Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Alexander Mostovoy, H.D., D.H.M.S.,BCCT
IBS is a very common condition mostly afflicting the 20 - 40 age group, however others are affected as well. IBS afflicts as much as 20% of the population.
The general symptoms are:
Plus 3 or more of the following:
The bowels can be highly reactive to emotional stress, anger and anxiety. Food sensitivities or intolerance can cause IBS symptoms. Abnormal fermentation in the colon due to excess antibiotic use or candidal colonization of the bowel can also be responsible for IBS symptoms.
IBS may be classified according to the frequency of the patient's symptoms. There are 3 main categories of symptom variations:
Attacks of diarrhea mostly in the morning. These could be explosive and most people suffering with this are often toilet bound for long periods of time. This can also manifest as a fully-formed bowel movement followed by a rush of watery motions.
Characterized by abdominal pain and constipation. The pain is usually left sided and relieved by the bowel movement. This variation of symptoms may also be accompanied by diarrhea.
Frequently starts after eating and is characterized by abdominal bloating. The bloating may be quite severe and extremely uncomfortable and may also be accompanied by abdominal pains on the right side.
IBS sufferers may also be affected by other manifestations such as: lethargy, pelvic pain, migraine, backache and urinary urgency.
Conventional management has not been very successful at addressing IBS. Treatment is focussed on symptomatic relief. Intestinal pain is relieved by smooth muscle relaxants. Constipation and/or diarrhea are managed with bulking agents or laxatives. Dietary management can be very effective with a trial of exclusion diet to detect intolerance.
It is unfortunate that all these measures of conventional management do not address the sufferer as a whole. In many cases the treatment is based on addressing one symptom at a time.
This is why Homeopathic medicine is so effective in treating IBS. As a holistic medicine, homeopathy addresses not only the bowel symptoms but also the psycho-emotional component and various other symptoms that may be present. As in the homeopathic treatment of other conditions, there are no specifics for IBS. Each case is individualized based on the symptoms (physical, mental, emotional) presented by the sufferer. Remedies are prescribed in a custom-made fashion, tailored to each individual.
The cases presented here are an illustration of how IBS can be successfully treated with homeopathic medicines, when taking underlying problems into account.
CASE I :
A single 36-year old woman came in with the following symptoms: IBS, severe constipation, history of anal fissures, and painful, itchy hemorrhoids. The only way for her to have a bowel movement was to stand up, which was extremely uncomfortable. She could not sit down because her fissures were aggravating her. The only way she found comfort was to semi-sit in a chair sideways with legs elevated and hanging over the side. She could not sleep well. She experienced problems falling asleep or awoke with severe pains.
The patient was quite emotional. I sensed a certain degree of anger and frustration with herself and others who had not been able to help her. She felt that she could not do anything with her life and her career because of her bowel problems. As she phrased it, "My bowels run my life".
She had a history of allergies, usually around spring and fall. Her energy level was better at night as she was very irritable first thing in the morning. She was very talkative. Because her stomach was distended she was very irritated by her clothing. She suffered from sciatica on the right side. Her menstrual periods were also very troublesome. She would get severe headaches and irritation prior to menstruation. These symptoms would subside with her period.
She told me about the break up with her ex-boyfriend and the intense jealousy she had experienced being in that relationship. She did not trust men, although sexually she was drawn to them.
I prescribed her 1 dose of Lachesis 200 and sent her home.
On her follow-up visit three weeks later, she told me that she did not feel very well for the first three days after taking the remedy, however after that period all her symptoms gradually started improving. She had no more constipation, her energy level improved, she started sleeping better and was not waking in the night with pains. Her fissures were still bothering her, but they were more tolerable.
Her whole attitude towards life was improved. She did not seem as frustrated and hopeless as she was before. When I asked her about her sciatica pains, she looked at me for a few seconds and then said with a smile, "you know - this is amazing - but I completely forgot about it. I have not had any problems with it since the last time I saw you."
I advised her to change to a vegetarian diet in order to help with healing and to prevent any future occurrence of her anal fissures. It has been over nine months since her first visit and she is doing great. We only had to repeat her remedy once during this period.
IBS may affect people who find it difficult to share their feelings and emotions with others, thus they often express mental distress through physical symptoms. The bowel reacts to emotional stress, such as anger or anxiety, with so-called "Gut Reactions". Next is a good illustration of such symptoms.
CASE II :
A 33-yr old woman came to see me complaining of frequent constipation, fissures in the rectum and horrible tearing pains during the passing of stool. She was chronically fatigued. She had suffered from poor sleep patterns for three years. Typically, she would wake up at two a.m. and be unable to fall asleep afterwards. She complained of having a poor appetite and abdominal distention after meals.
Her IBS got progressively worse after a very unpleasant and complicated divorce three years prior to her first visit. She had mood swings on the 12th to the 14th day of her cycle and on the 17th to the 20th day of her cycle. She insisted that it was her current boyfriend that was responsible for triggering her mood swings. The patient described herself as being rebellious as a teenager. She hated being raised in a traditional European family in Canada."They used to call me 'HARD HEART'," she said. The only person that she felt close to and loved by was her grandfather. When she was 12, her favorite uncle sexually abused her. At the age of 19 she left home because her parents were too strict. In her early 20's she had had several relationships, all of which were ended abruptly by her.
The earlier experience of sexual abuse left the patient feeling ashamed and worthless. For many years she was frightened of intercourse because it was very painful for her. Her current relationship is not very happy: she has low sex drive and gets angry a lot. The patient told me that she would get infuriated if someone accused her of things that she had never done, or if she was judged or criticized.
Lying in bed at night, unable to sleep, she would plot the murders of her relatives because of her hatred for them. She mentioned she had no remorse nor any feelings of guilt for having such thoughts. She was distrustful and very angry when people would not live up to her expectations. She would never cry in public, but at times she would cry in private. Afterwards, she would be very angry at herself for not standing up to others.
I prescribed to her Nitric Acid 200.
On her first follow up she reported that for the first time in many years she slept through the night. Her overall energy was much better. She felt calmer and more able to relax and even enjoy a joking mood. Her abdominal symptoms improved as well. The patient reported that lately she was re-examining her relationship with the rest of her family, trying to forgive and forget, and trying to look at their point of view. There was hardly any anger or animosity in her.
In the next few months she continued to improve her whole being and many changes began to emerge. She even began to enjoy her boyfriend sexually.
The important point I wish to raise is that when treating IBS or any other chronic condition it is of the outmost importance to make prescriptions on the totality of symptoms rather than just on the local abdominal symptoms. It is not unusual to hear from patients that their GP does not have time to listen. Our attitude to our patients is so important. It does not take much time at all to get the whole story. The time invested will prove to be of vital importance in treating the full extent of the ailment. In this way, homeopathy can be used to treat the root cause of IBS leading to very good results.