Combination of Therapies Offers Help for IBS
Combining conventional and complementary therapies may provide relief for irritable bowel syndrome sufferers.
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 breath.
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.
Hand-in-hand with the dietary management is the hypnosis. "Fifty percent of the battle in dealing with IBS is in stress management," says Hamilton, director of the Wellness and Fitness Institute in Tampa, Fla., and author of Mission Possible: A Therapist's Guide to Weight Loss with Hypnosis. "Stress and diet are IBS triggers."
Hamilton, who has been certified in irritable bowel hypnosis by the American Council of Hypnosis Examiners, uses traditional hypnotherapy techniques, which relax both the body and the mind, as well as specific mind-body suggestions that help clients visually see in their mind's eye improvement in their specific situation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may also be successful in treating IBS, says Noah Rubinstein, a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and faculty member of the New York campus of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Herbal medicine, acupuncture, diet, exercise, and stress reduction are all part of IBS therapy, says Rubinstein.
Herbal formulas are aimed at fortifying and supporting the digestive system, says Rubinstein, who cautions against self-medicating with Chinese herbs. "Even seemingly inert substances can cause problems," he says. Because herbal formulas are crafted to meet specific patient needs, it's best to consult a TCM practitioner, Rubinstein advises.