’s how to make it:
- 4-6 cups purified or distilled water
- Fresh fennel seeds
- 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.
3. Do a Parasite Cleanse
Believe it or not, a parasitic infection can mimic the signs and symptoms of IBS. According to the IBS treatment Center: “The severity of your symptoms and the amount of damage they cause varies depending on the parasite involved, the number of parasites, and the level of resistance your body has.”(11)
Parasites cause these symptoms by robbing your body of precious nutrients and turning your organs into their home. They can damage your tissues and organs as well as make their way into other parts of your body.
Parasites can be found in contaminated water (including lakes and ponds), uncooked produce, raw meat, and in animal feces (like those of your pets). To get rid of them, try this remedy.
4. Consider Cutting Carbs
Eating fiber is great for bulking up your stool but it’s not all roses. In fact, too much fiber can worsen cramping and gas (12). This is especially true if you are sensitive to gluten. Try cutting carbs and other high-fiber foods from your diet completely for 3-4 weeks and write down how you feel in a food journal.
High fiber foods include:
- Wheat and wheat-based products
- Chia Seeds
- Flax seeds
- Split peas
- Lima beans
- Black beans
5. Watch What You Eat
Everybody has their personal triggers, so you’ll have to discover yours. The easiest way to do this is by keeping a food journal. Write down everything you eat throughout the day and keep track of how these foods make you feel.
Common trigger foods include:
- Sugar-free sweeteners
- Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc.)
- Fatty foods
6. Peppermint Oil
A study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology examined 110 outpatients with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study gave patients enteric-coated peppermint oil formulation three to four times daily, 15-30 min before meals, for 1 month (13).
In the peppermint group:
- 79% of patients experienced a reduction in the severity of abdominal pain (29 were pain-free)
- 83% had less abdominal distension (bloating)
- 83% had reduced stool frequency
- 73% had fewer borborygmi (rumbling noise in the intestines)
- 79% had less flatulence
Patients in this group also had very few side effects: one developed heartburn while the other experienced a mild rash.
Peppermint also improves digestion by promoting bile flow and preventing colonic spasm (14).
7. Cut Dairy
Even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, dairy can be a trigger food for most people. Dairy is an inflammatory acid food. Plus, it can contain antibiotics and artificial hormones that can lead to an immune response. While it’s best to cut out dairy completely, you can start by only eating small amounts of cooked dairy or combining it with other foods.
8. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is an important part of keeping regular in periods of constipations and to rehydrate after diarrhea. Hydrate with water or tea throughout the day. However, avoid alcohol, coffee, and carbonated drinks. It goes without saying that you should also avoid diuretics if you’re suffering from a bout of diarrhea.
9. Eat at the Same Time Every Day
Eating at regular intervals helps keep your bowels in working order. If you suffer from constipation, eat three meals a day to make sure you have enough fiber in your system. However, if you’re going through a period of diarrhea, stick to small frequent meals until your digestive system recovers.
Exercise is an easy way to keep your bowel movements regular and to release stress. It can also improve self-esteem and lessen depression. If you’re used to sitting down most of the day, start with low-impact exercises, like leisurely swimming or going around the block on your bike. You can gradually give running and team sports a try or even sign up for pilates.
People with IBS should do at least 20-60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity 3-5 days a week, according to Web MD (15).
11. Reduce Stress
Stress is synonymous with inflammation and illness, so it’s no surprise that it can affect your bowels too (16). Worse yet, the relationship between stress and digestive disorders goes both ways. The more your digestion is impaired: the more stressed and anxious you’ll feel (17).
To reduce your stress levels, take up a yoga class, meditate, and invest time and energy into your favorite hobbies.
12. Skip the Laxatives
According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s best to stay away from over-the-counter laxatives and anti-diarrheal medication is you have IBS. These medications temporarily alter digestive function, which worsens the confusion going on in your bowels (18). They also leave your body dependent on these medications to stay regular.
Instead, ride out each phase of your IBS and stay hydrated throughout. Also, make sure to get plenty of sleep and stay calm.
13. Consider Your Emotions
Like stress, strong emotions can affect digestion, inflammation, and overall health. As you’ve probably experienced, emotions can lead to a lack of hunger, cramping, nausea, vomiting, excessive gas, and diarrhea. If you’re going through a family death, betrayal, trauma, or other anxiety, fear or anger-based event, take the time to grieve and let go.
You might even want to consider taking a few days off work or speaking to a shrink. Emotions are a big part of what makes us human, so it’s vital to address them and go through your challenges. Whatever you do, don’t bury your emotions: they’ll always come back in one way or another.
14. Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods
This tip doesn’t work for everyone. If your IBS is caused by an imbalance between your good and bad bacteria, taking in more beneficial bacteria can help restore order. However, if your condition is caused by SIBO, which is the cause of roughly 85% of IBS cases, then it’s best to keep away from probiotics until your condition improves.
Here is a short list of probiotic foods to take or avoid, depending on your condition:
15. Hot Bath
Taking a hot bath will help you feel relaxed, but that’s not all! A hot bath is a great way to ease sore abdominal muscles and prevent cramping (19). To get the most out of your bath, add some Epsom salts: they’re high in magnesium, an anti-inflammatory mineral easily absorbed through your skin.
Remember, the more you invest in your gut health, the better your body will absorb nutrients. The more nutrients you absorb, the more energy you’ll feel. Hence, give these remedies a try and stay patient as you get to know your body and your triggers.
A healthy gut also leads to a healthy mind, so you should feel a mood boost by working through your condition. Stay positive and your relationship with your gut will be too!