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Controlling Irritable Bowel Syndrome With Diet
by Dr. Tina Marcantel, NMD
Editor's Note: With patient education comes empowerment. Learn how you can take a more active role in your IBS management through Naturopathic care.
"Health begins in the colon" is a frequent saying among naturopathic physicians. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is prevalent in the U.S. because our diet consists mostly of processed foods such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, refined sugar and fast foods. Combine nutrition-poor, low fiber foods with increased stress in our society and the incidence of colon disease continues to climb.
A healthy colon means a healthy immune system. When waste sits in the colon longer than it should (a long transit time), it becomes a perfect environment for toxins that can eventually cause the whole body to become toxic. It is estimated that approximately one out of seven people in the U.S. suffers from IBS. It is the most common gastrointestinal disorder.
The manifestation of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is unique to each individual. The symptoms of IBS can be characterized by altered bowel function, diarrhea or constipation, pain or distention of the abdomen, relief of pain with bowel movements, and varying degrees of anxiety or depression. The bowel may have a sensitivity to stress and certain foods or drugs.
Here are some therapeutic considerations for treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
Eat small, frequent meals.
Eat citrus fruits in small amounts.
Avoid beans (they cause gas).
Avoid fried foods and other "trigger" foods such dairy products, wheat products, carbonated beverages, foods with high sugar content, caffeine, and chocolate.
Sorbitol (found in sugar-free foods) can be another trigger. I recommend stevia as a sweetener--it is natural, tastes good, and is less likely to upset your stomach than artificial sweeteners.
Increase your intake of soluble fibers such as cooked vegetables like asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, peeled apples, carrots, oat bran, and barley. Insoluble fibers tend to be irritants.
To prevent heartburn, take enteric coated peppermint oil capsules between meals. Peppermint relaxes the GI smooth muscle and acts as an antispasmodic.
Take magnesium every day. Magnesium deficiency is associated with IBS. Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant.
Supplement your diet with digestive enzymes to help digest your food and avoid undigested proteins.
Express your frustrations verbally. "Stuffing" your problems, anger, and concerns affects you as much physically as it does mentally. I usually give myself forty-eight hours to vent, then try to forgive and let go of the past. Control psychological functions through stress reduction techniques like meditation and exercise.
As always, if symptoms are severe or long-lasting you should consult a physician.
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About the Author
Dr. Marcantel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine upon completing the four-year, graduate-level program at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Tempe, Arizona in July of 2003. She received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana, in 1979 and worked as a registered nurse in Louisiana and Texas before entering the program at SCNM.
Dr. Marcantel has over twenty-five years of experience in the health care field, and her experience includes diabetes management, women’s health, nutritional counseling, and mental health. Her background in allopathic (conventional) medicine combined with her training in naturopathic and alternative therapies helps her incorporate the best of both types of treatments in her practice.
Her approach is truly integrative. She recognizes the efficacy of many conventional treatments for problems (prescription drugs, for example) and will prescribe those therapies as needed, but her preferred treatment is a conservative and natural approach.
Dr. Marcantel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association.
For more information on Dr. Tina Marcantel visit: www.DrMarcantel.com.