Research on natural therapies for IBS is kind of a mixed bag. There are various natural approaches that help, but no single therapy helps all of the patients. Sometimes it is best to classify a disease by mechanism and not by symptoms. The symptoms of IBS include gas, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea, but effective treatment varies from patient to patient. Sometimes allergy elimination is effective, sometimes probiotics help and other times killing bacteria in the small intestine is an effective strategy.
There are studies that show that elimination of gluten from the diet does improve the symptoms of at least some IBS sufferers. Scientists are quick to point out that the symptoms of celiac disease match the symptoms of IBS. As many as 75% of the patients suffering from celiac sprue have IBS symptoms. A pair of studies, one published in the Lancet (November 3, 2001;358:1504-1508), and another in Gastroenterology (2004;126(7):1721-1732) both recommend screening for celiac disease in IBS patients. Other studies have shown that some IBS patients benefit from eliminating other foods. Clearly, finding and eliminating food sensitivities will help at least some of your IBS patients–but not all of them.
Another mechanism worth looking at is bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. This issue has been covered in research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (August 18, 2004;292(7):852-858) and the American Journal of Gastroenterology (December 2000;95(12):3503-3506). Addressing bacterial overgrowth helps some IBS sufferers, but not all of them.
A comprehensive approach that looks at hidden food sensitivities and bacterial overgrowth may be the best approach. Testing the patient for food sensitivity, do a trial avoidance of the common problem foods (gluten, dairy, peanuts, eggs and citrus for example), or having the patient go on a stricter elimination program is a good start. But don’t stop there, give a good probiotic, like BioDoph 7 Plus. Consider giving ADP, which will help to kill small intestine bacteria. Also, consider that a patient who has overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine may not be digesting well to begin with. He or she may need an HCl or pancreatic enzyme supplement, like Hydrozyme, HCL Plus or Bio 6 Plus. Frequently this problem is the result of eating too much carbohydrate and it may be necessary to cut down on the consumption of them. Testing for yeast overgrowth or parasites in the stool may also be necessary. Dysbiocide is a good antiparasitic. Not all IBS patients are alike, so it is wise to treat the patient who has the disease and not the disease that has the patient.