Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder affecting 10 to 20 percent of adults at some point in their lives. Once called "spastic colon," it's a combination of symptoms that may include constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, fatigue, and headaches that can be worsened by certain foods, stress, and other irritants. IBS is the end result of nervous interference with the normal function of the lower digestive tract. Symptoms are variable and change over time.
Podophyllum is a standard homeopathic remedy for diarrhea. It's perfectly safe and worth trying, but I wouldn't rely on it exclusively for treating IBS. Overall, I recommend lifestyle changes for this condition. Chief among them is taking steps to reduce the stress in your life. Try my relaxing breath breathing exercise.
Biofeedback, yoga and meditation are also good approaches. I also recommend hypnosis¸ which several scientific studies have shown can help ease IBS symptoms. You can get a referral to a certified professional in your area from the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you see how self-defeating thoughts and actions can contribute to stress and by extension to IBS. I also recommend exercise to help maintain bowel regularity and relieve stress. In addition, the following approaches may be helpful for relieving diarrhea related to IBS:
- Avoid stimulants. Caffeine, tobacco and other stimulants can irritate the bowels and worsen diarrhea. Decaf coffee can have the same effects.
- Avoid dairy foods. Eliminating milk and milk products can be a big help for many people.
- Avoid certain non-nutritive sweeteners. Sorbitol and xylitol can exacerbate diarrhea in people with IBS.
- Take carob powder. Used occasionally, a tablespoonful of carob powder (mixed with applesauce and honey) can soothe irritated intestines and help relieve diarrhea.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
More information on the natural treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).