Managing Chronic Conditions

Integrative Treatment Options for IBS

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

It’s not exactly something people talk about often, but if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), know that you are not alone. IBS is a chronic condition that affects millions of Americans, and roughly 10-15 percent of the world population. It is characterized by an alteration of bowel habits and abdominal pain in the absence of any other cause (think: food sensitivities, Crohn’s disease, etc.), which can make it very difficult to treat. It can also be an uncomfortable subject to talk about, which may leave many to suffer in silence.

From medication to other forms of treatment, the goal is to control symptoms as much as possible. Radhika Aggarwal, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Henry Ford Health System, discusses some integrative treatment options that may help alleviate symptoms of IBS.

  1. Specialized diets
    In many cases, those with IBS experience a flair-up in their symptoms after they eat certain foods. Through various alternative diets like the low FODMAP diet, which involves avoiding foods that contain specific types of carbohydrates, or by going completely gluten-free, IBS patients may be able to lessen their symptoms. These types of elimination diets can also help pinpoint what types of foods trigger their bloat, abdominal pain, gas and other symptoms.
  1. Meditation
    “There is a strong mind-gut connection which has been shown to play a role in IBS,” Dr. Aggarwal says. “So when a patient is feeling stress and anxiety, their symptoms tend to be worse.”Using meditation as a treatment method helps people release their stress and anxiety and better manage the situations that cause these feelings.
  1. Acupuncture
    Much like meditation, acupuncture can be used as a relaxation technique to help people with IBS handle their stress and anxiety, which in turn can help them find relief from their symptoms. Acupuncture is also a popular treatment option for those looking to manage their pain, and can be a useful tool to help reduce the pain and discomfort that comes from IBS.
  1. Probiotics
    There is a strong connection between the bacteria in the gut and IBS, and probiotics can help ensure that the proper bacteria at the correct amounts is present, which can help stabilize the digestive tract.“An alteration in the normal bacteria or flora in the GI tract can lead to symptoms of IBS, so getting gut bacteria to a stable level can make a big difference,” Dr. Aggarwal says.

Some herbs have also been known to help alleviate symptoms. Turmeric, for example, may help reduce inflammation and bloating, while peppermint oil can be beneficial for abdominal discomfort and reducing cramping.

Because IBS is treated based on individual symptoms and pinpointing your unique triggers, it is important to work with a doctor to find the best treatment options for you, Dr. Aggarwal says.

“A good strategy for many patients is to take their medication in combination with other natural treatments,” she says. “Finding a balance that is right for you and that doesn’t interfere with your daily life is the ultimate goal.”

Want to learn more about IBS and what treatment options are available? Schedule an appointment with a specialist online or by calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Radhika Aggarwal is a gastroenterologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane in Dearborn.

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