Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Diarrhea
Stress Management for IBS
Everyone feels stressed or worried once in a while. Emotional turmoil, however, seems to affect IBS sufferers more than others.
"Stress seems to complicate or exacerbate IBS symptoms," says Schoenfeld. In the American College of Gastroenterology report, he and other researchers found that a majority of patients who undergo behavioral therapy seem to have improved symptoms.
Behavioral therapy involves a number of techniques to help people better learn how to cope with pain, distress, and stressful situations. It includes relaxation therapy, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and psychotherapy.
If you consider behavioral therapy for IBS, consult with your regular doctor first, and try to find a therapist who will work with your regular doctor, says Schoenfeld.
Outside of the more formal interventions, there are ways to you can try to reduce stress and ease IBS symptoms on your own. Meditation, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a well-balanced diet for IBS can all help ease symptoms.
Participating in pleasurable activities also helps. Here are some ideas: take a walk, listen to music, soak in a bath, play sports, or read.
Alternative Therapy for IBS
Some IBS sufferers turn to alternative therapies such as acupuncture, probiotics, and herbs to relieve their symptoms.
Keep in mind, however, that most alternative therapies haven't been tested for effectiveness in rigorous clinical trials.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found that acupuncture works for chronic pain. For IBS relief, however, the results have been mixed, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic.
There is also some evidence that giving probiotics ("healthy" bacteria normally found in the gut) help people with IBS. One study found that probiotic treatment significantly improved IBS symptoms and quality of life. In the study, researchers primarily used the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria infantis. People with IBS reported fewer symptoms and, in general, a higher quality of life after taking the probiotics for four weeks.
Studies on herbs have been mixed. Peppermint has been used to relax colon muscles. The Mayo Clinic advises anyone who'd like to try it to get the enteric-coated capsules. A possible side effect is heartburn.