Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both.

IBS doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of IBS vary but are usually present for a long time. The most common include:

  • Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating that is related to passing a bowel movement
  • Changes in appearance of bowel movement
  • Changes in how often you are having a bowel movement

Other symptoms that are often related include bloating, increased gas or mucus in the stool.

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea at night
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement

Causes

  • Muscle contractions in the intestine. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract as they move food through your digestive tract. Contractions that are stronger and last longer than normal can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. Weak intestinal contractions can slow food passage and lead to hard, dry stools.
  • Nervous system. Abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive system may cause you to experience greater than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines can cause your body to overreact to changes that normally occur in the digestive process, resulting in pain, diarrhea or constipation.
  • Severe infection. IBS can develop after a severe bout of diarrhea (gastroenteritis) caused by bacteria or a virus. IBS might also be associated with a surplus of bacteria in the intestines (bacterial overgrowth).
  • Early life stress. People exposed to stressful events, especially in childhood, tend to have more symptoms of IBS.
  • Changes in gut microbes. Examples include changes in bacteria, fungi and viruses, which normally reside in the intestines and play a key role in health. Research indicates that the microbes in people with IBS might differ from those in healthy people.

Triggers

Symptoms of IBS can be triggered by:

  • Food. The role of food allergy or intolerance in IBS isn’t fully understood. A true food allergy rarely causes IBS. But many people have worse IBS symptoms when they eat or drink certain foods or beverages, including wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk and carbonated drinks.
  • Stress. Most people with IBS experience worse or more-frequent signs and symptoms during periods of increased stress. But while stress may aggravate symptoms, it doesn’t cause them.

Risk Factors

Many people have occasional signs and symptoms of IBS. But you’re more likely to

have the syndrome if you:

  • Are young. IBS occurs more frequently in people under age 50.
  • Are female. In the United States, IBS is more common among women. Estrogen therapy before or after menopause also is a risk factor for IBS.
  • Have a family history of IBS. Genes may play a role, as may shared factors in a family’s environment or a combination of genes and environment.
  • Have anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. A history of sexual, physical or emotional abuse also might be a risk factor. 

Complications

Chronic constipation or diarrhea can cause hemorrhoids.

In addition, IBS is associated with:

  • Poor quality of life. Many people with moderate to severe IBS report poor quality of life. Research indicates that people with IBS miss three times as many days from work as do those without bowel symptoms.
  • Mood disorders. Experiencing the signs and symptoms of IBS can lead to depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety also can make IBS worse.

Homoeopathic Treatment

1. Lycopodium clavatum: This remedy is well-suited to people with IBS & food intolerances, especially onions, oysters, cabbage and beans. The pains are worse in the evening, typically from 4- 8pm and are relieved by passing wind. The inflamed digestive tract struggles to get enough nutrition from food, so there can be loss of weight with fullness and bloating in the abdomen. The appetite is very changeable and can go from being ravenous to very full after a few mouthfuls.

2. Colocynthis: This remedy has terrible stomach cramps that are better for doubling up and may be worse from anger or indignation. The pains are short, sharp & pinching and aggravated after eating, especially fruit. Heat & pressure give some relief to the pains which can extend to the lower back or into the buttocks. It is also a very useful remedy for sciatica and neuralgic pain in general.

3. Nux Vomica: This remedy suits people who burn the candle at both ends, working hard and playing harder. Eventually, this stressful lifestyle takes its toll and the digestive system suffers. There are severe stomach cramps and acid reflux that are aggravated by mental exertion. Hiccough, belching, fullness and indigestion are worse after coffee, spicy foods and smoking. There can also be a lot of nausea and feelings of being sea – sick. The remedy is also very useful to treat a hangover.

4. Arsenicum album: Stomach cramps that are worse after taking cold. This remedy suits people who always feel chilly; so much so that even eating cold food such as ice cream aggravates. There is a great deal of diarrhoea that can come on after drinking whilst moving around makes everything worse. Taking regular sips of a warm drink and lying down to rest bring relief.

5. Argentum nitricum: In this remedy there is a lot of wind, with very loud and forceful belching or flatulence. There is nausea and indigestion associated with nerves or anxiety, especially when anticipating a stressful event like a job interview or exam.

6. Sulphur: Stomach cramps aggravated by touch, with burning pains worse in the morning and at night. Appetite is usually increased, especially around 11am with an ‘all-gone’ sensation. The stomach feels very heavy straight after eating.

7. Bryonia Alba: A useful remedy in IBS that is aggravated after eating bread and where the thirst is increased. The stomach may feel so heavy that it is like a stone is sitting there. Belching relieves the pain and tastes of undigested food. Tight clothing and walking about also worsen the condition.

8. Carbo Veg: The remedy is well-suited to older people or those suffering from general fatigue with stomach pains that are burning, sore or pressing. There are cramps which feel like the stomach is being contracted with a lot of bloating after eating. Butter, fats & rich foods can cause belching, heartburn and indigestion with weakness or faintness.

9. China Officinalis: Stomach acidity with a great deal of bloating & bitter or sour belching. The appetite swings from being ravenous to being completely off food, with a feeling of fullness after eating a small amount. Fruit and milk aggravate and the pains are pressing or sore. Digestion in general is very slow.

10. Natrum muriaticum: Indigestion after too much starchy food with sour belching & terrible hiccough. There are painful stomach cramps, aggravated by touch. Strong emotions such as grief, or stewing on the past can aggravate the condition.

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