They say a fat stomach never breeds fine thoughts. My take on the matter is different. I say a troublesome tummy breeds just one thought – how to tackle the aches, the gas, the bloating and all other problems.
Hiya folks; this is your favorite Essential Oil gal, Olivia and I am back with one more of my ultimate essential oils guide to a common health condition.
If I were to compile a list of all pesky health issues and by that I mean problems that do not merit frequent visits to the doctor but do make your life unbearable, IBS or irritable bowel syndrome would be among the top three.
With almost 20 – 45 million Americans suffering from the condition, I’d call it a very common problem. To make things more interesting, it also happens to be a chronic issue that can greatly impact your life. And here is one of life’s great ironies – IBS is not even a disease; it is just a bunch of symptoms clubbed under one name.
Yet, the condition will make you miss work and school. It will make you dread eating certain foods. It will make you commit ghastly olfactory crimes. It will mess up your mood in a BIG way. It will send you on the lookout for a toilet every few minutes. And that is just for starters!
So, if Pepto-Bismol or any other antacid have turned into your appetizer or dessert of choice, let me tell you how to handle your troubled tummy the natural way. But first, let us get to know this pesky problem called IBS!
Folks, Say Hello To Our Foe For The Day – Irritable Bowel Syndrome!
Men, women, youngsters and seniors…nobody is spared the sinister ways of IBS, although women do seem to be at the receiving end of IBS’ devious play more often than men. Now, the disorder can attack in a host of ways. From cramping to bloating and from gas to diarrhea and nausea, this ailment covers all of them and more.
A chronic condition, IBS can impact your life but seldom leads to the onset of other serious diseases of the stomach. Unfortunately, don’t expect to recover from it by using drugs because they are still not sure about the root cause of the ailment. Since they don’t know what causes it, they can’t cure it and all you are left with are superficial treatments for the symptoms of the condition.
That said, I bet you are wondering what happens to your tummy as IBS attacks. For starters, there is a change in the bowel movement accompanied by random and acute contractions of the intestine. Often the contractions are normal, but your brain simply perceives them as acute.
Together, these impact digestion, which in turn causes bloating, diarrhea and nausea. Now, all that pooping and puking is bound to cause inflammation, which presents itself as pain and cramps. The friendly bacteria in the tummy eventually give up in the face of the adversity. This makes the bad critters thrive. More bad bacteria means an increase in the risk of stomach infections, which in turn will lead to IBS again. So, as you can see there is no escaping this vicious cycle once it starts.
What is IBS – You Know You Are Suffering From IBS If…
Remember guys this is a chronic condition. So, if a bout of binge eating has led to tummy troubles but normally you can stomach just about anything, it is not IBS that is on your case. This is a temperamental ailment that will usually keep bothering you day in and day out. If you are lucky, the symptoms may let up for a few days or disappear completely, but rest assured they will come back with a vengeance. That said, IBS is classified into 3 categories, based on the predominant symptom.
1. IBS with diarrhea
This one will make you cling to the porcelain throne for dear life. In fact, sufferers often have to give their tummy a few hours to settle at the start of the day and report deliberately planning their travels and work life in such a way that they are never too far from a toilet.
IBS-D is more common in men and overall 33% of people who suffer from IBS have this form of the condition. In terms of frequency of symptoms, people suffering from IBS-D report as many as 200 or more days of diarrhea each year. Stools are loose and the urge to pass bowel movement is intense and is often accompanied by gas and abdominal pain.
2. IBS with constipation
This form of the disorder is more common in women and is characterized by hard stools, straining, intense abdominal pain and cramping, bloating and gas. Once again, the symptoms are experienced for 200 or more days a year.
3. IBS with alternating symptoms (diarrhea and constipation)
This form of IBS is the hardest to treat because the symptoms oppose each other. So, when you try to overcome constipation, this leads to loose stools and the treatment for diarrhea causes constipation. Unfortunately, you cannot go jumping from one side to the other every day.
Some suggest that there is also a fourth category but nobody seems to be sure about which one it is. I have found some experts who suggest that IBS-unspecified is another classification, a form in which you experience the whole gamut of symptoms and you can never be sure which one is predominant.
There are also those who term stomach infection induced IBS as the fourth classification. Although not always, stomach infections are known to significantly increase the risk of IBS. This form of the condition typically starts with significant abdominal pain.
Apart from constipation and diarrhea, the other symptoms of IBS include:
- Uncontrollable urgency for bowel movement
- Abdominal pain
- Mucus in stools
Along with constipation and/or diarrhea, one or more of the above symptoms should be experienced for 1 to 3 times or more a week for a period of 6 months preceding diagnosis for the ailment to qualify as IBS. A hallmark of the disorder is that the symptoms seem to get relieved after a bowel movement, be it constipation, abdominal pain, bloating or diarrhea.
IBS Causes, Triggers And Risks!
As I said before, nobody knows the exact cause of IBS. What experts do know is that it isn’t a chemical or structural change nor does it cause cancer or any other gastrointestinal disease. That said, there are factors which often act as triggers for IBS. These include:
- Using medication that impacts gut bacteria like antibiotics
- An infection of the stomach or of the digestive tract like salmonella
- Hormonal changes
- Stress, anxiety & depression and other psychological issues
- Family history of IBS
- Eating certain types of food (more on this later)
- Eating too quickly
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Menstruation (the hormonal changes make the symptoms of IBS worse)
Typically, you are more at risk to suffer from IBS if:
- You are in the age group of 20-45 years. It is very common to suffer from the condition in the late twenties and early thirties.
- You are a woman. Generally, women are two to three times more likely to suffer from IBS.
- You have a history of psychological problems
- You have irregular periods, which is a sign of massive hormonal fluctuations
- You suffer from food sensitivities
When Is It Time To See A Doctor If You Have IBS?
If your symptoms are recurrent, it is best to see a doctor at once instead of suffering in silence. I assure you IBS is not an ailment that is “just in your head”. It is a real disorder that will impact your life in a host of ways. Also, it does not go away if ignored. So, I assure you no doctor is going to make light of your symptoms, even if to you they are only minor tummy troubles. With that out of the way, let me tell you when you absolutely MUST see a doctor. If you have:
- Fever along with the other symptoms of IBS
- Low grade fever that is recurrent
- Swelling and tenderness on the left side of the abdomen
- Pain in your tummy that does not ebb away after a bowel movement
- Blood in the stools
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
- Ulcers in the mouth
- Changes in bowel habit
- Iron deficiency
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
How Does Modern Medicine Deal With IBS?
The treatment approach involves treating the symptoms and avoiding the triggers. So, your doctor will ask you to make some changes to your lifestyle and eating habits. I am going to discuss this with you shortly as well. But first, let me tell you about the common medication prescribed for IBS:
1. Deal with the diarrhea
Antidiarrheals such as loperamide, atropine, cholestyramine, diphenoxylate, alosetron and rifaximin are prescribed for 10-14 days, depending on just how severe the diarrhea is.
2. Deal with the constipation
Basically, these meds are laxatives. Most are available OTC but you should talk to your doctor before using them too frequently. Doctors generally start with drugs that have the lowest potency, such as osmotic laxatives or milk of magnesia and move their way up to stimulant laxatives like senokot and others.
3. Deal with the pain and cramps
Anticholinergics like dicyclomine and low dose antidepressants like desipramine are recommended for the pain.
4. Deal with the anxiety, stress and depression
Everything from Prozac to valium and more are prescribed to keep the psychological issues that trigger and exacerbate IBS, in check. The side effects of anti-depressants are too well known for me to harp about them.
At some point, your doctor will tell you to consider alternative treatments such as herbal and Chinese medication and therapies like acupuncture. Behavioral therapy is another common treatment recommendation. In essence, doctors take a two-step approach to treat IBS. They use therapy or alternative treatment and life style changes to get a grip on the triggers and they use medication to control the symptoms.
Why Should You Turn To Essential Oils To Show IBS The Way Out Of Your Life?
When you go 100% natural with your IBS treatment, you not only prevent the triggers but also the symptoms. In other words, you will be making IBS vanish from your life, without a trace and EO’s are the best candidate for the job because they work on just about every trigger and symptom of IBS.
For starters, EO’s are famed for their ability to tone down stress levels and infections. Second, many oils have carminative and antispasmodic properties, so they prevent the accumulation of gas in the digestive system and they stop painful spasms of the intestine, which lead to bloating, discomfort and pain.
You will also find oils and herbs that improve digestion and relieve constipation without causing diarrhea. Similarly, there are oils that stop the constant need to run to the loo without leading to a choked up system. To cut a long story short, EOs are “do-it-all” remedies and that is exactly what you need to control and cure IBS.
The Best 9 Essential Oils For IBS
This one is a classic from the East and has superlative carminative properties. So, with cumin oil in your arsenal, gas sure won’t be bothering you. Additionally, the volatile oil derived from the tiny brown seeds of cumin is also a potent analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory agent. That pretty much covers all the triggers and symptoms of IBS.
Long been used as a digestive aid, the herb as well as the essential oil derived from its seeds and leaves is an effective way to treat all gastric problems, including gas, bloating, indigestion and heartburn.
The EO of Peppermint is clinically proven to help tame almost all the symptoms of IBS. Simply put, there is nothing the ailment can throw your way that this oil cannot control. It stimulates and soothes the digestive system at once, which means that it can be used to control both diarrhea and constipation along with abdominal pain and gas.
The sweet smelling oil is remarkably effective against gas and bloating. Plus, it can also be used to treat vomiting, nausea and indigestion. The best part is that it can be used topically and taken orally for dealing with IBS.
The spicy root has been used as the cure for all gastric issues for centuries. The essential oil derived from it gets you all the benefits of the root and then some more. The biggest advantage of using this aromatic extract in your fight against IBS is that it soothes the internal lining of the digestive tract, thus controlling food sensitivities. The warming oil also helps to prevent intestinal spasms that cause cramping and pain and helps to move food matter along the digestive tract.
The carminative oil has gentle laxative properties that work well against constipation and bloating without harming the digestive system. Anise EO is a natural antispasmodic agent that stimulates and improves digestion. So, it helps against diarrhea and constipation.
A full body tonic, lemongrass essential oil not only helps to deal with the pain and the bloating associated with IBS but also deals with all types of stomach infections that eventually lead up to the onset of the condition. Furthermore, the soothing and calming effect of the oil works on both the mind and the digestive system.
If IBS and leaky gut syndrome are bothering you, oregano EO can offer quick relief owing to its strong anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, it kicks stress out and brings in happy thoughts and mood, all of which can help with anxiety and depression linked IBS.
You would not typically think of this oil as a possible cure for IBS. However, lavender can help immensely if your gastric issues are the result of stress or depression. Few oils calm the mind and the muscles like lavender does. Plus it offers an overall sense of relaxation, and your body needs this to focus on the process of digestion.
Top 6 Essential Oil Recipes For IBS
1. IBS go away tummy rub
- 2 ounces carrier oil of your choice (sweet almond, olive, coconut, sesame oil will work just fine)
- 15 drops fennel EO
- 8 drops peppermint EO
- 8 drops coriander EO
Mix the oils and store in a dark glass bottle. To use, apply in down ward strokes all over the abdomen, starting at the diaphragm and moving your hands down towards the lower abdomen. Exert gentle pressure as you move your hands but don’t press too hard. The idea is to get the trapped gases and fecal matter to move along the gastric tract. You can use this blend to treat stomach pain or you can use it preemptively half an hour after your meal to prevent the buildup of gas.
2. Aroma blend to keep tummy troubles away
- 20 drops each of lavender, lemongrass and anise essential oil
Mix the essential oils and store in dark glass bottle, use as you would any other diffuser blend. Put 8-10 drops in your diffuser and diffuse about 30 minutes before bed time or when stressed.
3. A cup a day to keep IBS away!
- 6 drops each of cumin, fennel, peppermint, ginger EO
Mix the oils and store in a dark glass bottle. To use, add 1 drop of the blend to a cup of warm water and have it after a large meal or right after lunch and dinner. For more severe symptoms, you can increase the dosage to 2 drops per cup of water but don’t go over that and remember to only use 100% pure, organic grade essential oils.
4. Soak those IBS troubles away
- 2 cups Epsom salts
- 10 drops lemon grass essential oil
- 10 drops fennel essential oil
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
Mix the oils with the Epsom salt and set aside. Run a hot bath and add the salt-oil mixture to it and stir the water well. Soak yourself in the hot bath for no less than 15 minutes to get immediate relief from abdominal pain, bloating and stress.
5. Reflexology rub for IBS relief
- 2 ounces carrier oil of your choice
- 10 drops cumin EO
- 10 drops peppermint EO
- 10 drops fennel EO
Mix the oils and store in a dark colored glass bottle. To use, rub a drop of oil around your navel and on your lower back and on the webbing between your index finger and your thumb. You can also try this blend on other reflexology points.
6. Hot oil treatment for IBS
- 2 ounces castor oil
- 8 drops of coriander EO
- 6 drops each of ginger and peppermint EO
- 10 drops of fennel EO
Mix the oils together and store the blend in a dark glass bottle. To use, warm about a teaspoon of the oil. It should be warm enough to feel the soothing heat but not hot enough to burn the skin. Apply all over the belly in downward strokes with gentle pressure. After the massage, soak cotton flannel in hot water, wring it out and place on the belly till it cools, repeat for 15 minutes or place a hot water bottle on the damp cloth to keep the heat going.
Home Treatment And Lifestyle Changes For IBS
1. Tea to the rescue
Brew yourself a delicious infusion by combining ginger root and fennel seeds or a combination of caraway seeds and chamomile flowers or anise and fennel. Enjoy the tea about 30 minutes before meal time or after or you could sip on 3-4 cups of the delicious infusion throughout the day. This will keep all types of stomach ailments away.
2. Work out to work tummy troubles out
Regular exercise and yoga poses that work the muscles in the abdomen also help to stimulate the digestive process and strengthen the digestive system. In fact, make it a point to not move to the couch or your bed immediately after a heavy meal. Even a 15-minute walk will help to get your digestion going and will create a notable difference in your tummy troubles.
3. Stress relief for a peaceful tummy
Meditation, mindfulness, self-hypnosis, acupressure, soothing music, a walk in nature will help to chase away mental blues and all their physical ramifications, including IBS.
4. Mind your eating habits
Go slow on dairy products, fatty foods, refined carbs, insoluble fiber (if you have diarrhea), coffee, soda, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, cruciferous veggies, chocolate and processed foods. Small meals eaten at regular intervals are better than large meals, as is picking water as your drink of choice.
5. Herbs and supplements to kick IBS out of your life
Instead of opting for chemical laxatives, pick natural products like extracts of berry leaves, vitamin C, the herb amlaki and olive leaf extract to get relief from gastric inflammation, infections and IBS. For obstinate constipation, use an herb mixture called triphala. For alternating symptoms, psyllium husk can help a lot because it adds bulk to the stools and softens them, thus helping with diarrhea as well as constipation.
6. Eat your way to a healthy tummy
Bananas, fruit flesh (not skin, which is all insoluble fiber), whole grains, oat bran, plenty of fluids and yoghurt can help to ease all types of stomach and digestive issues. Just remember to enjoy every morsel instead of just gulping your food down. Eating small portions and chewing food well will make things easier for your digestive system.
The Parting Shot
Yes, you can live with IBS, but ignoring the condition or treating it superficially is not going to make it go away. At this point, they do know that IBS does not lead to any life threatening ailments but it does wreak havoc on your life, particularly your social life. In turn, this is bound to cause depression, stress and social anxiety, which will simply increase the intensity of your IBS symptoms. Moreover, frequent trips to the loo will increase your risk of developing hemorrhoids. So, deal with your IBS preemptively. On that note, here is wishing you all many years of tummy trouble free life!