Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – A Comparison of Modern (Allopathic) and Ayurvedic Herbal Treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common medical condition which affects many individuals and is quite distressing, though it is largely benign in nature. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, discomfort, cramping, bloating, and loose motions or constipation. Symptoms vary from person to person and management may therefore vary considerably between affected individuals. A diagnosis is usually made on the basis of symptoms and by ruling out all possible organic causes. Typically, most patients have a chronic history but do not exhibit symptoms of weight loss or other serious symptoms like fever, rectal bleeding, or anemia. Stress and food allergies are believed to be important causative factors. This condition can usually be managed satisfactorily, with changes in diet and lifestyle.

The modern management of IBS includes advice to avoid trigger factors, eat high fiber foods, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and get sufficient sleep. Treatment includes fiber supplements, laxatives, medications for diarrhea and abdominal pain, and antidepressants. Other medications to reduce intestinal spasm, hyper-motility, increased intestinal secretions, and antibiotics are also used as indicated.

Ayurvedic herbal treatment is also aimed at specifically treating the causative factors. Herbal medicines which are used for IBS strengthen the intestinal walls, help in digestion and assimilation of food, reduce and normalize excessive movement of the intestines, regulate intestinal secretions and reduce allergy or sensitivity of the mucosal wall of the intestines. Ayurvedic treatment is also given to treat stress and anxiety, which are known causative factors of IBS.

The successful, long term management of IBS patients requires not only symptomatic treatment but also medicines to improve the general immune status of the body as well as strengthening of all body tissues, especially blood and muscle tissues. The ultimate treatment goal for IBS is to create a sound mind along with a strong, healthy body. Modern treatment is usually required regularly or intermittently on a long term or even life-long basis, in order to satisfactorily control symptoms. In contrast, with about six to eight months of Ayurvedic herbal treatment, patients with chronic or severe IBS improve dramatically, and most of them can learn to gradually live near normal lives without any major medication, though diet and lifestyle modifications may be required. After a complete remission of symptoms, the dose and frequency of medicines can be gradually reduced and then tapered off completely.

Ayurvedic herbal treatment thus has a significant role to play in the successful management and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

Rebecca R. Ammons

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