IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is a condition that effects millions of people in North America, and IBS symptoms are poorly treated with conventional medicine alone. There is no one medicine that works well for controlling the main symptoms of IBS, such as belly (or abdominal) IBS pain, bloating, and diarrhoea or constipation. There are many drugs that are now marketed for IBS symptoms, including certain anti-depressants and drugs that work on specific body chemicals like serotonin. However, many of these new drugs have lots of side effects, and are still not very effective.
The most effective treatment for IBS pain, IBS symptoms and discomfort is a Holistic or Integrative Medicine approach. WHY? Because there IS GOOD RESEARCH on TREATING IBS symptoms and getting RID of SYMPTOMS or vastly improving them using Mind-body techniques, Nutritional approaches, and Natural Medicine.
So if you suffer from IBS and have ‘tried EVERYTHING’ your doctor has given you and still have found no RELIEF, an integrative approach can help because the Brain and GUT are VERY CONNECTED! That means what goes on in your body’s nervous system can affect DIGESTION and IBS SYMPTOMS! Emotions, thoughts, and subconscious patterns of thinking all affect your nervous system and your brain, which talks to the ‘little brain or second brain’ in your gut and sends messages to the gut that leads to the gut working smoothly OR POORLY, in the case of IBS! There are many known pathways between the brain and gut
As in the following exempt from the Integrative Medicine Specialists at Beth Israel Medical Centre:
“The brain controls the digestive system through a special nervous system called the ENS (Enteric Nervous System). Emotions and thoughts have a direct effect on the gut and on digestion and nutrient absorption through this complex ENS network. The ENS is SO IMPORTANT that scientists have nicknamed it the ‘second brain’ or the ‘brain in the gut.” The ‘second brain’ in the gut can make chemicals and hormones that in turn affect the brain, WITHOUT getting MESSAGES from the BRAIN FIRST!”
When the body is under CHRONIC STRESS, hormones get turned on in the brain and lead to the release of the stress hormone in the adrenal glands, CORTISOL. Chronically high levels of cortisol are bad, and lead to DECREASED IMMUNE system function, WEIGHT GAIN, INSOMNIA, and DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS. The Brain/gut interaction is involved in this process!
Patients with IBS have also been found to have the Cingulate Gyrus, an area of the brain that ENHANCES PAIN (i.e. makes PAIN WORSE) lit up more than people without IBS. So, in other words, the PAIN of IBS can actually start with differences in the BRAIN. Luckily, we can use Mind-Body techniques to CHANGE THE PAIN SIGNALS from the brain to the gut. Examples of these techniques that have been successful in IBS are:
- PMR (progressive muscular relaxation)
- guided imagery focused on the gut
- specific yoga-based programs
Holistic Nutrition, Natural Medicine, and restoring the healthy gut flora also play a role in the Holistic approach to IBS and IBS pain