Combination of Therapies Offers Help for IBS
Combining conventional and complementary therapies may provide relief for irritable bowel syndrome sufferers.
Dietary Supplements continued...
Probiotics are important to intestinal health for changing
intestinal flora. Probiotics are dietary supplements containing friendly
bacteria. The scientific literature regarding the benefits of probiotics is
"mixed," says Brasco, but among his own patients he says they are
Kelly Dowhower Karpa, PhD, RPh, assistant professor in the
department of pharmacology at the Pennsylvania State University College of
Medicine, and author of Bacteria for Breakfast, says that probiotics
replace the "bad" bacteria in your intestines with "healthy"
ones, and have been used to successfully treat both constipation- and
"Ideally, we'd eat enough healthy bacteria in our diets
through fermented foods (miso, kim-chee, sauerkraut, beet juice, etc.) like our
ancestors did," says Karpa. "But since most of us don't eat that
healthy, we can use probiotic supplements to fill in the gaps."
Most probiotics should be taken one hour prior to meals, or two
to three hours after meals, Karpa advises.
"If a patient is extremely immunocompromised, probiotics
should be used cautiously," says Karpa. "Otherwise, there are really no
adverse effects, with the possible exception of feeling a little gas within the
first week of taking them. Although annoying, the gas is actually a good thing
since it means the 'bad' bacteria are dying off."
For relief of cramps, Brasco also suggests peppermint for its
antispasmodic effects, taken as a tea, tincture, lozenge, or oil (put a drop or
two on your tongue). Chamomile is another herb with antispasmodic properties,
A new treatment for the dietary management of IBS is a medical
food, known as Digestive AdvantageT IBS, which is a blend of the bacteria
lactobacillus with proteins that normalizes intestinal bacteria and aids
digestion of dairy, fruits, meats, and carbohydrates. Developed by Ganeden
Biotech, Digestive Advantage is an "ongoing management tool," says
chief scientific officer Sean Farmer, MS.
Another essential part of treating IBS is stress management,
says Jay Winner, MD, author of Stress Management Made Simple: Effective Ways
to Beat Stress for Better Health. "Stress tends to make IBS worse,"
says Winner. Relaxation exercises that use "diaphragmatic breathing"
seem particularly effective in improving the symptoms of irritable bowel
syndrome. To practice such an exercise, he says, gently let your abdomen expand
with each breath in. As thoughts arise, let them go and focus back on your
Other stress-reduction remedies range from a simple walk around
the block -- recommended by Brasco -- to yoga, meditation, biofeedback, and
hypnosis. Herb Hamilton, CHT, has been treating IBS sufferers through both
hypnosis and dietary management for more than 10 years. Hamilton recommends
that his IBS patients eat five small meals a day, reduce the fat in their diet,
and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sodium, all of which, he says, can trigger
episodes of IBS.