Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, can be a debilitating affliction. Many people seek medical help and end up taking expensive medications to manage their condition. Chiropractors can provide an alternative to expensive pills and side-effects in order to help treat the underlying triggers of the patients’ distress.
What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which used to be called “spastic colon”, causes painful cramping and bowel movement issues. It may be caused by many factors, such as an intestinal infection, or there can be other triggers between the brain and the intestines. Stress also affects patients, causing more sensitivity and bowel contractions. Typically, the disorder can start in the teen or adult years, and it affects many more women than men. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “About 1 in 6 people in the U.S. have symptoms of IBS.” Symptoms can range from bloating and gassiness to diarrhea or constipation. It can only be diagnosed after all other digestive problems are ruled out.1
Traditional IBS Treatments
Symptom control is the main goal of traditional medical treatments of IBS. There are lifestyle (i.e., relaxation, exercise, sleep) changes, as well as dietary changes (i.e., increasing fiber, avoiding caffeine, lactose, and large meals), that patients can try. The medications prescribed can be anticholinergic (to control spasms), Bisacodyl and Lubiprostone (for constipation), Loperamide (for diarrhea), antidepressants, and Rifaximin (an antibiotic). Even with these medications, and their side-effects and costs, IBS can still last for a lifetime, and it can be quite disabling.2
Chiropractic Care for IBS
There is anecdotal evidence that spinal manipulation can help patients with IBS, since chiropractic care can restore body balance and decrease stress. The nerves that affect the intestinal tract can be “balanced” by chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractors may also recommend dietary changes.3 Some of these dietary modifications may include avoiding certain foods (especially allergens and gas-producing foods), increasing fiber intake, and consuming probiotics (helpful digestive bacteria) and digestive enzymes. Peppermint oil and lemon balm may also be suggested. “IBS patients do better [when treated] in a more holistic model,” according to Gerard E. Mullin, MD, MHS, CNS, CNSP, Director of Integrative GI Nutrition Services and Capsule Endoscopy at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Interestingly, patients may come to a chiropractor for other conditions, such as depression, migraines, or fibromyalgia, and end up with treatment for their IBS. Through restoring the “digestive flora” and stress relief through nutritional supplementation (“magnesium, B complex vitamins and pantothenic acid”), chiropractors can help patients function better after their adjustments. 4 Chiropractic care offers an alternative to costly medications (and their side effects) while providing patients with a holistic approach to their well-being.