Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition from which many of us suffer. Stomach pain, wind, diarrhoea as well as bloating and cramping can make everyday life difficult and uncomfortable.
Once other conditions such as ulcers or colon cancer have been ruled out, the patient is left with the fact that there is no medical cure for IBS. As with so many disorders that are not life threatening, such as back pain and anxiety, the medical community does not see the urgency in finding a cure that sufferers of the condition feel it deserves. Daily discomfort and a disrupted lifestyle due to worries about diarrhoea and embarrassing wind are considered a fact of life.
Part of the reluctance to search for a cure for IBS comes from the fact that the medical community can’t agree on what causes it. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, patients were told that it was ‘all in their heads’. It has since been shown that IBS is very much located in the gut.
Research has meanwhile concluded, that in IBS sufferers, the colon muscles and nerves are hypersensitive. This is not the only cause of IBS, but it is a contributing factor.
Sufferers also report noticing a significant increase in symptoms around times of particular stress and anxiety. This may, in fact, be the trigger. The medical community is slowly recognising the mental and emotional aspects of IBS, but will not conclude that this is the cause.
In the absence of any agreed-upon cause, doctors tend to fall back on prescription drugs such as sedatives and antidepressants in order to alleviate symptoms. While it’s true that most patients taking these medications do feel some relief, this certainly isn’t a cure. What’s more, the side effects of these drugs include addiction and even changes to behaviour.
Since stress, anxiety and depression have been identified as partly responsible for IBS, in the context of holistic health philosophy (that is, the body’s need to be in balance for health and well-being), it is hardly surprising that any emotional or spiritual imbalance upsets another part of the body. This is one thing both alternative medicine and pharmaceutical medicine can agree upon. The colon is under the control of the nervous system. The mind-body connection here is inescapable.
For this reason, alternative therapies that work to restore balance in the body and mind can be extremely useful in the treatment of IBS. Those remedies traditionally used to alleviate stress and anxiety are particularly successful as the gut responds to the same positive suggestions. Furthermore, light therapies applied directly to the stomach have been reported to aid healing, where long term IBS conditions may have caused ulcers or other physical side effects