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. Management is a short-term solution that does not address and treat the real issue behind the irritable bowel syndrome. Chiropractors are able to provide an alternative to expensive pills and side-effects in order to help treat the underlying triggers of the patients’ distress. 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 might 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 could 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 (e.g., relaxation, exercise, sleep) changes, as well as dietary changes (e.g., 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 could still last for a lifetime, and it can be quite disabling. Medications should be the last solution patients try. There are more natural alternatives that can work, without the side effects and dependency on medications.2
Chiropractic Care for IBS
There is anecdotal evidence that spinal manipulation can help patients with IBS, since chiropractic care is able to 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 might include avoiding certain foods (especially allergens and gas-producing foods), increasing fiber intake, and consuming probiotics (helpful digestive bacteria) and digestive enzymes. The patient may wish to seek a doctor’s help in identifying previously unknown allergens, though these tests have been known to produce false positives. Peppermint oil and lemon balm might 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.
Massage and Yoga for IBS
Massage may be a supplementary treatment for IBS, sought in addition to chiropractic care, dietary, and lifestyle changes. Massage performed on specific pressure points might stimulate digestion that has been sluggish and constipated, relax tense abdominal muscles, or relieve bloating. Regular massage has been shown in studies to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, especially regarding constipation and pain in the abdomen, and increase number of bowel movements after about two weeks of treatment. Massage also relieves and prevents the stress and anxiety that might cause IBS. Other ailments can be treated in addition to IBS, when a patient seeks massage, just as chiropractic care is likely to address other problems.5 Yoga is yet another natural treatment option for irritable bowel syndrome. Yoga relieves stress as long as the patient who practices does not overexert themselves to perform a yoga pose. Unnecessary strain and difficulty breathing are the opposite of stress relievers. The pressure and release that yoga poses put on the abdomen should stimulate normal contractions in the intestines and reduce constipation. The following are some of the poses that patients may try. Gate pose begins with tall kneeling. The right leg should be stretched out to the right with a flat foot. The right arm can be rested on the floor or the right shin. The left arm should extend upwards and over the head, with the body bent leaning to the right. The pose can be repeated on the other side. Reclining abdominal twist begins with the patient lying flat on the ground. The right leg should be bent, and the body should twist to have that leg reach across and over the left leg. The right arm should be straight out to the right and flat against the ground, while the left hand rests on the right thigh, just above the bend in the knee. Again, this position should be done on both sides. The patient will find themselves more aware of their own body, what triggers their IBS, and how to prevent symptoms from occurring in the future.6