Your stomach is grumbling and hurting, and nothing really helps: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be debilitating and also expensive. Countless products are available on the market, all claiming to improve symptoms. Which home remedies really help with irritable bowel syndrome?
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that includes a certain group of symptoms. A condition is considered “functional” when no physical or structural cause is found through to explain the symptoms.
The condition can be diagnosed after other conditions are ruled out. To be diagnosed with IBS, the person with symptoms must experience chronic abdominal pain at least one day per week in the last three months and experience onset of symptoms at least six months prior to the diagnosis. At least two of the following signs and symptoms should also be present:
- The pain accompanies a bowel movement
- There is a change in the frequency of bowel movements
- There is a change in the form or appearance of stool
What are the symptoms of IBS?
IBS symptoms can occur individually, but they can also all occur simultaneously. Symptoms can also evolve over time and change in type, quantity and intensity. The most common are
- Abdominal pain including cramping
- Feeling of fullness and bloating
- Gas, flatulence
IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that a healthcare provider can only diagnose IBS after having ruled out other conditions with similar symptoms like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Which home remedies help with IBS?
Examples of home remedies some people use for IBS symptoms are:
- The low-FODMAP diet
- Relaxation techniques
Keep in mind
Home remedies are purely symptomatic, meaning that they can only improve the symptom, but not the trigger.
Foods for IBS
The best home remedies for IBS are often found in the kitchen. The most evidence-based form of nutrition for IBS is the low-FODMAP diet.
FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) are substances that are naturally found in many foods. These substances are not harmful to most people. It is believed many people with irritable bowel syndrome are sensitive to some or all of these compounds.
Reducing or eliminating FODMAPs in your diet may reduce irritation and bloating symptoms.
Some foods and drinks to avoid on a low FODMAP diet include:
- Spicy foods
- Carbonated drinks
- Beans, cabbage, and lentils
- Fructose-rich fruits
- Wheat products
Read the full list of FODMAP foods here.
Tip: Evidence suggests keeping a food diary including what you eat and how the foods make you feel can help you identify triggering foods. You can also include which home remedies you try and if they provide any symptom relief. Our app Cara Care is a food and symptom diary on-the-go.
Herbal home remedies for IBS
With the power of nine medicinal herbs, the plant mixture Iberogast (STW-5) acts quickly and effectively against stomach and intestinal complaints. Iberogast is available in pharmacies and online without a prescription. The medicinal plants contained in the tincture work in combination to:
- Relax the intestinal muscles and the nerve network of the intestinal wall
- Balance gastric acid production
- Protect the mucous membrane
- Inhibit intestinal inflammation
Exercise for IBS
Exercise is an underrated home remedy. Exercise for IBS is believed to be especially effective for IBS with constipation.
A walk after a meal can have positive effects. Gentle exercise is not only essential for general well-being, but it also stimulates digestive activity. For example, desk workers who sit all day may deal with stool problems, bloating, and stomach pain. You don’t have to do an hour of continuous running every day—even short but regular exercise promotes regular bowel movements by stimulating bloodflow to the intestines. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends that all adults exercise at least 150 minutes each week. For IBS, this can include:
* Walking after a meal * Taking the stairs instead of the elevator * Riding a bike instead of taking a car or the subway * Swimming * Yoga or Pilates * Light jogging
Relaxation techniques for IBS
Stress and worries can exacerbate IBS symptoms. People with IBS often have to pay special attention to their mental health and take time to relax after stressful days.
Research suggests that IBS patients may benefit from the following types of relaxation:
- Autogenic training, a desensitization technique
Keep in mind
Gut-directed hypnosis, also called hypnotherapy, may have some benefit for people living with IBS. When IBS is particularly influenced by stress, the therapy may have a positive effect on the subconscious that controls the fight or flight response. It can help control the stress response and potentially reduce irritable bowel symptoms.
Our app Cara Care’s premium IBS program includes hypnotherapy.
Build a healthy intestinal flora
Living microorganisms like lactic acid bacteria (also known as probiotics) are important for healthy intestinal flora. Probiotic supplements are available in yogurts and other fermented foods. When ingested via the gastrointestinal tract, however, their effects are often not sufficient.
Bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and saccharomyces, which are also found in the healthy intestinal flora and are the most well-known probiotic strains, work better when consumed in capsule form. The microorganisms then settle on the intestinal wall like a protective layer, sealing off the damaged sections.
Heat for irritable bowel symptoms
Heat not only soothes the gastrointestinal tract, but also has a relaxing effect on the muscles. No matter whether it’s in the form of a hot water bottle, hot herbal tea, a grain pillow, or a hot bath, heat is a quick, accessible, and efficient form of therapy for IBS.
What home remedies help with diarrhea?
With diarrhea, not only is water lost, but also important electrolytes.
Replacing these electrolytes can be done by drinking electrolyte solutions from the pharmacy. In addition to conventional table salt (sodium chloride), they contain other electrolytes such as sodium citrate, potassium chloride, and the right amount of glucose. Electrolyte solutions can also be easily made at home according to World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
- 1 liter of non carbonated mineral water
- 3/4 teaspoons of cooking salt
- 4 teaspoons of sugar or honey
- 1 cup of orange juice or 2 bananas
Important! Stay away from experiments with laxatives or constipating agents. Except in an emergency like traveler's diarrhea, these medications should be prescribed by a healthcare provider.
What remedies help with constipation?
When experiencing constipation, the most important rule is to stay hydrated with clear fluids. To prevent constipation, at least 1.5 to 2 liters should be ingested throughout the day.
A balanced diet and gentle exercise are also important. Dried plum juice, dried figs, and seedless grapes and watermelon, for example, contain fiber. Their ability to promote intestinal activity has been well established in studies.
A spoonful of high-quality olive or linseed oil before breakfast is also effective. The oil stimulates bowel activity and makes the stool more slippery and easier to pass.
Take care: Just because something is plant-based does not automatically mean it is gentle. Special caution should be taken when using the home remedy castor oil for constipation, as its effects can be drastically and quickly overdosed. In obstetrics, it is even used to promote labor.
What home remedies are there for gas and abdominal pain?
Herbal teas can work well to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms and are commonly used home remedies. They soothe the gastrointestinal tract and have a warm, relaxing effect on the intestinal muscles. In addition, they are inexpensive compared to some medications and available almost everywhere. Studies suggest mixtures made of the following teas are particularly effective:
- Lemon balm
Peppermint and caraway oil are also available in combination in capsule form. They have a deflating and antispasmodic effect.
What are other home remedies for IBS?
Healing earth as an alternative remedy
The light yellow powder made of clay is an all-round household remedy. It can be applied externally to the skin or consumed in water—and healing earth is also used for IBS. On the one hand, it is believed to bind toxins, bacteria, and acid ingested with food. It also contains electrolytes and trace elements such as zinc, thereby neutralizing acid production in the gastrointestinal tract. However, these effects have not yet been scientifically proven in clinical studies.
Okoubaka and other globules for IBS
Like most alternative remedies, the effectiveness of Okoubaka globules has not yet been scientifically confirmed. However, some people report an improvement in their symptoms and general condition after taking them. They contain extracts of the dried bark of a West African jungle tree (Okoubaka aubrevillei) and are said to activate the body's self-healing powers. In addition to Okoubaka, the following globules are also used for irritable bowel complaints:
- Nux vomica (for all types of bowel problems)
- Arsenicum album (for diarrhea with nausea and vomiting)
- Argentum nitricum (for diarrhea and vomiting in stressful situations)
- Asa foetida (for severe flatulence)
- Lycopodium (for flatulence with stomach cramps)
Cell salts for IBS
Another popular form of home remedy is treatment with Schuessler’s cell salts. There is no data to support this remedy, but some people report they are effective. These salts come in tablet form. You can melt them in your mouth or let them dissolve in hot water for symptom relief.
Bach flowers for IBS
Treatment with Bach flower remedies is believed to tackle the psychological causes of IBS. Bach flower No. 3 Beech as well as No. 26 Rock Rose are both believed to relieve IBS symptoms, but there is no scientific evidence of the effectiveness to support Bach flower.
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