IBS symptoms can be so uncomfortable that many of us seek “alternative natural remedies” to relieve our symptoms. Much like any other syndromes or disease, there are several remedies that present themselves as a cure. I’ve heard it all – from turmeric, to rubbing basil and peppermint oil on your tummy, to drinking different teas. But is there actual scientific evidence behind these so-called remedies? The truth is, many of these “cures” lack research that supports them as effective remedies for IBS.
Tumeric in various forms has been getting a lot of press as an anti-inflammatory that will soothe your digestive tract and decrease painful IBS symptoms. Though there are studies that suggest turmeric might be beneficial to some people suffering with IBS, it should not be seen as a cure-all for your symptoms. If you want to add a little more tumeric to your cooking it won’t harm you, but don’t be expecting miracles or trying to figure out ways to ingest large quantities of this spice.
Tea remedies are incredibly popular. Some teas are definitely more comforting than others for your digestive tract. I love a really good quality blend for digestive health. Peppermint and chamomile are my go-to’s when I’m out and about and don’t have my special blend. I usually get a large with one tea bag of each. IBS or not, we can all admit that sitting down with a hot cup of tea can relieve stress – a contributing factor to IBS symptoms. Although tea is comforting, I never suggest it to my clients as a stand-alone solution to treat IBS symptoms. I see it more as an additional benefit – those who suffer from IBS don’t need tea, but if they’re searching for a comforting hot beverage to relax with, tea would be their best bet. Read more about tea’s effects on your tummy here.
Last but not least, I’ve heard many people promote a diet high in probiotics as a way to manage IBS symptoms. I can see where this idea stems from as probiotics in general are thought to replenish the good bacteria in your gut, thus potentially improving the health of your digestive system. Although probiotics sound helpful in this respect, we don’t really have enough research at this moment to strongly suggest one strain of bacteria over another. We are starting to get clear on exactly what types of bacteria are helpful for those with IBS, but science isn’t quite there yet. As with tea and tumeric, probiotics aren’t an effective treatment for IBS, but they may be one piece of your overall plan to manage your symptoms.
IBS Myth Busting: How to Identify Fact from Fiction
The key to differentiating facts from fiction is similar to the way you identify a fad diet for weight loss. Much like weight loss diets, IBS “natural remedies” promise a quick-fix, which may work in the short-term, but in reality, is usually pretty unsustainable. Many natural remedies are promoted for their anti-inflammatory properties. Yes, most natural remedies contain a high amount of these, which could be a temporary source of comfort your digestive tract, but suggesting that these are the cure for IBS is absolutely false. The low FODMAP diet is the only evidence based remedy for the treatment of IBS at this time. In fact, over 80% of my clients that implement the diet have reported over 50% decrease in digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, discomfort, diarrhea and/or constipation after eliminating high FODMAP foods.
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How to Effectively Reduce IBS Symptoms
The reality is, those who suffer from IBS can find varying degrees of relief from these remedies, but I find that following a low FODMAP diet and eliminating trigger foods is the best way to manage IBS symptoms long-term. IBS is a “chronic disorder”, meaning that it can be managed through appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes for the long-term. As much as I would love to offer a “cure”, managing IBS is a lifelong activity, and a lot of determining what’s right for you is trial and error. Working with a professional, such as a registered dietitian or team that specializes in IBS and digestive health, like our team at the Clairmont Digestive Clinic, is something that may help you sort through what works and what doesn’t work for your body.
For a few more management strategies, read my top 3 Strategies for Healthy Digestion article.
Stay tuned for next weeks post as we talk about a few natural remedies that may actually be beneficial for your IBS!
Wishing you good gut health & wellness,
Stephanie and the Team