Herbal Help for Irritable Bowel Disease
One doesn’t need to go far to meet someone experiencing “Irritable Bowel Disease” or “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”. In fact, at least 20% of North Americans have one challenge or another which goes under this “umbrella” term. That’s about 50 million people!
So many of my own clients have ‘digestive system challenges’. I feel that a good health programme definitely includes a focus on digestive system support.
What causes IBD?
It appears to be a combination of issues including: genetics, allergies, bacteria, parasites, a poor diet and environmental toxins. With each person having this health challenge, the cause can be different but is normally one of the above. The overall issue?
The bottom line? Dysfunction of your gut’s ecosystem.
People suffering with IBD experience irregular contractions of the digestive tract which lead to painful symptoms such as bloating or gas, cramping, distention, constipation or diarrhea. Often people with IBD learn to fear food because they are unsure what they will feel like after they have eaten. This is a huge topic; an important topic. So much of what is ‘dis-ease’ is a combination of digestive upset and internal inflammation. I often write about ways to improve digestive ability; enhance ability to actually ‘use’ the nutrients in our daily meals ~ optimum for best health.
In my herbal practice, I create a customized plan for each client, which supports them from many angles on several levels. It’s such a common challenge, though, so I thought I’d share some general ideas (As always, I am sharing from experience and my ideas do not replace a doctor’s care) I will include some books for your reference, below. Irritable Bowel Disease can be helped with herbs and specific supplements. I hope that some of these ideas will prove helpful for you and your family.
THREE HERBS to CONSIDER:
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – ‘enteric-coated’ Capsule. An excellent digestive herb, peppermint relieves gas and upset tummy symptoms. It tends to help with bloating and discomfort. Mint teas are well known to soothe digestive upset. Peppermint essential oil in this form, reaches the colon and in my experience, relieves symptoms in most cases. Purchase “enteric-coated capsule” and follow package instructions.
- Milk Thistle Seed (Silymarin)- Tincture. Milk Thistle seed is nourishing and supportive for the liver and helps to boost liver function. A fully functioning liver can help to change the issues with an irritated bowel. I also make a ‘condiment’ with milk thistle seeds and other herbs (in a grinder) to add these healthy attributes to the diet. Purchase Milk Thistle seed tincture.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – Tincture. Licorice soothes irritation, inflammation and spasms in the digestive tract. A well-known liver supportive herb, it increases bile flow and can help to lower cholesterol levels too.
**Licorice can be contra-indicated if one has hypertension. Purchase a version from your local health food store called “de-glycyrrhizinated licorice”, or DGL as it’s commonly called; this form does NOT increase blood pressure. Follow package directions.
I must emphasize that what we eat, the amounts, combinations; when we eat – all make a substantial difference in our well being. Foods can irritate your bowel and digestive system. Food ‘sensitivities’ (which are not to be confused with food allergies such as peanut or shellfish) can be a good place to start.
- GLUTEN is considered one of the biggest substances to cause food sensitivities these days. Gluten-Free options have become very evident in local grocery stores.
Corn, Sugar, Dairy, Soy, and Eggs! — the next most common culprits to check. Some folks find that omitting one of these at a time is helpful, all the while keeping track of meals in a food journal so that if symptoms arise, they can keep track of possible irritants.
We need good ‘gut flora’ which means that we can truly benefit from good quality fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and basically ANY type of fermented vegetable. Many practitioners feel that probiotics are a must to build up the integrity of the ‘gut flora’.
Stay tuned for more ways to support healthy digestion!
ALSO, as promised, some reference ideas:
Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet
Boosting Your Digestive Health: Through Conventional and Alternative Methods
Foundations of Health: Healing with Herbs & Foods