Irritable Bowel Syndrome -
Simple self-help tips
By Sophie Lee
If you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome
(IBS), you will know how difficult it is to treat.
Doctors can be dismissive of IBS symptoms such as diarrhea,
constipation and bloating, and when treatment is offered it
may only help for a short while before the distressing
Sufferers often find that they have to deal with the
symptoms themselves, through self-help methods and
supplements, rather than by using conventional medicines.
However, this does not mean that there is no hope of
improvement. By sharing their experiences, sufferers can
learn a lot about what really helps to ease IBS.
All the self-help tips in this article have come from IBS
sufferers who have found a way to control their irritable
bowels. Before trying any form of self-help, please make
sure that you have your doctor's approval, and do check that
anything you try will not interfere with any medication you
Linda, who suffers from severe diarrhea, says: "What has
helped me for more than two years is calcium carbonate, an
over-the-counter supplement. I take three tablets a day, one
at each meal.
The most success has come from using any formula of calcium
supplement that is like Caltrate 600 Plus with vitamin D and
minerals. The only side effect is at the beginning of taking
the calcium you may have some gas or indigestion, but this
usually goes away after taking a regular dose for a few
If you suffer from constipation rather than diarrhea, you
could try magnesium supplements instead, as these can have a
slight laxative effect.
Digestive enzymes and probiotics
Kim, who also suffers from bad diarrhea, says: "I tried
taking digestive enzymes with acidophilus and found
significant relief within three days. I am not afraid to eat
now, but find that I still cannot eat very much refined
sugar or high fibre vegetables. I have also added a cup or
two per day of peppermint and chamomile tea.
When I do have an episode it occurs late in the day and by
the next morning I am feeling back to normal."
Looking at your diet
Laura describes how a close examination of her diet helped
her IBS: "I was placed on every kind of medication, and
sometimes they worked in the short term, sometimes they
didn't work at all. The doctor finally suggested trying to
alter my diet in cycles, and we discovered that eating meat
was my problem.
I became a vegetarian and no longer have constant problems.
Sometimes I even go years without any pain at all. It's
worth all the effort you put into it when you finally feel
Mina also found that dietary change helped control her
symptoms, alongside traditional medication: "I've made a
number of changes to my diet. I've eliminated milk and
mostly any dairy, fried foods, sugar for the most part, pop,
alcohol, potato chips, spicy food, rice, pasta and bread.
Most recently I'm eliminating flour.
But my best friend for the last couple of years has been
Imodium Quick Dissolve tablets. I don't ever leave home
without them. I just have to make sure I don't overdo it. If
I ever become immune to the wonder drug I am gonna be a real
Watching your diet is sometimes not enough to completely
control the symptoms, and natural or herbal supplements can
help, as Marion discovered: "After about six months of a
horrendously restrictive diet (ultra low-fat vegan with no
raw veggies or fruit except banana) and a lot of Metamucil,
I managed to get it sort of under control.
But if I deviated from the diet, the chronic diarrhea would
come back. Someone I met told me that she had helped her IBS
by taking a tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed with a
glass of water or juice every morning. I thought it was
another crackpot cure, but eventually I decided to try it.
She had told me that pre-ground flaxseed didn't work because
flax seed starts to oxidize as soon as you grind it and that
whole flax seeds are no good either, because they cannot be
digested properly. After years of IBS, in about two weeks
it just went away. I cannot believe that I now have
perfectly normal, regular bowel movements."
Fiber, water and yoga
Pam, who struggles with constipation, has developed a
combination of things which work for her: "I drink Metamucil
(psyllium fibre) every day and try to relax, pray or
meditate, even do a little yoga.
The more I make myself relax and take time to de-stress the
better I can manage my problem. I know time for yourself is
very hard to come by sometimes but I have to if I'm going to
I try to drink at least three bottles of water a day. This
is also hard sometimes but I have to take care of me the
best I can. I also take a mild anti-depressant. This has
helped a bunch in my stress department and in turn has
helped my IBS."
Soluble versus insoluble fiber
Some nutritionists believe that IBS sufferers' intestines
react differently to soluble and insoluble fiber, and this
has been Stu's experience: "After trying all kinds of drugs
and healthy eating, my pains were still there. I found by
accident that it wasn't so much what I ate but whether I ate
it on a full stomach or not.
My failsafe is pasta on an empty stomach, I get no reaction
- it is soluble fibre that settles the colon apparently. I
quickly searched on the internet for recipes high in soluble
fibre and I have improved.
Most significantly though I am on no medication and this
puts me in control of the IBS, not the other way around. I
think this is important as stress certainly can trigger the
symptoms off. I don't avoid insoluble fibre as it is
essential for the body, but I recommend that you eat it on a
About the author
Sophie Lee has suffered from irritable bowel syndrome for 14
years. She runs the IBS Tales website at http://www.ibstales.com where you can read hundreds of
personal stories and tips from IBS sufferers.