Offered by Jessica Ahmed, LAc, DiplOM
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an increasingly common illness in the United States, affecting around 14% of the population. The most common symptoms are alternating diarrhea and constipation, abdominal pain, gas and bloating. Since IBS is a syndrome, or aggregate of symptoms, there is no definitive test for diagnosis, and the term can sometimes be used for a wide range of unexplained digestive issues.
Stress is a contributing factor in many cases, and often symptoms worsen during periods of increased stress. With this in mind, finding healthy ways to manage stress are key to IBS treatment. Here are some additional tips on how to heal your digestive system, naturally:
ELIMINATION DIET: Avoid common allergens and digestive irritants, gradually re-introducing them one at a time. A hypoallergenic diet is one that avoids sugar, caffeine, alcohol, milk, wheat, soy, corn, and all processed foods. Keep in mind that you don’t need to do this forever, but it will empower you to make better choices if you directly experience the consequences of eating certain foods.
HEALING FOODS: From a Chinese medicine perspective, foods that are cold or overly sweet are difficult to digest. There is also a concept in Chinese medicine of “dampness” being hard on digestion. Foods that are damp include dairy, fried and greasy foods, coffee, alcohol, and even some fruits like bananas. Easy to digest foods include soups and stews of vegetables, meats and whole grains, especially rice. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are already partially digested, so they are also good choices.
ACUPUNCTURE: There are a number of acupuncture points that directly treat the digestive system, and in addition, I often add points for stress resiliency and immune system function, which can be compromised with IBS. Over time, people often notice that acupuncture helps them tolerate a wider variety of foods.
HERBS: With Chinese herbology, we select a formula for each individual based on that person’s specific pathology patterns, but there are a couple of important digestive herbs you can find in your grocery store, or maybe even your garden: mint and ginger. Ginger is a warming herb, while mint is cooling, so you may prefer to consume mint tea in the summer, while saving your ginger root for wintertime.
PROBIOTICS: A high-quality probiotic supplement supports healthy digestive function by replenishing good gut bacteria.
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