Irritable Bowel

Irritable bowel is a very common disorder affecting perhaps 15% of all people in the industrialized world. It is a disturbance in the way the intestines function and is reversible with changes in the diet and lifestyle, and with the addition if a few dietary supplements. If not looked after, the condition can worsen and progress to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and proctitis).

The goal of this section is to help you learn to "read" your body's signals early, and change course, back to healthy.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel

  • abdominal pain
  • bloating and or cramping
  • passing excess gas
  • diarrhea or constipation, lumpy or loose stool
  • feeling generally unwell
  • occasionally passing mucus - although this is usually a symptom of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • stool urgency or straining
  • anemia

Causes of Irritable Bowel

Irritable bowel syndrome has many possible causes. Before we explore these, by way of contrast, let's first look at what might be the scenario for perfect digestion.

You contemplate something beautiful.rose

You turn off your cell phone, computer and the disturbing news on TV. You are hungry. You anticipate the meal, perhaps you help to prepare it, or you can see it in your imagination (on the menu). You are in a peaceful setting, possibly with friend(s), having a peaceful, but interesting, conversation. You have lots of time. The food is ready. It smells and looks wonderful. You take lots of time to chew well, stopping before you are over-full. You finish the meal in peace and go for a stroll afterwards. AS a consequence you have one, two, or even three easy, well formed "smiles" as bowel movements daily and very little gas.

Sound like your life? Then you have probably worked very hard to create it. For most of us, this is not the way life is. Is it any wonder that digestive aids are hot selling items?

So what are the factors that contribute to irritable bowel?

  • often an infection - stomach flu, bacterial or parasitic intestinal infection.
  • an infection treated with an antibiotic
  • food poisoning
  • possible infection with a type of dangerous bacteria, Clostridium dificile, frequently the cause of post-antibiotic diarrhoea
  • chronic digestive upset
  • rushing, not chewing well (aim for not fewer than 30 chews/mouthful)
  • drinking liquids with meals especially cold ones which dilutes your gastric juices and impairs digestion
  • disturbance in the friendly bacteria (probiotics) in the intestine, usually from a diet which habitually includes lots of carbs, sweets, alcohol, fruit or fruit juice, or perhaps had a recent course of antibiotics without replacing the good bacteria
  • stress, emotional upset
  • poor food choices - excess in general, too few vegetables and, excess fruit and sweets
  • lots of refined flour products - bread, crackers, pizza, pasta

What is going on in the body with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Bloating is caused by gas produced in the intestine, or swallowed, either in carbonated drinks or unconsciously. A healthy person produces a small amount of only slightly noxious gas daily. Fermentation producing excess gas occurs in a number of different situations:

  • when food sits in the intestine for too long because the intestine is sluggish
  • when digestion is weakened i.e. with antacids or acid inhibitors
  • by the consumption of excess food in general, and by sweets and carbs
  • by eating foods which the body has difficulty combining (see food combining suggestions)
  • when you have gas produced by fermentation caused by Candida.

Cramping comes from several causes:

  • constipated, hard stool
  • excess food eaten too fast
  • stress and tension
  • coffee and caffinated beverages

Diarrhea - loose watery stool means the intestine is irritated and trying to get its contents out in a hurry. This can occur in a number of situations:

  • infection - viral gastroenteritis, bacterial infections, dysbiosis
  • food intolerances (lactose or gluten) are frequent culprits
  • stress
  • laxative abuse

How is it handled medically?

  • increase soluble fibre i.e. psyllium ( good idea )
  • prescribed antispasmodics (can relieve symptoms but doesn't fix the problem )
  • anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants
  • when inflammatory bowel disease develops, treatment focuses on reduction of inflammation with NSAIDS (aspirin or similar medications), steroids, occasionally, antibiotics or immune suppressive drugs
  • surgery, if the bowel is so badly damaged it cannot be saved

Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel

Irritable bowel syndrome is a diagnosis based on exclusion; mostly based on your symptoms. To make the diagnosis you will likely have had symptoms for a period of time - usually over six months. Your primary care physician may make the diagnosis or choose to refer you to a gastroententerologist who may elect to do a gastroscopy (to look into your stomach and upper intestine). You likely should have blood tests to rule out celiac disease, stool samples to rule out bacteria and parasites, and a colonoscopy to examine the lower bowel. With all of these tests normal, you'll be told you have an irritable bowel.

Overview of Healing

There is no magic bullet to take to cure irritable bowel syndrome. There is however a way to make this condition better in almost every case. It involves change. Attitudes and habits. Hard to do. You will get support for these changes by working with a trained professional. Make your eating more of a priority. Invest in some good quality digestive enzymes and probiotics.

Suggestions for healing Irritable Bowel

Chose foods which are fresh, perhaps cooked by you or someone in your family. Chose items from the health food section of your food market or health food store. Brown bag it for lunch. Chew well, in as peaceful a setting as you can. Try a warm soup as a starter. Drink cold liquids little, and not at all, during the meal. Use whole grains. Eliminate wheat - use Spelt or Kamut instead. Take a good quality digestive enzyme with the meal. Some people will do better with the complete elimination of gluten grains. Take probiotics daily. Drink very little or no coffee.

The Candida diet is a good way to start. It is tough to do but in a few days you will begin to see results. You will need to persevere. It may take you weeks or months. The benefit will be that your bowel movements become easier, the stool becomes soft, easy, and regular. Your energy level will pick up.

If you have been diagnosed with C. dificile, you will likely require a special type of antibiotic (Flagyl™ or metronidazol). If you have parasites, you will benefit from herbs, like wormwood, which can be helpful. Medications can also work, but both herbs and medications to kill parasites are strong, and should only be used while being supervised by a health professional.


Taking enzymes and probiotics are usually vital in healing irritable bowel.

I suggest starting with a type of yeast which competes with the dangerous yeasts (Candida) and harmful bacteria in the intestine. Start with Saccachromyces boulardii, a live yeast. It will multiply in the intestine and push out the harmful bacteria and yeasts without itself becoming a permanent resident of the bowel. If you have diarrhoea, i suggest that adults, take two capsules twice daily with foods. Stop Saccharomyces in a few days, or when the diarrhoea subsides. Immediately begin using a high quality digestive enzyme supplement to aid in the breakdown of dietary proteins.

As the negative symptoms begin to subside, switch from Saccachromyces to Lactobacillus acidophilus and L. bifidus. These live bacteria are usually present in a healthy intestine but are largely eliminated when we take a course of antibiotics. When they are missing in the gut, they create an opportunity for harmful bacteria and yeasts to move in. In the beginning of the healing process, taking these probiotics daily, together with enzymes, is crucial.

To give your immune system a lift, add WGP™ beta-glucan.

WGP™ beta-glucan has been demonstrated to have a very powerful effect on immunity. In the intestine, it stimulates the natural killer cells and local lymphocytes to go into action against yeasts and harmful bacteria. It not only works locally but also through the whole body where it assists immunity in a similar way. Studies show that by giving WGP™ beta-glucan to lab animals, they are more able to withstand the harmful effects of radiation, burns, and harmful bacteria (anthrax).

Other supplements may have a beneficial effect but some are harsh and can be harmful. In particular, caprylic acid, tea tree oil and other strong compounds can be too powerful and kill not only the harmful bacteria but also the good ones. They need to be used with caution and usually in conjunction with advice from a health professional.