Treatment options for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is probably one of the most common digestive conditions that I see in clinic, it’s a condition that affects 10-23% of adults worldwide. Symptoms range from stomach cramps, bloating, pain, diarrhoea and/or constipation and is quite often not well managed with medication. It’s important to have symptoms first checked by your GP to rule out inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s), infection or Coeliac disease. 

Symptoms can be triggered by dietary intolerances such as lactose-containing foods, artificial sweeteners, gluten in non-coeliac gluten sensitive people and FODMAPs (types of sugars in certain foods that can be poorly absorbed in the intestine) when poorly digested they ferment and cause osmotic effects in the gut leading to pain and diarrhoea. Poor reabsorption of bile acids in the gut can also cause bile acid diarrhoea. Stress, inflammation, and changes in the gut microbiota have also been associated with IBS. A healthy microbiome reduces inflammation and maintains homeostasis via the gut-brain axis through the ability of bacteria to synthesise neuroactive compounds that influence gut function.

As a naturopathic nutritionist there are lots of treatment options that I can use depending on the client, each person is unique and will have their own triggers driving their condition. Functional testing is an invaluable tool for getting greater insight into what’s really going on inside the gut of an IBS client. The GP can run a stool test to check for inflammatory markers, blood, and microbes such as E. coli, but what’s missing with these tests is checking all the good bacteria, what’s there, what isn’t there and by how much (are the levels high, low, or optimal). These tests also allow us to see if there are bad bacteria, fungi, parasites, microbes and if there is H. pylori present. As well as digestive function through pancreatic markers, immune activation from inflammatory markers, and zonulin levels (a marker of leaky gut). Collectively these results create a picture of digestive function as well as the microbiome balance/imbalance which could be driving the IBS symptoms.

A few simple steps you can take to relieve IBS are:

Keep a food diary to see how you feel after eating certain foods, this will help you to find food triggers. Many people can be intolerant to gluten without realising (non-coeliac gluten sensitivity). Some people are sensitive to spices and caffeine (especially coffee). Fizzy drinks can also increase gas in the stomach and are usually high in sugar which is feeding the bad bacteria and further driving inflammation. Food sensitivity and allergy testing can also be useful.

Avoid processed foods high in damaged fats and sugar, these have been associated with triggering inflammation and feeding the wrong kinds of bacteria which damage the gut lining.   

Avoid alcohol, it can further irritate the gut and damages the microbiome as well as depleting nutrients which are already compromised with digestive conditions.

Find ways to reduce stress, when we are stressed, our digestive system shuts down, so we end up with partially digestive food in our gut which causes irritation and many of the symptoms seen with IBS.

Antispasmodic herbal teas and topically applied oils can help to relive cramping and bloating such as peppermint.

A naturopathic nutritionist can help you find the root cause to your symptoms as treatments depend on what type of IBS you have. Digestive function usually needs to be stimulated; poor breakdown of food tends to cause a lot of irritation in the gut.  This can be supported with targeted enzymes (depending on what type of foods you have trouble digesting) and bitters. Herbs have a variety of functions such as relieving spasms and bloating and binding the stools with diarrhoea. Prebiotic support is crucial and needs to be gradually introduced into the diet to help with building up a healthy microbiome which aids in reducing inflammation and normalising bowel function. Specific strains of probiotics can be useful based on the results from your stool test or symptoms. Gut healing protocols are also usually needed at some point to help with healing the gut lining which will usually have some degree of damage from all the inflammation and irritation.    

The goal is to get your body back into balance, so you are able to tolerate food once again. If you would like a free 15-minute call to discuss your health concerns, then please drop me an email:

2 thoughts on “Treatment options for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)”

Leave a Comment

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00