IBS Awareness Month: Supporting IBS-C
In the first instalment of my IBS blog series – What is IBS? – I talked about how this uncomfortable condition can be divided into three subtypes: IBS-C, IBS-D and IBS-M, depending on the main bowel symptom involved.
• IBS-C – Constipation as the main symptom
• IBS-D – Diarrhoea as the main symptom
• IBS-M – Alternating diarrhoea and constipation.
I also explored a number of lifestyle changes which could be beneficial to anyone living with IBS.
This time, I’ll take a closer look at natural ways to help support those struggling specifically with IBS-C.
HOW MUCH OF A PROBLEM IS IBS-C?
1 in 7 adults are affected by constipation: The stats rise to 1 in 3 for children. In the UK alone, an average of 182 people every day are admitted to hospital with constipation as the main complaint. (1)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common condition diagnosed by gastroenterologists, and IBS-C affects 34% of all people diagnosed with IBS – so if you suffer with this problem, you are not alone! (2)
The most common symptoms reported for IBS-C are constipation, bloating and abdominal pain. Some people may regard constipation and IBS-C as a ‘minor’ problem, but these issues can have a huge psychological impact – in addition to the physical symptoms.
A survey of those with IBS-C showed that:
• 33% felt depressed
• 76% did not feel ‘normal’
• 64% felt self-conscious.
Many people also feel embarrassed to discuss their condition. This can make getting the right help difficult.
THE PROBLEM WITH LAXATIVES
Stimulant laxatives, such as Senna, are the most common remedy purchased to relieve constipation. These products increase muscle contractions in the bowel, helping it to move the contents out more effectively.
The problem is these remedies can become habit forming, so much so that the bowel may not function properly without them. Therefore, laxative products should only be used short term and are probably not the best solution for those with IBS-C.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
Most people are aware of the basic rules:
1) Drink enough plain water, to provide the bowel with the fluid it requires, and
2) Eat enough fibre.
In addition, I make the following suggestions to my clients:
1) Consider a fibre supplement: If you struggle to add fibre by changing your diet, it might be worth trying a natural fibre supplement like FOS. FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) is a fibre extracted from raw fruits and vegetables. It is not bulking, is suitable for all ages and has a naturally sweet flavour – so is easy and pleasant to take.
2) Extra Magnesium: Magnesium is known to help support good muscle function. The bowel works by using muscular contraction to move waste around, so supporting good muscle function should be helpful – particularly for those who feel their bowel is ‘lazy’. I have suggested magnesium supplements to many clients who suffer with constipation, and the majority have reported improvements.
3) Try some good bacteria: Research into different strains of probiotics has shown that they all have individual actions, and that certain blends can be used to target specific health complaints. Those with IBS-C may want to look for a blend providing B. animalis subsp. lactis, L. plantarum and L. rhamnosus, as this combination has been subject to a large clinical trial on IBS-C sufferers. This specific combination, when combined with FOS (prebiotic fibre), was found to be effective for inflammation, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, cramps and flatulence: 80% of those who tried it reported improvements within 2 weeks! (3)
In my next blog, I’ll explore natural ways to support IBS-D.
1) Cost of constipation report 2014/15
2) IBS Global Impact Report 2018
3) A Randomised, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial: The Efficacy of Multispecies probiotic supplementation in alleviating the symptoms of IBS-C; Mezzasalma V et al; 2016
Written by Jenny Logan DNMed(Jenny is a nutritional therapist who has worked with clients in health food stores and private clinics for over 20 years).