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Irritable Bowel Syndrome ( IBS )

What is IBS?
What are the causes of IBS?
What are the signs and symptoms of IBS?
Ayurvedic insight
Do's & Don'ts

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also known by other names such as spastic bowel, spastic colon,
spastic colitis, colitis, mucous colitis and functional bowel syndrome.

IBS is usually classified as a functional disorder. The reason behind this is that it is not an infection.
It is not an

inflammation. And it is not a structural abnormality either.
IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not permanently harm the intestines
and does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer.

As its name indicates, IBS is a syndrome a combination of signs and symptoms.

“Irritable bowel syndrome” includes both diarrhea and constipation. They are caused by two
entirely different mechanisms. Bowels habit is disturbed by diarrhea or constipation occurring alone
or alternating. Constipation occurs from a sluggish contraction of the bowel and diarrhea by an
overactive bowel.

What does the colon do?
The contraction of the colon muscles and the movement of its contents are controlled by nerves,
hormones, and impulses in the colon muscles. These contractions move the contents inside the
colon toward the rectum. During this passage, water and nutrients are absorbed into the body, and
what is left over is stool. A few times each day contractions push the stool down the colon,
resulting in a bowel movement. However, if the muscles of the colon, sphincters, and pelvis do not
contract in the right way, the contents inside the colon do not move correctly, resulting in
abdominal pain, cramps, constipation, a sense of incomplete stool movement, or diarrhea.

What are the causes of IBS?

Although the etiology of the irritable bowel syndrome is uncertain, some relate this to psychological
disturbances, especially anxiety.  Some relate their onset to an attack of infective diarrhoea or
certain foods may precipitate symptoms. The immune system, which fights infection, may also be

Few of the causes listed as under.

•Normal motility, or movement, may not be present in the colon of a person who has IBS. It can be
spasmodic or can even stop working temporarily.
•The lining of the colon called the epithelium, which is affected by the immune and nervous
systems, regulates the flow of fluids in and out of the colon. In IBS, the epithelium appears to work
properly. However, when the contents inside the colon move too quickly, the colon loses its ability
to absorb fluids. The result is too much fluid in the stool. In other people, the movement inside the
colon is too slow, which causes extra fluid to be absorbed. As a result, a person develops
•Lactose intolerance is a very common cause. The inability to digest lactose sugar in milk and dairy
products. The undigested lactose acts like a laxative and causes the symptoms of an irritable
•Another and less common is gluten intolerance. Some individuals may have an allergic reaction to
gluten protein, which is found in all cereals except rice and corn. This can cause diarrhea.
•Fat may also be a cause of diarrhea, they stimulate strong contractions of colon contributing to
pain and diarrhea.
•Alcohol is another often-unrecognized cause for such symptoms, particularly diarrhea.
•Coffee, tea, colas and chocolate are all can cause IBS, as they stimulate muscular contractions
and acts as a causative factor in diarrhea.
•Spices may also irritate the bowel. In some case it may be due to food allergies or food poisoning.
•Diarrhea may also be a symptom of vitamin deficiency e.g. niacin, B-12 or folic acid.
•Various infectious diseases may cause this but this is usually of short duration. Parasites may be a
cause like Giardiasis.
•The abuse of laxatives is a common cause, which is often overlooked.
•Disease of the pancreas may cause large, frequent, fatty stools. The pancreatic enzymes needed
for digestion and when these are in short supply symptoms follows.
•Women with IBS may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods, suggesting that
reproductive hormones can worsen IBS problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of IBS?

Abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort are the main symptoms of IBS. However, symptoms can
vary from person to person.
•Abdominal distension, dyspepsia, heartburn, increased urine frequency, abdominal cramps and
pain, bloating, excessive flatulence, and nausea
•Some people have constipation, which means hard, difficult-to-pass, or infrequent bowel
movements. Often people report straining and cramping when trying to have a bowel movement but
cannot eliminate any stool
•Some people with IBS experience diarrhea, which is frequent, loose, watery, stools. People with
diarrhea frequently feel an urgent and uncontrollable need to have a bowel movement
•Other people with IBS alternate between constipation and diarrhea
•Diarrhea characteristically occurs in the morning, and almost never at night
•Urge to defecate after meals
•Pain in the lower abdomen, pain often occurs in attacks usually relived by defecation and
sometimes provoked by food
•All most all patients notice ribbon like stools with or without mucus
•Sensation of incomplete emptying of the rectum
•Person may be unable to work, attend social events, or even travel short distances

Ayurvedic insight - Do’s and Don’ts


• Don’t diagnose yourself with IBS, get a proper diagnosis from a qualified medical professional
•Avoid overeating as this will put pressure on your digestive system
•Don’t starve yourself either
•Eliminate the use of milk and milk products from your diet in case you have lactose intolerance
•Avoid cereals in case of gluten intolerance e.g. barley, rye, oats , pastas , instant roux based
soups , semolina (rava), bulgur( coarse wheat/ lapasi or daliya) and wheat
•Avoid intake of unsuitable food, heavy, cold, contaminated or too sweet food, which is heavy to
•Avoid excess use of black gram (udad), chickpea (chana), groundnuts, pigeon peas (turdal),
bajara, fermented food items
•Avoid all forms of tobacco, including smoking, chewing or snuffing
•Avoid excess tea, coffee, alcohol, cola, and carbonated beverages
•Don’t suppress the urge of urine and  stool
•Avoid high fatty foods, fried foods, junk foods
•Avoid spicy , salty , preserved foods
•Avoid curd , kadhi, basundi, shrikhanda etc
•Avoid stress try to reduce your work load
•Don’t eat during indigestion, or eating irregularly
•Avoid raw salads and sprouts, daily use of leafy vegetables
•Use laxatives with caution and with physicians advice only in case of constipation
•IBS medications contain a mild sedative, which can be habit forming, so they need to be used
under the guidance of a physician
•Avoid chewing gums and eating too quickly this leads to swallowing air, which also leads to gas
•Avoid late nights


• Identify which foods are triggering your IBS symptoms and the best way to identify this  is to
keep a food diary
•Try to increase the amount of soluble fibers in your diet , the whole grains, cereal foods, fruits,
vegetables and nuts are in general good source of it
•Drink adequate amount of water, try warm water before and in between meals, regardless of
whether you have constipation or diarrhoea
•Consume freshly prepared buttermilk added with dry ginger or black pepper powder and rock salt,
this will relive your bloating , flatulence
•Eat smaller portions at mealtimes, eat regularly, slowly, calmly, and leisurely
•Try some relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation to reduce the stress and anxiety
•Consume green gram, red lentils (masoor), fruit vegetables etc
•Train your bowel
•Take fiber rich diet in case of constipation with physicians advice
•Minimize your fat intake
•Add pure ghee in your diet
•Have absolute and total control over your diet
•Practice creative substitution, not deprivation, use soy or rice replacements for dairy, two egg
whites to replace a whole egg, try low-fat vegetarian versions of meat products or use skinless
chicken breasts and seafood
•Exercise regularly, daily walk or swimming is good exercise
•Take adequate, regular sleep
•Wood apple, pomegranate, nutmeg etc can be beneficial for IBS
•Panchakola can be added in cereal soup, in buttermilk or in water
•Buttermilk, sour gruel, and arishta can be taken as post meal drink
•ghrita (ghee) mixed with appetizing drugs viz ginger (Zingibar officinale), chitrak ( Plumbago
zeylanica)  etc are excellent
•Basti is very effective panchakarma treatment modality of ayurveda and can be done as per
doctors advice
• Ayurveda advice ‘Parpati Kalpa’ , Asavas and Arishta’s, medicated ghee and some drug
formulations to manage disease very effectively:
Panchakol Churna, Trikatu Churna, Shankha vati, Chitrakadi Vati, Takrarishta, Suvarna Parpati,
Panchamrut Parpati , Bilwadi churna, Hingwashtak churna, Bilwavaleha , Kutajarishta,
Jeerakadyarishta, Mustakarishta , Nagaradya Ghrita etc can be taken as per physicians guidance

Synonyms and Keywords

IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, IBS flares, nervous bowel, spastic colon, gastrointestinal
disorder, diet of IBS, buttermilk, abdominal cramping, abdominal pain, bowel habits, flatulence,
abdominal bloating, colitis , mucous colitis, cramping, diarrhea, bloating, gas, gassiness, flatus,
constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic gastrointestinal disorder, chronic GI disorder,
symptoms of IBS, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, IBS symptoms, IBS treatment, ayurvedic
treatment of IBS, basti , panchakarma in IBS, ayurvedic medicines for IBS