• Alternating constipation and diarrhea.
• Cramping pains in the lower abdomen and sometimes the feeling of not having emptied the bowel on passing stools.
• Production of copious amounts of flatulence, the passing of which usually brings relief.
There may be several causes of IBS. The basic one is a disturbance in the action of the large intestinal muscle. This may be the result of stress at work or due to emotional upset, for example, or of fear, such as that of serious illness. It may be the result of a low-fiber diet or an intolerance of wheat, corn, dairy products, fruits, tea, coffee, or vegetables. IBS may also be due to an overgrowth of organisms such as Candida albicans in the digestive tract, to the excessive use of laxatives, or to spinal maladjustment that affects nerves serving the digestive system.
Conventional care
IBS is treated with antispasmodic drugs and other painkillers, antidiarrheal drugs, and a high-fiber diet. Counseling may be recommended for those suffering from stress. Diagnosis is made after ruling out the possibility of other ailments with similar symptoms, such as ulcerative colitis or cancer. A physical examination may include the passing of an instrument into the anus and colon—a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy—or a barium enema, which outlines the inside of the intestine.
Homeopathic medicine
A homeopathic practitioner will take a full medical history, paying particular attention to food preferences and IBS triggers. Constitutional remedies will be determined largely by an individual’s symptoms , but certain remedies have an affinity with the colon. Argentum nit. is indicated for irritation of the mucous membranes of the intestine and problems with the control of the gut by the autonomic nervous system. Cantharis is associated with inflammation of the whole gastrointestinal tract, especially the lower bowel. Colocynthis is also used to treat irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. Other constitutional remedies often used are Arsen. alb., Carbo veg., Nux vomica, Pulsatilla, and China.
Remedies for acute symptoms include Argentum nit., for excessive flatulence, constipation alternating with diarrhea, pain in the left, upper abdomen, mucus in the stools, fluttering in the stomach, and great apprehension. Colocynthis is prescribed for griping pains that are relieved by bending double or applying pressure to the abdomen, and that are associated with anger. Cantharis is particularly suitable for treating women who have burning abdominal pains, cystitis, great thirst, nausea, and vomiting.
Relaxation techniques will help stress-related problems. Fluid intake should be increased, but alcohol consumption reduced. Regular meals and exercise are both essential. If a particular food is believed to aggravate the condition, it should be eliminated from the diet for at least four days, and then reintroduced and symptoms observed. A nutritionist can advise about this and dietary changes that might be beneficial. An osteopath or physiotherapist may be able to help if there is spinal maladjustment.

Alf was a 42-year-old construction worker who experienced periods of loose bowel movements and lower abdominal spasms lasting for a couple of months. This had begun two years before—after the breakup of a relationship. He was taking antispasmodic and antidiarrheal drugs.
Alf was convinced that his symptoms were stress-induced. He would get diarrhea, for example, if he was lonely. He often woke terrified in the middle of the night.
Alf had very few likes and dislikes, and no foods seemed to aggravate his condition. He had a great thirst, mainly for acidic drinks. Lemon juice relieved his symptoms.
Alf feared darkness, looking into deep water, and being alone, and worried that dogs might attack him. He hated cemeteries and anything connected with death.
Alf slept badly and snored loudly. He complained of thrush, ear infections, bad breath, dry skin, and fatigue. He was better in company, and for light and warmth. He was incontinent when frightened.
Since Alf’s condition was related to emotional stress, he was given Stramonium. A month later he was much better but still complained of abdominal spasms and colicky pains in the intestines. He was prescribed Cuprum. At his next appointment, he revealed that a preference for masturbation had contributed to the failure of his relationship. He was given Bufo for this masturbatory tendency. A month later, his bowels were much better as a result of the Cuprum. He felt that he had come to terms with his sexuality, and he had a new relationship. He rarely suffered pain or diarrhea, but was still not happy on his own. Stramonium was repeated. Alf was not seen for eight months, when IBS recurred due to stress. Stramonium was again given, since when Alf has been fine.

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