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  • Writer's pictureKatrina O'Duffy

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and how can holistic health help you

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is described by the NHS as "a common condition that affects the digestive system. It causes symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. These tend to come and go over time, and can last for days, weeks or months at a time."

If you have read our recent blog on Our healthcare system vs health coaching: short appointments & prescriptions you will have seen that I personally suffered with IBS for many years and I was told just to take medication when I had flare-ups. Some people are given further exploration such as a colonoscopy to see if anything else is happening but many people are just told to take over-the-counter medications to relieve the symptoms such as Buscopan or Fybogel, or they may occasionally suggest doing a FODMAP diet, but that’s often as far as the conversation goes. In my experience, when you see your regular GP, there is very little discussion on how to get to the route cause or manage symptoms more naturally using a holistic health approach.

Why are IBS cases on the rise?

I have noticed as well that there seems to be a big increase in people being diagnosed with IBS. There doesn’t seem to be a concrete reason why this might be but some think it is to do with our diets becoming overly processed, a rise in our stress levels, and more sedentary lifestyles – and as a health coach, I would agree.

After much exploration into my personal history which I did myself and with the support of other holistic health practitioners and integrative doctors, I can actually link my IBS symptoms to starting at around age 14. During this time of my young life, I was experiencing lots of upheaval dealing with my parent's divorce, starting my periods, being stressed from being bullied, and then being prescribed the contraceptive pill (which on reflection only masked all my hormonal symptoms and worsened my water retention and IBS).

Hindsight is a great thing - maybe if I’d come off the pill I could have solved some of this quicker - but that’s another story for another day!

How can holistic health help IBS?

From a holistic health perspective, here are seven natural tips that helped for my IBS:

Holistic health tip #1: Nightly stomach massages

Do this to soften and to aid with cramping - we massage our backs when they're in pain so why not massage our stomachs!

Holistic health tip #2: Peppermint teaPeppermint tea has a natural anti-viral quality and can relieve inflammation pain. I added this in daily - at work, after eating and I always travel with it!

Holistic health tip #3: Castor oil packs – When you're feeling constipated using castor oil packs can help to soften the stools. Cover a flannel in castor oil and then in cling film (so the oil doesn't go everywhere) – place it on your stomach with a hot water bottle on top and lie down.

Holistic health tip #4: Stress reduction - Learning to breath to reduce stress and increasing the practice of calming activities like yoga - as a yoga instructor as well as a health coach, yoga has been hugely beneficial to my stress levels and IBS. When we are stressed, our bodies go in to ‘fight or freeze’ mode and when this happens our digestion actually switches off. Which might seem dramatic but it does so to help you escape what it believes is the imminent danger - which in 2023 is an email, unwanted call, having to speak to a call centre bot etc.

Holistic health tip #5: Nutrition - Personally, overhauling my diet made a complete difference to my IBS symptoms. I did try FODMAPs for a period of time to calm my system from reaction but I learnt that most of my reactions came from stress (read more on how stress affected me and my gut and how it could be impacting yours as well here). If you are interested in doing FODMAP send us an DM or email and we'll send you our free guide including some recipes!

Holistic health tip #6: Probiotics - I added a probiotic in daily and focused on eating more prebiotic, fermented and nutrient dense and fibre fuelled foods – take a look at this video if you want to know more and DOWNLOAD our guide to choosing a probiotic.

Holistic health tip #7: Exercise - Even if you don’t want to move in the middle of a flare-up, doing some simple movements is really going to help. For example, walking, deep breathes whilst in a supine twist, or other yoga movements such as cat cow or child's pose.

As a wellness hub for holistic health and health coaching, we're here to arm you with as much knowledge as possible to take care of your health holistically. If you would like help implementing lifestyle changes that will last and give you relief from IBS, book-in for your discovery call today.

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We are a small team of passionate people trying to enable others to benefit from our own wellness journeys, research and expertise in behavioural change. Our blog is where you'll find our growing hub of easy to digest insights and inspiration to support you in finding natural and holistic ways to be well. We also invite guest bloggers from a wide range of holistic health practitioners to contribute so that you can benefit from a collective of knowledge. If there's a particular area you'd like to hear more from us about, please do let us know! 


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